Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Reflection

Tomorrow happens to be my birthday, so I'm taking this time to reflect on the past year, and things I've learned. Most of the time, these articles come around New Year, but with my birthday, changes in the weather, and the general turning of the season, early October has always been the better time. It happens to be one of my favorite times as well because cooler weather demands my favorite things: sweaters, tea and coffee.

A pot of warm tea
It's been a year of ups and downs: two more books published, but also the stress of being a published author. I didn't know what I was getting into, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm still finding my feet in this matter, and more often than not feel completely overwhelmed. I'm thankful for the support from my family, as well as the support from friends both ones I've met and ones I haven't met. It's one of the joys about being able to access the Internet, write a blog, and connect with people. I've learned what others think, and how my books or blog entries inspire them.

Over the past year, I've met new people, lost some dear friends, and have learned throughout trials, there are always moments of joy. Days before my cousin's funeral, his nephew (another cousin) celebrated the birth of his firstborn, and on the day we buried my cousin, his nephew brought the baby over to the house so we could celebrate new life even as we celebrated one passing.

I've learned that pursuing one's dreams isn't always a celebration. It is often hard work: getting up, doing the everyday mundane because it isn't always sunshine and roses. Being a writer and a weaver isn't hob-nobbing with influential people, but it is writing daily even when I don't want to write. It's learning that turning a hobby into a business comes with times in which I want a normal job where I work for so many hours and leave at the day's end. Running a business has its ups and downs, but I'm the boss, and I'm the one that ultimately answers for whatever happens.

Being the boss, by the way, is pretty stinkin' cool.

Over the past year, I've taken chances: some good, some bad. Sometimes life forces itself on us, making us do something we've wanted to do, but never had the courage to do. It's scary and unnerving, but taking those chances, even when they blow up in our faces, teaches us something. Unfortunately, those lessons don't come with a manual, so we can't always figure it out until later. I often feel as though I've been handed a chemistry book, expected to learn everything without the help of a teacher or instructions.

Sometimes, we need to find the teacher.

There are times when we need to leave our present situation. This past year, I changed churches not for doctrinal issues, not for personality conflict, but because I needed to leave. Sometimes, we out-grow the church group, friend group or work group where we are. Nothing wrong with it, but for whatever reason, it no longer is right for us. Take a chance to leave because leaving could be the best thing to happen. We purchased roses at Easter, and the lady told us to cut the tops of the rose bush off after we planted them. If we didn't, the bush would grow, but no roses would come. The roses looked terrible after they were cut, but eventually, the grew back and blossomed.

Cutting back is often the only way we grow.

I've grown this past year whether in confidence, understanding, or just awareness. I've processed, and continue to process, my life experiences to see what I can learn. I know my short-comings, but learning how to overcome them is hard. Fear can paralyze or it can motivate. I had a teacher in college who started writing because her husband didn't have work or may have become sick. She wanted her students to write and build the business during the good times so during the lean times, the practice was already there. I applied her wisdom as best I could, but the lean times can still take us out. It's best to have a plan for your future, with the understanding that sometimes the map flies out the window, and we're left standing in the middle of nowhere wondering how we arrived.

Carry an internal compass, and know what motivates you.

My mom and I were talking a few days ago about life journeys. There is a theory that every choice we make creates a new reality. If we can turn right or left, we, in essence, turn both ways, but we only know one reality. It's makes for great science fiction stories, but it also makes you think. How would have life been different had I taken this path over that path? If my life had gone the way I wanted it to - married with a steady job, maybe a child or two, living in a foreign country - I wouldn't be the me I am. I would be happy with the me I might be in that reality, but not the me I am in this reality. Regardless of how my life has turned out, I have dreams and aspirations to pursue. Some I will learn can never be accomplished whereas others need time and energy to fulfill. I cannot live in a world that might have been, neither can I wish for that world. I need to focus on the reality that is, and see if there is a way to still accomplish my goals.

Being happy with your present is the only way to make your future brighter.

