This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
NEWSLETTERS 101 #7: Why Your ‘WHY’ Is So Important
(Hint: Because it is the heart of everything you do, every decision you make, and everything you make!)
(6 minute read)
Welp, somewhere along the line, this series shifted from “how to create an email newsletter” to “how to find your creation story”. I would apologize, BUT -
In my defense, knowing our creation story is the foundation of everything else we do.
Yes, we may end up making our creative work for years before we find it. Yes, it may not be a story you are comfortable sharing with just anyone.* Yes, it can changed or modified, to align with a new series of work, or for a special exhibit, etc.
But that story is in us, even if we can’t find it - yet. It is what drives us, guides us, in a thousand small ways, every day.
Knowing our creation story is a form of self-empowerment, a direct conduit to the inner passion that drives to make the work we make.
Someone reached out to me recently about this, with really good questions we may all have:
Do we all have a deep mystery to discover?
Yes, we all do. Everyone. Everyone has a story that gives some sense, some insight, into the choices we make.
Of course, many of our choices become such a habit, we forget the reason we made them in the first place. Hey, I’ll go first!
Why do you sleep on that side of the bed? (Me: I want to be closer to the bathroom in the middle of the night!) (Which is also why that changes every time we move.)
Why do I hate tuna fish casserole? (Me: I used to really hate ‘mixed’ food, I hated strong flavors like tuna fish, and my parents gave me grief every time I tried to bow out of eating it. Almost every dinner was a fight about food. Tuna fish casserole brings up bad memories, and mentioning it is a running joke between my hubby and me.)
Why do you make your artifacts out of polymer? (Me: Because I want them to look ancient, worn and damaged by time, over thousands of years. I can recreate that look with a faux ivory technique in polymer clay. Also, there’s no need to harm animals to make them, in this day and age, so polymer is more ‘life neutral’ for me. And how cool that this material began to soar in popularity as an art medium in the world at the same time I took up my true art?!)
Why the Cave of Lascaux? (Me: I have always yearned for a horse to love, I have always dreamed of riding a galloping horse, moving freely forward, flying in the wind, at one with these marvelous creatures. They were a metaphor for my longing to be an artist from my youth. The mysterious Lascaux paintings fed this longing. Now that we know more about the makers of those paintings, the synchronicity is even more astonishing!) (Recent findings on women as shamans in prehistory; that all members of this community participated in the ceremonies; that these paintings were created during the onset of swift, debilitating climate change.**)
I think I am waiting until I am an authority on (making my art) to try to look for the why.
This is not necessary to find our ‘why’. We are just postponing asking ourselves this difficult, but ultimately empowering work. Remember: We are already ‘good enough’, there is no diploma for ‘being human’, and we are all a work-in-progress.
Where does passion for working come from?
From our heart. The desire to be seen, heard, loved in the world. To be seen as an individual, and to be part of a community. To be remembered, long after we are gone. We want to make our mark in the world. Many factors guide/hinder us along the way, from how we were raised to what we perceive is valued in our culture. That’s why finding our way to this work can take time and effort for many of us.
Although I do like the idea of being a powerful force for good in the world. Who, me?!
Yes, YOU! And me! And about 98% of the rest of the world. (I’m leaving out the sociopaths and narcissists of the world, although sometimes even they often create good work in the world in their pursuit of their passions.) (Just don’t date or marry them!)
Here’s my favorite metaphor for “do I matter?”:
When we put the work of our heart out into the world, it’s like tossing a pebble into a large lake. We may not see where all the ripples go, but they are there and they go SOMEWHERE. (Look up The Butterfly Effect.)
Our art is like that.
It may take time for it to be seen. Maybe not even in our lifetime. Van Gogh died in despair, craving to be seen in the world. If only he could see his own validation now! Or it could disappear eventually. But what is left is how it affected US, and others in their own good time.
(Again, the power of the internet, and the legacy of the art we leave behind.)
The cave paintings of Lascaux were a powerful message that was not addressed to us. But that cave deeply, deeply impacted all the people who were able to see it before it was closed, and even long after. And it changed my life.
For millennia, we have had some very strict rules about who can be an artist, and who can’t. Rules about what ‘real art’ is, and what isn’t.
Rules and laws have kept women, people of some religions, people of color (outside of their own origins and present communities), people of ‘other-than’ gender, in a box, and usually not a very pretty nor kind box.
But things change. We are not in a perfect, accepting, loving world yet. But it is even more possible to have our voice in the world. The current shelter-in-place orders may force us to stay home. We may feel paralyzed, overwhelmed, anxious about the state of the world right now. But the internet, and social media marketing***, allows us, and our art, to roam the world. Access to a smart phone, a computer, a library (eventually!) give us this perfect freedom.
We do the work we feel compelled to make, and hope someday, somewhere, somehow, someone else will feel its message.
And when WE know our message, we are empowered now, no matter what happens later.
I told this person they’d inspired this article! One person’s words, even shared with self-doubt, shared with courage, and with the hope that I might answer, lit up my heart.
I hope my words today light YOUR heart, and theirs.
*You can share the gist of your creation story, if the details are too personal or uncomfortable to share. Just knowing it is huge!
**And as a side note, everyone who says, “My art speaks for itself”, the story of the Lascaux Cave paintings for years was, men-and-boys-practicing-target-shooting. New evidence now shows that “story” is completely wrong, on so many levels. We were seeing these images through the lens of our own time, with all the cultural prejudices that can block our “view”….) (To which some will counter, “Cave art is about survival!” and I reply, “So is a cathedral.”) (The power of our choices.)
**”Social media marketing” of course, is simply using the internet to get our work in front of other people, who may love it, be inspired and uplifted by it, and hopefully, even love it enough to buy it!
NEWSLETTERS 101 #6: My Creation Story's Creation
NEWSLETTERS 101: #5 What Is the Story Only YOU Can Tell?
NEWSLETTERS 101 Tip #3: Introverts, This Is Your Moment!
NEWSLETTERS 101 #2: It's Okay to Talk about Yourself!
NEWSLETTERS 101 #1: Tips and Tricks to Help You Connect
NEWSLETTERS 101 #4: Know Your Creation Story