Free to Fail

My younger son is a musician. He’s played trumpet for six years and picked up the tuba a year ago. As a high school sophomore, he registered for two music classes: Jazz and Symphonic Bands. Music is his happy place, the band room his safety zone.

His private instructor also works at the school; he asked to chat. Apparently, my kiddo did not do well on his jazz audition. But his instructor wanted me to know all the ways I could encourage him:

He did better on the harder of two pieces.
He persevered when he lost his place.
When he finished, the whole room broke out in applause rather than their normal toe tapping, understanding the struggle and the grit.
He did not have the worst audition in the group.
This was the hardest piece of music he will encounter all year,
and now auditions are over until next year.

No accident that I’ve been reading about creative risks and failure and how to go on when you feel discouraged.

Thing is, he knew the audition had been a mess, but he didn’t let it flatten him; he let it go. I reminded him that everyone will blow it from time to time, everyone fails, but that creates an opportunity for growth. And that artists may fail even more so because artists have to take risks, the nature of the creative game. I told him that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly so that you can get better. That everyone is a beginner, and even with experience, we face many, many, many beginnings (like, every new piece of music).

Yes, he agreed. Wise kid. How does he know all this when I’m still learning?

Madeleine L’Engle writes in A Circle of Quiet about receiving a rejection letter on her fortieth birthday. She put the cover on her typewriter in a dramatic gesture to mark the end of her writing career; she walked circles around her writing room, sobbing, until she realized that already in her head she was writing a story about failure. She uncovered her typewriter and got back to work.

Failure requires a response of swift, gracious action. Instead of asking the pityingly poor question, “Why me?” we ask, “What next?” For my son, next meant more music, Symphonic Band, followed by geometry. He kept his head up and kept moving. For Madeleine, it was making the decision to keep pecking away at her typewriter. We do the next right thing, however small and seemingly insignificant.

The creative road can be scary, but we keep walking, step by step. We speak kindly to ourselves, not berating ourselves for failure but commending ourselves for the courage to risk. We may feel sore, like sore muscles after a hard workout, but we persist, assuring ourselves that as we keep at it those creative muscles will also grow stronger.

The next morning as I dropped my son off at the band room, I asked how he was feeling; I knew that morning’s class involved sight reading, not his strength. He said he felt fine, and he was. Having gotten through one difficult scene in the band room, he knew he could do it again. And this time, it was even easier. Next time will be easier still. He’s getting stronger.

 

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay

Creativity as Spiritual Practice

I read in The Artist’s Way:

Are you contemplative? Yes.
Do you allow yourself to go on retreat? Oh, well…

Shortly thereafter, I saw a magazine ad for a nearby retreat center. An ad for the same center popped up on social media a few days after that; I clicked, and Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, would be speaking there soon. It was expensive.

A week later, I randomly received a yoga catalog in the mail. I flipped through, and saw that Cameron would be leading a retreat at a yoga center on the East Coast. Even more expensive.

Interesting: I’d considered retreat-ing, and opportunities popped into view.

About a week later, another ad appeared on social media: a FREE online retreat with Cameron and one of my favorite artists, SARK, plus five others. The topic: Creativity as Spiritual Practice. In my wheelhouse, do at my own speed, and free? Sign me up!

I’ve listened to two of the seven speakers so far and gained wisdom from both. As I took notes on the second speaker, though, a rather obvious thought grabbed me:

Creativity is a spiritual practice.

The speaker talked about being told as a child that she couldn’t draw, so she should find something else to do in life. She cut herself off from creativity and became a successful doctor instead. But she wasn’t whole until she recovered her creative self.

I want to write, “Who tells a child they can’t draw, so find another career?” Except, how many of us heard the same message? Art’s just not your thing, honey. You’ll find your thing, don’t worry.

Hogwash.

First of all, Art and Creativity aren’t necessarily the same thing. Too often we get all high and mighty about Art. Art hangs in museums, so the average human can’t make Art. Maybe not, but we can all create. And it doesn’t have to be your career, although it might be. It can be a hobby that fulfills you in ways you never imagined and influences who you are in all spheres.