We all have dreams and aspirations. Some dream of being a writer, others dream of keeping the family farm. Pursuing your dreams require tenacity, innate ability, and perseverance. It takes time to develop your gifts, even as it takes sheer stubbornness to hang on to the dreams. Sometimes, we realize that the dream we pursued led us to another place. I wanted to be a journalist (and would have made a decent one), but that dream veered into the novel writing I also loved. What I would have written had I taken another path is not what I have written. The characters of Azure Maris and Orfhlait are the out-growth of my personal experiences.

Over the past year, I've grown stronger and more flexible. When things don't happen the way we want, we need to re-evaluate the reason why we do something. When my books didn't sell as well as expected; when I don't sell as many items at a fair, it hurts. Yes, I want to sell items because I've entered these fields to earn a living from them. I'm an artist who uses words and fiber to create images and stories. It isn't a hobby, but the way I've been created to earn a living. It can throw you when something you've created doesn't do as well as hoped. Did I do something wrong? Am I as good as I thought? Is this really what I'm supposed to be doing?

We each have to come to a point in our lives where we look at our life to evaluate it: did I use my gifts and abilities to the best of my ability? If the answer is yes, and you have no regrets, keep plugging through even in dark times ... especially though the darkest of times. If the answer is no, ask why. Sometimes, the dreams we set for ourselves are worthless. I may want to become a multi-platinum music artist, but the truth is, my voice isn't the greatest. My gifts and abilities lie in the field of literature and fiber art. It's where I'm gifted, because if my ability to get a job is any indication, it's all I can do.

In the past year, I've learned that holding on hurts; letting go is sometimes needed, but the hardest part of living is finding out when to hold on, and when to let go. Sometimes we can hold on for too long, and sometimes we can fly if we let go.

May we each find the balance to know when to act.

Monday, October 6, 2014

First of the Month Review - Art Inc.

Today, I'm focusing on the business of art with a book I recently purchased called Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon.

The short version of the review is good. If you're interested in turning your art hobby into a business, this is a good resource to borrow or purchase.

All in all, I found it useful in that it provides several elements true to all artists: building websites and blogs, developing social media, and how to market yourself to companies and individuals. The major drawback, I found, is its focus on two-dimensional arts such as drawing, painting and illustration. This makes sense since Congdon is an illustrator and painter. Yet, despite this drawback, even for three dimensional artists the book has some very good points.

One of the aspects I found helpful was her chapter on Exhibitions and Galleries (chapter 5). I have wanted to show my work in galleries, but hadn't found a good way to present the subject. Part of the reason has to do with how I perceive other people's understanding of fiber arts. This chapter provided some helpful suggestions of creating a portfolio, building an exhibition and presenting ideas to gallery directors.

For anyone in the 2D field, this book should be at least part of your library, but may not turn into your quick reference. It works best for someone who doesn't know exactly what to do, but wants to try. For the 3D artists, if your items are more gallery and less craft, the book might be useful enough to purchase, otherwise, just borrow it from the library or a friend.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lost Treasures

I had a conversation with a friend once about how she tried to make her grandchild finish a story he wrote as a child. Doing her grandmotherly duty, she had read the stories, but surprisingly had found herself interested in the stories themselves ... then he stopped writing.

Others I've talked with were either writers who didn't finish stories or parents of writers who didn't finish stories. In both cases, they were frustrated at the lack of perseverance to finish stories. In all cases, I assured the individuals that it wasn't a problem, but actually an asset - the unfinished stories were, in fact, lost treasures waiting to be mined.

Old Journals
I've been writing stories since I was ten or twelve. I have notebooks filled with stories, and journals with snippets of scenes and characters. I've written before about the importance of keeping journals (here), One of the best reasons is simply returning to find the lost treasures. I've had old snippets that I rediscovered used in current stories, or even as inspiration for newer stories. Often times, the snippets and character work best in their world, but the stories just don't fit yet.

Case in point: I started a novel shortly after I finished college. The idea was brilliant - I loved it, but it never worked right. In fact, I shoved it to the side because it didn't work, but two years ago, I wrote another book. While that one was a great novel, and the remaining novels equally as compelling, while editing it, I realized that the story I started almost ten years ago worked well with the current novel. Who knew that the lost treasures would actually be useful.

