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Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

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Am I Really an Artist? (or) Why I Need to Paint

Seeing as I am a writer, I am much more confident in communicating through written works. When it comes to face-to-face interactions, I do my best. I try to listen, have a sense of humor, and display compassion. And that works pretty well… until it comes to talking about myself.

All those questions! The most difficult of which, “What do you do?”

I can usually get through that one with a confident, “I’m an independent grant writer.” But sometimes…. sometimes someone gets me good, “Are you an artist!?” They ask it with such enthusiasm and genuine interest and somehow my answer is rarely confident. “Well….” “Uummm…” at best I squeeze out “I’d like to think so!”

But then comes the question I fear, “What kind of art do you do?”

“Ummm…. I’ve made some jewelry.


and did some photography this winter…”  winter woods

“And well… I used to draw.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

The Axis. Graphite. RP 2003-2004.

And in high school I painted…”


(I don’t even have photos of any paintings!)

All the while in my head I am waiting for the person to say, “Yeah but, what are you working on NOW?”


“But why?”

“Because… ” (and continue with a list of excuses)

I’m tired of the excuses.

I manage a gallery, but have the least amount of work displayed there.

I coordinate creative art classes, but don’t share much of my own creative talent.

Sure, I’m scared and hesitant and busy and reluctant.

But I need to start making it a priority.

Because I am a artist! (I’m sure of it!)

I dream of a point in my life where I say, “Oh I can’t do that today, I’ve got something planned for this afternoon…” And then cut to me working in my studio, on a piece of art.

I could do it.

It could be a priority.

I could pick up a paint brush and get started.

I could let go and play.

I could work on something everyday, if I wanted.

I just need to make the choice!

Grateful, Indeed

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It has been one year.

One year of being self-employed.

One year of rearranging life.

One year of consciously stepping away from the patterns of overwork I relied upon for 15 years to drown out my thoughts, my emotions, my being.

In that cycle, I was unable to experience being.

I spent my time doing what needed to be done.

And when I wasn’t doing that,

I yearned for something other than reality:

I would say, “I just wish I had the time to…”

or “I wish I didn’t have to…”

or “If I could only…”

I realize now, that by overcoming my tendencies I have become aware of other priorities in life.

There is room for joy.

There is room for relaxation.

There is room to live life.

With all it has to offer.

For there is also room for stress.

And projects.

And even crises that inevitably occur.

And I am grateful.

For gratitude came when noticed all those old “I wishes” were no longer haunting me.

Instead, my reality became sprinkled with a feeling of contentment.

Contentment that allows me to experience my waking moments,

rather than wishing them away.

I am grateful, indeed.


calm and quiet

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It is a quiet kind of day. I sent off the final documents that wrap up a project I was working on. It is hard to accept the quiet that follows as a good or peaceful thing. It is hard to accept it at all. Instead it feels haunting. Like I forgot something. Like I’ve been neglecting something.
It feels foreign and yet familiar. Open and yet closed. When disconnections like this occur, it feels nearly impossible to be in the moment. To choose to embrace spontaneity. And yet, I know if I stay here too long I will get stuck.
It almost feels like I did something wrong. I broke the rules. I did something different and it seems so strange. I crammed 25 hours of grant writing into 4 days– but I wasn’t attached. I wasn’t involved. The reality of the project never became my own reality. There were boundaries in place. There was respect and understanding. I could put the project away and rest easy at night. But now that it is done, I can tell the part of me that relied on the highs of working under pressure is disappointed. Perhaps feels the same as if an alcoholic went out one night and barely caught a buzz. It would feel like something was amiss. There is a term for this feeling. I know there is.

It is change. It is recovering. It is life. I’m just not aware of how big it is, yet.

“True life is lived when tiny changes occur.” Leo Tolstoy


“Recovering a Sense of Abundance”

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What would a nontoxic god think of my creative goals?

I am exploring and experiencing my fluid understanding of a creator, creative abundance, and money. I’m halfway through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and this weeks topics are challenging in many, many ways. Too many times I have made decisions based on what I thought what I was supposed to do and completely ignored what I truly wanted to do. Where does that come from? Likely it has something to do with ideas about behaving in ways to please a Creator. Is it really necessary to think of our God as a paternalistic authority? What if what I wanted to do was what I was supposed to do, even if it wasn’t sensible? What if it would have cost me money?

What if Shakti Gawain is right in saying,

“The more we learn to operate in the world based on trust in our own intuition, the stronger our channel will be and the more money we will have.”

What if Julia Cameron is right in saying,

“Looking at creation, it is pretty clear that the creator itself did not know when to stop. There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds. Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee. No two alike. This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures.”

What if Paul Hawken is right in saying,

“Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous. That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor.”

Last week, I shared the ambitions I have for the year ahead. And just like I have said in previous posts, sometimes writing and sharing ideas is what makes them become true. At times, abundance seems to arise out of the little bits we give into the universe. It is up to us to think in terms of abundance rather than scarcity.

Yes, I know that is starting to sound like economics. For me the only way to learn economics was to learn from a Bateson. I wrote a little about my favorite people that I’ve never meet on one of my first entries. Anthropologist Gregory Bateson and his daughter Mary Catherine Bateson are social theorists that see productivity (of any kind) depends on the discovery of new forms of flexibility. In Composing a Life, Mary Catherine Bateson explores the human engagement in two distinctly different economies: The economy of finite resources and an economy of flexible and expanding resources.

A system that relies on finite resources is based on scarcity. In every day human life, activities are competing. All exchanges become zero-sum games. “If I go to the grocery store, then I can’t spend my afternoon with my creative endeavors.”  “If I put off buying those supplies I wanted, then I can pay that bill.” The logic of Ifs and Thens require us to approach the most important aspects of life sensibly. We spend our time saying, “if only” and “I wish I could __________________”

Cameron reminds us, “Creativity is not and never has been sensible. Why should it be? Why should you be?”  But how many times have we said, I’d like to do the creative things I love, but….

The other system of economics in which everyday life unfolds relies on flexible and abundance resources.  Activities are mutually enhancing. In the economics of expanding resources, the more you give the more you get. The games are no longer zero-sum. They become win-win. In this system, our energy does not just come from food and rest, but from using energy. We gain energy by exercising or having lively dialogue with a friend. We gain more by allowing more to happen in our lives—by allowing ourselves to become unstuck. In order to truly embrace the dynamics of this system, we must be willing to give ourselves the things we need to function at our best. Too often we let fear and guilt deprive us of the joys and luxuries that we so deeply want.

I want to encourage you to try something.

If you didn’t fill in the blank in the “I wish I could” statement, please do so.

Now put whatever it was you wished for in a new phrase. “I wish to ______________.”

Does it sound different? Does it feel different?  Do you think perhaps our creator hears it different?

I suppose God has the Internet, because God must be reading my blog. I cannot begin to describe the degree to which I have been experiencing abundance in the past week. I’ve been allowing myself to meditate, write, and read in ways that work for me. I’ve sold two books, had orders for jewelry, met a local writer, found opportunities for part-time teaching, got involved in an awesome artistic and instructional collaboration for the North Dakota Junior Duck Stamp Program, started working on a (paid) grant project, was asked to serve on four grant review panels this spring, made an amazing connection with one of my readers, and had some great phone conversations. I rearranged and decorated an office for myself. I designed five new jewelry styles. I made my bed in the morning. I did the dishes at night.

The speed in which all of this has happened in just a few days is startling. But, I know I could not experience this abundance if I had not made the choice to give myself the luxury of time.Beautiful morning