Reading-deprived word girl

Well wouldn’t you know it, the week after I organized my bookshelf I wasn’t allowed to read anything. I am going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way with a local group of lovely women, and Week 4 is when we aren’t supposed to read anything.


This is really, really hard for me. In the spirit of not letting our own thoughts be cluttered up by other people’s influences, we are also taking a Facebook fast and avoiding TV. So my shelves are petting zoo right now.


I am finding that podcasts clutter up my brain. It is really hard for me to just listen to something for a long time without any visuals, even when I am puttering away and organizing things while listening. Casting TEDTalks to my TV is easier. But my preference is to absorb information through words, so I counted down the hours to Sunday morning while posting bangles in my shop.


Not reading at all is not feasible for solopreneurs (even if Ms. Cameron might beg to differ), so we did allow for business-related emails and business page posts. Instagram became my friend because it is primarily visual. I applied to some art shows and started uploading earrings for shop release this week.


On one day I had an email exchange about a commission that required me to poke around my business Facebook page, and it was hard to stop skimming the personal Facebook wall where the computer opened up to initially. I am realizing how much time is spent just poking around on social media and clicking link after link, so having set times for social media activity is a practice I hope to continue after this exercise.

I am not missing the personal Facebook as much as I thought. With the current political climate it isn’t that cheery anyway. Thankfully my family keeps in touch via messenger and Telegram, so I am not totally disconnected. I am also writing some cards to snail mail after the weekend.


On Monday I had a commute and it was so strange to realize that I do default to the phone. Staring out into the world instead of scanning news and social media was different. It is a bit weird not knowing what is happening out in the world, since being informed of headlines has become part of my daily routine. Since I don’t have daily interactions with people who might inform me of world events, this does feel a bit like living in a bubble.


I visited the Chicago Cultural Center for my Artist Date, and initially wasn’t going to read the art descriptions but the work was too intriguing to avoid understanding it, so I gave myself a pass for absorbing the amazing exhibits there. (More on that Thursday).


I started work on a large encaustic commission, but since I had to watch for over-fusing and let my thoughts on composition simmer, this project is only a 2-hour session at a time, so not a whole day-filler.


For me, the hardest part was the evening. Normally I unwind with a book or a movie. During the TED talks I want to look up the speakers, which is also ‘reading’ in my book. So I felt very constrained after sunset.


The Artist Way exercises are showing me that I am already living the life I want, in the environment I wished for myself. Living by myself has eliminated the cluttered mind that Ms. Cameron strives to help us clear, so I am finding myself with lots of time on my hands. I’ve organized studio shelves, journaled a lot, taken many many notes on what to look up when I can research again, and I sat in a cafe for a while to keep from touching books (until some very strong cologne caused me to pack up).


The oodles of free time make this sort of a vacation, since I am between freelance projects as well. Unfortunately it has been too chilly to take extended walks, which would help pass the time.


I’d love to take on a crochet project, but that would require picking up a book for instructions! What this is showing me is that I am not very playful. My life is very purposeful in that I read to research, or to relax. My art-making is business-related, and while it does feel like play, it is no longer a hobby. Kitchen time isn’t a playful thing for me either (“what if I burn it all?!”), so cooking up recipes for one doesn’t bring out my inner child.


I played a lot of solitaire.


I also colored a lot, since that was the one book I allowed myself to open.


Still, words are my thing. Saturday was a very dreary rainy day, perfect for curling up with a book. Instead, I passed the hours doing a puzzle.

I guess what this week showed me is that books are my friends, and yes, maybe I am slightly addicted, but they are not as big of a ‘crutch’ as I thought they might be. Reading helps me get out of my ego-brain, my scarcity-brain, my worry-brain.


I am inspired by stories, which prompt a plethora of look-ups, listing of follow-up books to read, and have me mulling over my own story ideas. The week did force me to sit down and do some book-related writing for myself, and to push through “I should look that up right now” which would get me back into research-land.


It is fun to catch up on The Voice and pick out a Netflix movie in the evenings, but since I don’t have cable my TV watching is pretty purposeful instead of it being background noise. I don’t feel like I escape into TV.


Doing the morning pages is grounding me and helps focus on me instead of having my day be influenced by external influences right away. I do a lot of artist dates by default, but haven’t consciously scheduled one a week. It is fun to add to the list based on what other people are doing, and knowing that many artist dates are free. So we will see what Weeks 5-12 bring. I am hoping for lots of synchronicity as my inner artist evolves.

Have you done The Artist’s Way? What insights did the 12-week journey bring you?

Slothfulness

“The tide goes out
So it can come back another time.”
Jewel – What You Are

I have to admit, this Polar Vortex has thrown me for a loop. It’s been really hard to motivate myself when I hear snowblowers and snow shovels going at 7 am in March, there is yet another flurry blowing around the window, and the temperatures are prohibitive from going out.

Last year felt much more active at this time, and I feel guilty for not selling, for not producing, for giving into this sluggishness that a bear would call hibernation.

At the same time, the gathering of my receipts from last year indicates how much learning there was, how my artistic focus shifted, how many things I reacted to that I didn’t even see coming in January 2013.

So in a way I am also recovering from a lot of energetic momentum that had me pushing out of my comfort zone into places I thought I would never go. I wasn’t going to do outdoor shows and I did. I didn’t imagine that introverted me would be a co-founder and co-organizer of a women’s networking group that grew to 150 members within one year. I certainly didn’t see myself as a jewelry designer a year ago.

