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Artist's Way
Week 8

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Recovering a Sense of Strength

"This week tackles another major creative block: time. You will explore the way in which you have used your perception of time to preclude taking creative risks. You will identify immediate and practical changes you can make in your current life. You will excavate the early conditioning that may have encouraged you to settle for far less than you direse creatively."

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In reading this week's topic, I could feel frustration well up in me. It was gradual. At first I kept counting the pages left for me to read. Then I would sigh each time I turned the page and found that the topic wasn't changing. I thought maybe I should skim the material since it seemed so inappropriate to me. I'm not a professor or academic or anyone in the position of squashing the eagerness of budding artists. And I'm not a screenwriter, director, or actor or anyone who needs to break down their art into small steps. My art is creating a single piece that takes a matter of about an hour (give or take). There's nothing to break down there.

As I tried to rationalize skimming, another part of me got my attention. In a small, but strong voice, she said, "A-hem! Do you really think you would be feeling this frustrated if this topic didn't have something for YOU in it? Sit back. Relax. Slow your breathing and your reading. Let the message come."

I couldn't argue with the voice. My frustration level was inappropriate if the only thing happening was me wasting a few moments reading something that had no meaning for me. No, there had to be a deeper reason for the frustration, so on I read....slowly....carefully.

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The first thing that came to me was a flashback to a short conversation I had with my partner this morning. She's learning to crochet. Well, actually, one part learning, one part making it up as she goes along. She can't quite understand a pattern she's found, she she improvises. She showed me something she was making and asked for feedback. She thought she would have to rip it out because it wasn't turning out as she hoped. I took the opportunity to tell her that I really didn't think she should start improvising just yet. Maybe she should ask my mom about the pattern (my mom crochets very well...tried to pass it on to me. I did it, but didn't like it). Mom would be able to help her understand it. Once she understood it, THEN she could start improvising.

That's not what my partner wanted to hear...and wasn't what she asked me. I could tell by the look on her face, but I didn't know what else to say. I went to take my shower and left her to ripping out what she had created.

After reading this week's topic, I realize what happened this morning in that conversation. Here she is making things that look darn good, especially for someone who is just learning...AND for someone who isn't even following a pattern!! I am the first one to talk about "breaking the mold" when it comes to rubber stamped greeting cards. Too many stampers see a card they like and just want to duplicate it. They may change the stamp used, and some of the colors, but they create what I call "formula" cards. They don't break out and find their style. They are too afraid. They want something that looks "perfect" from the start. So, I, of all people, should be able to support Morgan when she wants to break out of the mold, not follow a pattern, and do her own thing.

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Why couldn't I do that? I think it is because I have this "rule" set in the back of my head. If you are going to break the mold, you have to first "pay the dues". In my definition of an artist, the artist first has to learn the "right" way to do something. They must struggle and toil to learn this "right" way. Only then can they break the rules and do something different. Besides, who ever heard of someone teaching themselves how to crochet without using any patterns!!!

There it is...jealousy. Here's Morgan finding crochet so easy that she felt confident enough already to try something on her own. But why would I be jealous of that? I have never taken a class in watercolor, yet I play with it all the time, making up my own thing as I go along. I don't think the jealousy is about art, in general. I think it is specific to crochet. The only thing I ever crocheted was a blanket for my doll...and it wasn't even quite big enough for the doll. I struggled with every stitch.

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Looking back now, I think there was something else happening, which connects to the other main topic in this section -- baby steps. When I was learning to crochet, I didn't start out thinking I would make an afghan for my doll. I think I was making an afghan for my bed, or a scarf, or something much larger than a doll's blanket. I vaguely remembering asking if I could make something smaller because I felt so overwhelmed with the task at hand. I remember being disappointed that what I was making would be too small to be of any use. My mom was the one who came up with the idea of an afghan for my doll. I think that gave me the energy and motivation to continue, but when I finished and found it wasn't even large enough for the doll, I was disappointed. I had really struggled to make that and here it was....non-useful. Everything made in my household had to be useful.

My history with crochet wasn't a pleasant one. I wasn't successful at it. This feeds my jealousy of Morgan. But there's more. I wasn't successful at it because I was trying to bite off too large of a piece to start off it. By comparison, I was a first year oboe player trying to apply for the symphony! Besides the negative jealousy that exposed itself this morning, I think I was also trying to protect Morgan from the expectation of winning a blue ribbon on her first entry to the county fair. This isn't my role, just as it isn't the role of the academics Julia speaks of this week.

I may have been more successful with crocheting if I hadn't had such a huge goal to start with. That's my history, not Morgan's. As a child, I didn't understand taking baby steps. I wanted to take leaps. I was the youngest and wanted to be a "grown up" with all my siblings 6-9 years old than me. I was ready to take those leaps, but I needed to follow the steppingstones.

A similar situation is happening in relation to a couple product ideas I have. I have wanted to leap from idea to sales without taking any of the necessary steps in between. Today, I wrote down the steps I have been trying to skip. Over the next few weeks, I hope to complete those steps, one at a time. It'll be interesting to see where they lead.

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* * * Creative Expressions * * *

Draw a staircase. Put your goal at the top. On each step, describe a small step you can take to meet your goal. The small step should take you about a day to complete.

Post this image where you can see it every day. As you complete each of the small steps, color in that step or cover it with images that represent your dream. This will be a visual reminder of "Filling the form".

Respect that still, small voice that says, "This might work and I'll try it."
-- Diane Mariechild