To encourage those of you who don't finish a story, take heart, the aspect of writing is often a start and go process - it takes time to develop a story, and often we have many false starts. Don't be discouraged about the lack of finished stories, just keep writing.

To those of you waiting on the next serial or wish your child would finish a story, take heart - it's a process to develop their skills. Sometimes, the story just fades away, but it is encouraging to the writer to know you like the stories in the first place.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday Wake-up

Today begins a new series intended as a jump start to story ideas. Doors, gates, portals whatever you call them lead into new places, and what is behind the door can turn into a story. The door image will be posted here, on Twitter and on Facebook. Write down your idea, and limit it to the main character, genre, setting and a two sentence description of the plot.

Remember, the door is an inspiration. Create new worlds, visit your downtown, or travel back in time. The image is to inspire so I won't add any of the information about the picture.

Have fun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Art and Faith

This past weekend began my last four fair weekends. The first three Saturdays of October are Saturday Artisan Markets at Canalside in Buffalo. I have great hopes for these Saturdays since our September Saturdays were blown out due to high winds. We're expecting rain, but it appears that the cold front will go through on Friday. Here's hoping to decent weather. Honestly, I don't mind the rain so much, it's the wind that can be problematic.

Orchids 2, Linen and Acrylic, Woven Transparency, 2012

Over the summer while I've created items for sale, I tend to contemplate life questions, and many of them focus around my chosen fields (weaving and writing) as well as my Christian faith. Can the two connect in any meaningful way or must I constantly separate the two?

In years past, it has been a struggle especially since I tend toward abstract and less realism in my art work. My art work tends to be feelings and impressions less than actual images. When I approach a theme, I begin with images, and work from there. At my former church, the artwork used in the church were often idyllic scenes countered with scripture references or poems. The art was there to provide a sense of peace as well as a sense of hope, endurance and strength.

It was, and remains, safe as is often the case in locations with high-traffic and variety of people. We do not desire to offend anyone or cause uncomfortable questions to be asked. I understand this, and agree with it. I have younger cousins I want to protect from the harsher realities of life; yet, because I have younger cousins doesn't negate the need for me to at least be aware of some harsher realities. It makes me a better adult.

And in this case, art steps into the fray. Others have gone through difficult times, and they can teach me whether through fiction, dance, music, film or another avenue. Still others have not faced difficult times, but have struggled to understand deeper questions dealing with life or faith. Through their art, I can both be challenged and supported in the quest.

Art, like the woven transparency above, can simply be present to add beauty, or to cause us to look at items differently. My first introduction to Georgia O'Keefe was her intimate paintings of flowers, I love the vibrancy and immediacy of the paintings, and wondered at her attention to detail. I'm still amazed at the beauty to be found in so small a section. Oddly enough, it's through the same love that I like fractals and their beauty.

Books like 1984 challenge us to reconsider our world, both the good and the bad. Music, one of the universal languages, can touch deep parts of our souls in moments of great emotion. Dance, like music, can reach us in moments of great emotion as well since many of us move our bodies naturally when filled with joy or happiness.

Art can be used to uplift and pull down. It can be used to comfort and to challenge, to bring peace or war. Art is, and will always remain, a powerful weapon in the hands of individuals both for good and for evil. Art is an expression of the intangible. What makes one person like a writer or painter, and another person dislike them? No idea, save that there is something that the creator has made which connects to one and not another.

How should the church see art then? As a tool to be used for one message, or as a means to express the hearts of individuals? I'm relieved to see a shift beginning to happen, a sea-change, if you will. For most of my life, Christian Art was exclusively used for salvation in that the primary use was to direct people to accept Christ as their Savior and convert to Christianity. Now, within the church, we see artists and patrons of the arts developing more conversations around the arts. The single focus is minimized for a fuller approach. Still, there are those out there who do not see the full vision, but I do have hope for those within the church to see art for its full beauty: as the means to express and consider beauty and sorrow; joy and pain; hope and fear - to, in essence, experience life.