I tried to build a writing life for just about ten years. Along the way I blogged my heart out, made friends with many writers and authors, wrote a book that had very modest sales (it broke the thousandth mark!!), and I have endorsed several books for others and have even been mentioned or cited in several books, including my friend Deborah’s book that just came out in October.
I figured the writing path, un-lucrative as it might have proved for me, was still, after all, my path.
Then, my curiosity got the best of me. I began messing around with making collage art pieces. I made them for friends. I made them and threw them away. I made more and bigger pieces and displayed them around my home. My friends began displaying them around their homes. Collage art had become my new form of self-expression.
I felt, for awhile, like I was cheating on my writing muse. I’d slink into my tiny office avoiding eye contact with the bone pile of writing notes for my next book. Instead I tiptoed into a creative tryst with collage art. The colors, the images, the possibilities of every blank canvas became my new lover. Writing would have to wait.
When my teen boy was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, my world fell apart. I wondered about capturing all the pain of the journey through a dedicated blog about entering CancerLand. I threw a journal in my purse thinking I might want to scribble my thoughts and experiences during the many hours of waiting rooms, hospital stays and treatments. But my journal sank to the bottom of my bag. Writing about the most excruciating moments of my life, my family’s life, felt like too much effort, that by putting energy into capturing the words would somehow diminish the much needed strength I needed for my son.
I blogged two or three times about cancer, like how it failed to make me Super Mom (click here to read that story), but that was it. I could not bring myself to keep a written record about the wild terrain of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
That’s when art became a torrid, sensuous love affair for me. As my son Jeremy rested, I would sneak away to my creative space, my little office in the basement right by the washing machine and dryer, and I would pour my grief and fear onto the canvas. Colors, images, I smashed them together into new possibilities as I at times heaved with deep emotion. Like this one, Fear Not, I made it on the eve of our family learning how Jeremy was responding to treatment. Would he need more chemo? Was he done? Anxiety churned in my entire being.
I was restless. I could not sleep. Once Jeremy was comfortably settled I turned to art for comfort. That was the night I used some of his medical papers to make the art. Buried under the colors and images is a layer of his lab report, his blood count. Using it in the art seemed like an act of resistance, as if I was giving cancer the middle finger to it’s face.
The next day we learned that Jeremy did indeed need more treatment, another three months. That was hard, really hard, but he got through it, we got through it with him and today he is a thriving college freshman living life to the fullest!
It was during that hard season that art became my saving grace. And it is when a wonderful thing happened that I did not expect to happen : during all that art making the gift of what Elizabeth Gilbert calls fierce trust showed up. Maybe gift is not the right word … fierce trust is more like a state of free fall. I learned to free fall into the creative process and not fret about how all this investment of time and energy into art making was going to pay off. Would I sell more prints on Etsy? Would I have another successful art show? Would my art be noticed and appreciated for all the vulnerability I put into it? But I learned to surrender, to not worry about whether people would like my art or respond to it, no matter how many times I posted it on Instagram and Facebook. Fierce trust in the creative process means the outcome cannot matter.
I love this quote from Andy Warhol :
Don’t think about making art. Just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, Make more art.
I think this can apply to all kinds of endeavors we choose in our life, not just creative endeavors. Fierce trust in the process rather than the outcome frees us to Be rather than Do.
Writing is still a good friend of mine, a long-time friend. We still hang out (this blog proves that.) I have learned to merge my writing and art together. Words insist on being included in the collage pieces I make. I listen. I trust. I make more art.
What about you? How are you making more art and free falling into fierce trust these days? What does it look like for you? I’d love to know!
***UPDATE*** I mentioned my friend’s new book in the beginning of this blog post. Your Vocational Credo by Deborah Loyd is available on Amazon. It’s a great, practical guide about determining your unique vocation (not career path) that makes up who you are wherever you go. Great read, and look for me on pages 99/100 !!!!