While in its own vacuum each of my accomplishments last year is something to be proud of, none of them pay the bills. So there is this dichotomy of needing an influx of funds as validation, while also wanting to invest what I saved up for many years to see if I can make this a full-time viable gig.

Startups take time to develop, and a lot of financial and personal investment to keep going, as well as a wide range of trade-offs. Not seeing a payoff in this world that glorifies ‘overnight success’ and billionaire payouts while pretending those people didn’t slave away 5 to 7 years before making it big creates much internal conflict.

The barrage of social media messages doesn’t help. I take in everyone’s priorities as a to-do I have to add to my list. So if one friend posts their latest studio shot of a work-in-progress, another mentions laundry day and a third invites me to a gallery opening, I feel I have to do all three of those things in addition to my never-diminishing to-do list that very day. What kind of a sloth am I to not wake up eager to seize the day and make the most out of each moment, especially with the luxury of having all of this time to myself without kids or a partner or a pet begging for my attention?

“I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing.”
~ OneRepublic – Counting Stars

I do live a charmed life. I am fortunate to have resources to pursue this dream. There is this possibility of taking my business beyond last year and moving forward. There is the fall-back of temping or freelancing if I need to. I have an abundance of opportunity and alternatives. All require focus and hustling and determination. All take energy. Each is a decision.

The key is to not compare. To not take my Facebook or Pinterest feed as peer pressure. To evaluate my options based on my needs, my abilities and my energy level regardless of what others might think they would do if they were in my shoes. They are not me, and I am not them.

I would do things differently if my situation were different. As I grow older the what ifs do grow louder. But what might have happened isn’t what is happening. So I have to take today as it comes. My body tells me what it needs. My soul informs the path I take. My brain gives me the realism to pursue the most appropriate course of action. My heart fluctuates between anxiety over the unknown and exhilaration over the vision that could be reality if I keep going.

The truth is that life isn’t easy. No matter what choice we make, we will doubt, we will toil, we will ponder the alternatives, and we will wish for smoother sailing. The key is to honor the choices we make and to fully stand behind them. There is no one to blame, and there is nothing to lose. It is all part of the experience that forms our character and brings us into the person we are meant to be.

I am meant to be me in my sluggish moments as well as in my sparks of brilliance. They don’t cancel each other out. In fact, the valleys make us more appreciative of the peaks. Every day counts, even the non-productive ones.

“The only way you can know
Is give it all you have.”
~ OneRepublic – I Lived

Epiphany

“But all the possibilities
No limits just epiphanies”

I love that line in the American Authors song I posted on January 1.

It has so much promise and hope, along with the positive spin of learning lessons. Everything is an epiphany in some form, even what we don’t like to experience at the time.

So on this epiphany day, I am reviewing the epiphanies of 2013, while also trying to glean what possibilities to focus on for the new year.

I am not sure I will publicly post my goals for the year or even hold myself to specific resolutions. Last year was such a whirlwind of exploration, accepting opportunities and responding to requests that weren’t even on my radar on January 1, 2013 that I may just have to ‘wing it‘ rather than try to plan out this coming year.

Here’s to dreaming with a dose realism for a prosperous, balanced and healthy 2014.

Absorbing

I didn’t feel like laboring during Labor Day weekend so there was no post on Monday. Yesterday I reviewed my monthly activities, and while as usual I was pushing myself each day/week to do more and be more (feeling a bit social media shamed here and there—everyone else seems so much more productive), overall the month, which felt like a bit of a goof-off business wise, has been extremely full.

It was mostly touristy vacation time spent with visitors, but I got some Etsy listings in, and NEW is getting traction as well.

Generally I like blogging thrice a week because it gives me a routine and holds me accountable to manage my time. It also helps me observe my surroundings with more engagement, because I constantly think of what would be fun to share with the world of Marvelers (even if they’re just family members and friends).

357_bubbly

Sifting through my weekly experiences via photo reference also helps me process events and reflect on their meaning, the companionship, the joy and the gratitude. I have a private journal of course, but this public chronicling of my life is a great memento and a nice track record of my new life journey.

But when there’s been a lot of activity and you need to let it all sink in a bit more, posting that often can become a drag and a chore. Just like anything else you have to prioritize and determine where time is best spent.

I took a few days off Facebook because I was starting to feel pressured to post something meaningful or give people a play-by-play of an event, when that is just artificial. It is better to savor the moment in the real world than to worry about how we present ourselves to the online world.

Meanwhile, there are so many ideas for future posts I haven’t had a chance to flesh out, which makes me want to blog more often. But I have art to make and to sell and networking to do and calls for art to respond to, since this blog doesn’t monetize itself.

357_Coffee

I’m really curious how the last four months of this year will unfold. I feel a bit antsy about what remains on the to-do list since January 1, but there was much more that organically transpired without the glimmer of a plan. Many Fall events are percolating in spite of this feeling of being on pause.

As much as we want to count and track and boost the numeric aspects of life, productivity and success can’t purely be measured by those (ac)counts alone. Life is hardly ever linear, no matter how much we try to structure it.

September will be a month of re-establishing routines and determining efficiencies while also implementing many ideas I haven’t gotten to yet. We’ll see how these intentions pan out over time.