Secondly, creativity is spiritual. At the least, it connects us to our own spirits. Creative activity is pure self-expression. As a Christian, I believe that humans have been created in the image of the Great Creator. We join God in co-creating our lives, and we image God most fully as we engage with Him in body, mind and spirit. I regularly practice my faith, praying/meditating, worship, etc. Why not fold creativity into that mix? I connect with God in new ways as I create.

Whatever you believe, creative work is less work than flow, getting things down rather than thinking them up. Receiving, not straining, and expressing. Poet Jon Fosse said, “To compose poetry,” he might have said, to create, “is about listening…it is, so to speak, about bringing forth something that already exists…”

Thirdly, creativity is about practice, not necessarily mastery. It’s not something you do just like anyone else. You do you. Not everyone can be Picasso, Matisse, O’Keefe, but everyone can express themselves. It doesn’t have to look like anything specific, and it doesn’t have to look like anything else anyone has made.

When I practice yoga, it’s my practice. I don’t have to do it perfectly, because the best I can do is breathe and stretch my own body, imperfect and healing and differently balanced each day. I don’t compare, because someone else’s breath and stretch makes for their practice. I don’t practice towards an end, but for the sake of my presence in the process.

When our kids were young, we expected them to participate in a sport most seasons: soccer, basketball, baseball, swim. Hiking and biking with family and friends on weekends. We didn’t expect them to be champions, but to enjoy movement, play a game, be active, learn good sportsmanship. Eventually, they’d tried enough sports to know what they liked and didn’t. They understand that physical exercise is a practice, a discipline for overall health.

Why don’t we treat creativity similarly? So what if you can’t draw, try painting. If not painting, ceramics. Try music or writing or collage, mosaic or poetry, jewelry making or sewing or cooking or…

Why oh why do so many young children hear the message that they’re just not creative, especially at, arguably, the most creative stage of their lives? No wonder so many adults don’t believe they are creative. We lose part of our humanness when we cut off our creativity.

Like playing sports, we can play at creativity. And like anything you practice, it gets easier over time.

Creativity is a spiritual practice. I’m all in. How about you?

Comfort in Creation

Today’s post comes from a beautiful person who creates beautiful art. English is not her first language, but the way she uses the language strikes me as poetic. Here she writes about the healing power of nature, and I feel as if we are meandering together along a path through the woods.

re:create recess #20: Michelle Prinz

re:create recess
A refreshment for the soul by means of relaxation with a sizable dose of enjoyment.
Reenacting memories of a pleasant nature, unwinding to a state of bliss.
Performing an act to comfort the surrounding world.

Again and again in times of weariness and exhaustion, the natural world that created me leads me back to it.

It is a time to rejuvenate and feel acceptance by restoring one’s self-worth in the creation enveloping us.
Ideally this essential endeavor will show us an awareness of his purpose,

namely, to put our universal body into a state of bliss by finding comfort in His creation.

Recreation spruces up mind and soul.
This has always meant to me being in a scape wide open, be it rugged or smooth, where I can joyfully climb or meander and feel the universal self, down to the bone.
In this landscape I always find a smaller or larger oasis offering shelter and protection.

This environment is without limit, filled with opportunities to find caressing solitude and to reflect on life’s gift.
It certainly will lead to a less worrisome load we choose to carry as our yolk.

This feeling of our body and soul against the bare elements—in all their freshness and decay—keeps me growing fonder of the life given to me.
Wouldn’t this force show us how much we are part of his works and feeling the balance of his waves…?

Nature’s gift, no matter how barren it seems, gives us the cup to replenish and recreate ourselves. Our time for recess in comforting solitude seems of the essence.

I can only imagine that everyone under the sun, at least once, gets to grasp the everlasting “lifeline” that beats our hearts and calms our souls.

Retreat
Realign
Replenish
Rejuvenate

Michelle Prinz is a native of Munich and has lived in the SF Bay Area since the early 80s. After her education in Art & Design, she also gained experience in Western Bookbinding and the Restoration of Paintings before earning a BFA in Illustration.

She has worked on logos, posters, spot illustrations and was honored to create images for a documentary about The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.

