Are you programmed to self destruct?

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file000663776371I have a friend who is a very talented artist. He comes up with some amazing ideas. And when he pursues his ideas, he jumps in with both feet. Total passion and fearlessness.

Then, inevitably, he blows everything up. Not literally. I mean, just when he’s starting to gain momentum and really make something happen, he trips himself up. Sabotages himself. Sets what he’s doing and what he’s done on fire and walks away. And all of us watching it happen shake our heads and sigh.

It’s like he’s programmed to self destruct.

Artists (writers included) are known to be a temperamental lot. You know the stereotype: the tortured artist. We find community in our angst and court our pain in search of inspiration.

Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s all you want to do. But I have to wonder if at some point that kind of drama becomes our work instead the art we were creating.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield refers to this kind of behavior as a form of resistance. Julia Cameron refers to it as “the twitch, the flu, the deadly disease” in her book Supplies: A Troubleshooting Guide for Creative Difficulties. It’s that thing you allow to get in your way so you don’t have to accomplish the thing you’re really meant to accomplish.

I used to be this way. I used to unravel my work so I never had to get where I wanted to be. Why? I’ve asked myself that a lot. The best answer I’ve found is that success means change and change can be scary.

Reminds me of that Marianne Williamson poem:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

 Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

Yeah. That.

I wish my artist friend would read The War of Art or Supplies, or Marianne’s poem. But, like a kind of depression, when you’re in a pattern of self-destruction, you don’t really want to hear the answer. You just want to keep being roiled up in the confusion and drama and somedays.

But the answer is pretty easy. (Okay, it’s hard, but also…easy.)

You do the thing you’re scared of doing. You go that extra step. You finish the work. You put away the matches and let the thing live and breathe and shine instead of burning it to the ground.

I think James A. Owen might say it best in his book Drawing Out the Dragons:

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”

Are you programmed to self destruct? Whether you’re able to hear this now, or whether it just sits in your subconscious for a while until you are ready, the truth is this: you don’t have to burn what you’re building.

Just put the matches down.


Two Questions to Ask Your Creative Self

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There’s a sticky note on the wall overlooking my desk. On it is written two questions.

Are you a cooperative component?

Or are you keeping yourself out of the game?

I don’t remember now where I heard these questions. Maybe during a TED Talk. Anyway, I keep the questions there to remind me of the role I play (or don’t play) in my creative endeavors. Depending on how I’m doing each day, the questions are either a pat on the back or a kick in the pants.

Wherever you are in your creative journey, I hope find the questions useful, too.

The Science of Story

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Yesterday I mailed my sketchbook for this year’s Sketchbook Project: Limited Edition off to the Art House Co-op in Brooklyn. The theme I chose was “The Science of Story”, and I’m really pleased with the way it turned out. I’m excited to see which page they choose to include in the Limited Edition book that will be published later this year.

Here are some images from my sketchbook:

Two of the images, A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and The Old Man and the Sea, are available for purchase in a number of formats on my Society6 page.

In other exciting news, I sold a story to See Spot Run, the creative arts magazine published by Alma College. “Across the Fence” appears in the current (April) issue.

Looking forward to sharing more good news with you soon!

A Gift for You: Free inspirational wallpapers

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On a cork board above my desk, I have three of my favorite quotes.

Dwell in possibility. (Emily Dickinson)

Do one thing every day that scares you. (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Barn’s burnt down…now I can see the moon. (Masahide)

Today is my birthday, and I feel like giving away free stuff. So I fashioned these quotes into hi-res (1900 x 1200) desktop wallpapers. To download, select the image(s) you want, and then right-click to save the full-size graphic.


My Sketchbook Project 2012: tree•house

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On Tuesday, I sent my Sketchbook Project 2012 off to the Brooklyn Art Library. I have such an affinity for the Art House Co-op and the Sketchbook Project. The grassrootsiness of their mission resonates with me.

The theme I chose for this project was “treehouse”, and I’m really happy with the idea/story that emerged from the theme. For the most part I’m pleased with the pictures I created. Unfortunately, just as the deadline loomed, I cut the ring finger on my drawing hand open on a broken drinking glass. Had to figure out how to hold the pencil and not pull at the stitches. Ouch. Wasn’t easy, and the style of the sketches changed as a result. They took on a more jagged style, that almost implied movement. It was interesting. They remind me of my father’s sketching style.

Anyway, all this to say, my sketchbook is now on its way to Brooklyn, and I’m pleased it will be included among the other sketchbooks for this year’s project. I only wish I could visit the Library and see all those sketchbooks in person.

I’ll be participating in the Limited Edition Sketchbook Project in a few months. My theme is The Science of Story. Can’t wait to get these stitches out of my finger and get sketching.