Going It Alone

August 29, 2009

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Artist Alone

Artist Alone

One of the biggest mistakes we make as creative people is trying to go it alone, without external support or input.  The view of the artist alone in his or her garret or basement, writing, painting, playing a few chords on the guitar, is a very compelling one for most of us, with deep roots in our culture’s vision of the arts.  We feel that is how real artists operate, and that the loneliness of the artist with a vision is what makes the artist authentic.

But it is really hard to do accomplish anything all alone, which is what those lengthy and tedious Oscar award speeches are all about.  It is true that much art is best created in solitude – novel writing or oil painting are not generally  group efforts – but once the work is completed, or often, quite a bit earlier, when the idea is just being formed or the first version is being attempted – most artists want some input and support.

And then, once it is done and ready for public exposure, we want and need quite a bit of support.  There are a lot of people needed to get a picture hung in a gallery, a song recorded, a book published.  This includes not just the obvious people – agents, managers, booking agents, publishers, editors, gallery owners – but the people who help you stay in touch with your dream and accountable for putting it forward.  The person in your life who says – Have you sent out those emails yet? Have you submitted your slides or your manuscript? Did you sign up for that conference?

The person who does this in your life might be a teacher, a mentor, a significant other, a colleague, someone in your workshop, or your coach – but most of us human beings need someone to check in with and keep us headed toward our goal.  When our client Gail, the writer who we’ve been following in this blog,  received a little support and found informed people to check in with about her work, she was able to begin her second book and enroll in a writing workshop in her area of specialization.

Going it alone is a difficult path, and often not a fruitful one.  Almost all of us can benefit from getting a little help along the way.  Finding someone who can ask you (kindly) if you’ve taken the next step will help you a long way on your creative journey.


How to quiet the inner voice of fear

August 24, 2009

Posted by Leslie Zeigler

Becoming creative is not always easy.  It is rare to find someone who does not have an inner critic waiting to pounce.

Or a deeply held negative belief  saying you just are not going to make it – so why be a fool and try? It is precisely this kind of a belief  that has dramatically held back my sister Gail.   She has been thinking for a long time about writing a particular children’s book.  The operative word is THINKING.  With a little support from friends, coaches, and/or family members, you,  too,  can move off of the fence and start moving forward.   Gail has been able to go from THINKING  to actually registering to participate in a children’s writer conference   being held in November 2009 at the 92ndStreet Y.   In spite of her considerable fear and anxiety,  she has not only sent in her registration form but has also written and sent in one page of a children’s book idea that she has been wanting to write for a very long time.

In my experience, people often harbor the myth that they have to completely get rid of the fearful inner message before they can take any creative risks.   However, that is not really necessary or realistic.  The first step is to become aware of the negative message and just accept that, for the time being, it is there. The challenge is to move forward by taking very small steps in spite of the fear.


The Power of “They”

August 16, 2009

Posted by Deborah Atherton

Speaking with a very gifted portrait painter recently, I once more encountered the enormous power of “They” among otherwise confident artists.

“They” say no one will ever take my poetry seriously if I use rhyme,” she told me.  She had recently begun spending more time writing poetry, as well as painting.

I asked how she envisioned using or publishing her poems. She said she was going to create a book of paintings, accompanied by her poems, that explored a recent traumatic event in her life that had unexpectedly brought her new freedom and depth in her work.

Now, it is certainly very true that rhyme is not generally held in high esteem in the Academy today, and if she were trying for a professorship or attempting to break into the pages of the New Yorker, neither she nor her rhymes would be unlikely to be greeted with open arms. But she is a talented and successful artist in the field of portrait painting, which is probably about as likely to get her a chair at Harvard as rhyming poetry, and she is very happy in her work. So why was the critical writing “they” so much more powerful than the painting “they” in her mind?

The answer, I think, lies in her taking poetry up seriously later in life. Being new to writing for others (although not for herself), she was more sensitive to the possibility of criticism. A friend telling her that they would have laughed anyone who rhymed out of her poetry class was enough to give her pause.

What I suggested to her was that she was being true to her own gifts and her own way of expressing them, a way that worked for her in her painting. Her rhymed poetry and her realistic painting achieved a consistent and unique personal aesthetic. If she forced herself into free verse forms, she would be abandoning her own view of the world on several levels. And while I am all for this as an occasional exercise – we can all benefit by seeing the wider world through a different lens occasionally – it’s not our primary job as creative people. Our job is to see the world through our own eyes, our once-in-the-history-of-the-universe perspective, and share it with everyone else as best we can. Those who aren’t interested in it, because it is rhymed, or representational, or uses old-fashioned harmonies, or is shot in black and white instead of color, will most likely ignore it, but for the audience who is waiting to find it, it will be just the right thing.


Being in process of Overcoming Procrastination

August 1, 2009

Posted by Leslie Zeigler

In this blog I have been writing about the issue of procrastination and the creative process and, more specifically, about Deborah and me helping my sister Gail in overcoming her blocks to moving forward on getting a children’s book written and published.   As stated in my earlier posts, Gail is PRIMARILY  stopped by her own internal negative messages.  In light of that, I am trying to help her to take positive actions on her own behalf in spite of her usual style of being stopped by them.  

 I am not working with  her as a therapist, but as a coach, so the focus is on helping her to engage in new behavior.  My hope is that if she can perform the actions needed to further her creative goals, the inner negative voices might slowly quiet down,  and her confidence in herself  will increase.  So her assignment for this week was to commit to sending out  the children’s book idea she wants to currently market to one publisher.  She was willing to agree to that. 

Deborah is also helping her,  as we described in earlier posts.  Gail is responding in a very positive way to the support, encouragement and suggestions given to her by us both.  Her process and hopefully progress will continue to be posted here.