 

“I am so grateful to my sister in Christ for giving me the chance to recreate time out. I began retracing times spent with family outside of home. I realized how my father had a big role in offering us time to appreciate new environments, to discover our sense of rest and play outdoors. No road was too tiny or too winding for him to eventually find us a new path that gave us a chance to also find ourselves.

This post is dedicated to and in memory of my Papa Kurt. You see him here in his mid-80’s, joyfully stomping on the local redwood trails.”

Create Challenge Top 10

never-stop-creatingDuring 2016 I invited people I admire for a host of reasons to guest post on Miracles in the Mundane. The topic: creativity. Wednesday became one of my favorite days of the week for having the opportunity to share their stories of creativity, expressed in as many ways as individuals: writing, painting, poetry, business, and relationships. Through their posts they inspired me to live more creatively and more authentically.

Here are the Top 10 posts based on numbers of readers–which really means, not only are these great posts, but also that these folks encouraged the people in their lives to hop on over to read their contribution. You may have missed some, so here they are again!

Creating forgiveness: “Just one time.” by Karyn Bergen.

Creating a safe place for the creatives: Unicorns & Rainbows by A.J. Brown.

Creating colorful waves of art: Daydream Painter by Matt “Cheeks” Hoag

Creating space to hear God through the creative process: To Unite Creativity to Communion with God by Danielle Humphreys

Creating courage in others: Create Hope by Kelly Bermudez-Deutsch

Creating peace for his inner child artist: The (Wounded) Artist by Paul Quinlivan

Creating hope in Haiti: Empowered for Creative Investment by Scott Sabin

Creating a welcoming table: The Table by Cari Jenkins

Creating an openness to God’s plan in painful circumstances: Creating Trust by Sarah Johnson

Creating a fulfilling and thriving new business: Leap of Faith by Shirley DeFrancisci

How about you? How do you create? What do you create? And why?

 

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Creative Courage

When I invited my friend Paul to contribute a post on creativity to the blog, he responded, “Just one? I can write more…” That’s one of the things I have long appreciated about Paul: he is generous. Generous in creativity, in friendship, in spirit. Paul kicked off the 2016 Create Challenge with a heartfelt post about The (Wounded) Artist, and today he continues to show us how to move forward with courage.

Create Challenge #27: Paul Quinlivan

A little over a year ago my wife and I bought our first home. It is a wonderful starter home for us with a huge yard, fireplace, functional kitchen, in a developing neighborhood and, most importantly, in our price range. In this place we will lay down some needed roots and welcome nourishment it will bring.

One of the many quirks of the house, however, is a main bathroom with a window that faces out toward the street. Normally it wouldn’t bother me too much except for the fact that said window is in our shower with the glass starting a little over waist high. The window is not entirely see-through, though it is not entirely opaque either. It’s a busy enough street. Not that big a deal for me, but my wife…well…she asked me to do something about it.

For months now I have been working my way through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I was only diligent in my morning pages for the first few weeks and my artist dates never really took off as she intended, but the work and conversation was stimulating. Something within me came alive with the desire to create and to learn a particular craft. Often I feel so inadequate to do something artistic because I don’t know the technique, or have the specific tools, or know anyone who does. The anxiety behind the risk of being vulnerable feels so great that it’s crippling. It often leaves me stunned and powerless to move.

But this time was different. I felt like I had the courage to move, so I put the desire to create and the need in my home together and signed up for a stain glass making class. It was a birthday present really. A gift to my right brained, creative child hiding within.

I have yet to begin work on the final piece that will protect us from curious onlookers on the street, but here are the simple pieces I have crafted so far. The class as a whole is a funny experience. In my early thirties I am the youngest person in the studio by at least twenty years and the only one with ‘Y’ chromosome, but it has been fun. I now know and understand the basics to create any sort of stain glass pieces and will in all likelihood continue the craft in the future.PQ mtn 1 PQ mtn PQ sun

pq2Father, Husband, Friend, Therapist, Hiker, Surfer, Mystic, Writer, Farmer, Teacher, and Pastor are but a few of Paul Quinlivan’s many monikers. He lives with his lovely wife, almost 3-month-old son, and their South American dog in a slowly gentrifying suburb of Seattle. When he is not attempting to recapture his artistic self through writing he works to help others find themselves as a therapist in private practice and instructor at a graduate school helping to train future prophetic therapists, pastors, and artists.

Fighting for Creative Space

[My blog went dark last week due to computer complications, so you get a bonus Create Challenge post this week–lucky you!]

Today’s post comes from a woman who grew up around the corner from my childhood home and yet I’ve never known her well. I’m a smidge older and, as kids tend to group up by age/grade, we never ran in the same circles even though we also attended the same small liberal arts college in overlapping years. Her sister was one of my sister’s best childhood chums, however, and I remember my mom especially commenting on what a delightful artist Tina was even at a young age. I bumped into her at a storytelling conference a while back and I am thrilled to see the beauty she creates in her art and in her life. For anyone who would indulge creativity, you will recognize the inherent time-balance crunch she writes about in this post.

Create Challenge #21: Tina Carlson WellsTCW Golden Apples

I have been creating art professionally in Southern California for over 20 years. I specialize in custom canvases and murals, working with my clients to create something meaningful that works with their style and decor.

I graduated from Westmont College where I studied Business and Art. After graduation I started my business and painted full-time for ten years. After getting married and starting a family (my two kids are 12 and 6), I became full-time mom//part-time artist. I love both jobs, but it is often a complicated juggle running a part-time business while meeting the demands of school and home. Projects for clients take precedent and, while I love being creative for others, my creative projects often end up last on the list. I have been fighting against this, and trying to be very deliberate about making space for personal creativity. Here are some of my strategies.TCW cake TCW dog

Schedule it! I choose a few days a week when I can schedule 20-30 minutes of creative space in my day. In my ideal world, I would have hours to sit and paint, craft, etc. But in my reality, one to three hours a week is a victory. I set an alarm on my phone, stop everything else, and work for 20+ minutes.

Creativity takes many forms for me, from painting and crafts, to cooking, writing, and editing photos. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part, but once I’m going on a project, I can dive right in. The physical space where I can work is a key part of making creativity happen. I have a corner set up with my easel, paints, brushes, pencils, paper, a small table, etc. This allows me to paint for 20 minutes rather than spending the same amount of time setting up. There is no perfect time, and my ‘chores’ are never finished so, much like committing to a workout routine, you have to “just do it!” TCW heartTCW brushes

God is the ultimate artist and I believe He made us to be creative too. I’m a better mom, wife, and friend when I have fed my creative soul. I encourage you to get in touch with your creative self; make time, get messy, and have fun!TCWells

Lover of all things creative…on the canvas, in the kitchen, in my nest…and in the details of life. I find that when I invest myself in something creative everyday, no matter how small, I am better for it. My blog is in ‘hibernation’ at the moment, but there is lots of creative content there to check out: www.winsomewren.blogspot.com. My website is www.tinacwellsart.com

Scenes Jesus Walked Through

I met Jae Moon Lee and his lovely wife, Michelle Prinz, when they became members at our church a few years back. Both speak English as their second language, and both actively work in The Arts. To my English-speaking California-born self, they seem to ooze Creative Spirit – and they do! Today you’ll hear from Jae; next week, Michelle.

Create Challenge #11: Jae Moon Lee

Creative activity to me means painting.JML mars

I often struggle when I enter the painting room. Coming up with something new can be a major task. Artists are often painfully stuck in their own style.JML moon

Out of the blue I imagine a scene from the desert being scorched by the everlasting sun. An isolated land stripped to its bare bones. A scene Jesus walked through.JML blue

He must have felt very lonely at times. So saddened by sinners like us and being tested by evil. JML solo

This kind of thinking gives me inspiration.JML yellow

I try to connect this random imagination of the landscape in my painting. I am trying to create my own recipe by hopefully adding just the right amount of salt.

 

JMLJae Lee is a native of Seoul and has made the Bay Area his home for the last 30+ years. Having earned a BFA in Painting and Printmaking, Jae has made a living in the Film, TV, and Theater industry as a Scenic Painter.

He is working on a series of paintings for a show soon.