An anniversary-ish for No Ordinary Time

Just over one year ago, I hit publish on my first poetry collection, No Ordinary Time. Then proceeded to not say a word about it for almost a month -which means it is now the one year anniversary-ish.  I’ll be the first to admit that I am terrible at self-promotion. Behind the scenes is my jam and frankly, trying to share about my work is hard. Really hard.

Some folks are great at building a team of supporters, rallying them around whatever project they are working on,  mobilizing them to spread the word and bring in the sales as well as cheer lead them along the way, and finally, create a nice little party around their book baby-cue the confetti. Big inhale following that run on. Me? I make the book, toss it on the floor then sheepishly nudge it with my foot towards an empty space, wish it well and casually act like nothing happened. It worked-four people tripped on it and decided to pick it up; one kept it and the others removed the safety hazard…

Interrupting this post for a quick sales pitch-

I should perhaps mention that the book is available to purchase by clicking on this handy little pic or using the link in the sidebar–there, got that out of the way. I’ll also be up front and let you know these are affiliate links in the hopes of creating some income so I can convince people I have a real job.

OK, now that that is done

It is so much easier for me to encourage someone else along their journey or applaud their success. When I come across someone whose work is compelling, beautiful, deep, or just plain good I genuinely love to celebrate their successes!  On the other hand if someone says something positive about my own work I tend to shrug it off, ignore it, dismiss it, and in an act of passive aggressive tour de force suggest they are just so kind. Why do we do things like this?  There are many real reasons of which I’m not qualified enough to address so I’ll just stick with what I know.

I KNOW that we are better together

I say this in my podcast, Poet Kind, a lot-“we are better together so let’s compare notes, not ourselves”. We function optimally with a support network that builds us up when we are down or doing the daily grind- not just when we are doing the big things that get noticed. It’s easy to sign up to do that for others but this is a two way street. We need to find ways to accept those kudos, atta peeps, pats on the back, and positive nudges without deprecating our hard work. I use deprecation as a deflection mechanism-I admit it. Learning from years of experience I am always waiting for the next boot to drop. It is a bad habit that I try, frequently unsuccessfully, to break. So far the best I have been able to do is eke out a weak thank you but I am growing.

What I want to tell you-if you have made it this far- is that most people are genuine. That there is no second boot. True, people will err on the kind side most often which isn’t a bad thing. Be open to the good stuff. Own your hard work and the next time someone says, “I love this”, “this is great”, “Your (poem, painting, art, words, book, drawing, origami, schnitzel…whatever) is phenomenal” run with it, savor it, save it for the times you need a little boost. But, please, don’t brush it of, turn it down, or deflect,  Dreams are fragile things so let each compliment, kind word,  supportive gesture build it up…

One last thing.

Find your tribe, your flock, your herd, your waddle, your group, your peeps-the ones that have your back and hold your hair when you need them to.  Can’t find a group? Make one. Step out and say I’m a poet and I am looking for other poets to work with (which I am by the way-wasn’t that easy?). Let your intentions out, let others know. Have an idea? Do it. Yes, there is the chance of failure/rejection but let it be a learning tool; don’t let it define you, direct you, become the lead in your story.  I love a good Winston Churchill quote so let me drop one here…

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.   W.C.

Rejection stinks, but keep going.  I have served as a juror for fine arts activities and done some selections for writing- decisions aren’t always made based on how ‘good’ a work is- a lot of great work gets turned away simply because it wasn’t right for that show/issue/anthology. Rejection doesn’t equate failure and it isn’t personal(although it can feel that way). Maybe the juror/curator/editor had a bad day and anything with a dog in it is going to get kicked. You can’t always know the machinations behind the veil but you can certainly turn around and submit it elsewhere-or figure out a way to do your own thing…which is an entirely different post.

One last quote

Here’s one last quote from my pal Winston-

If you’re going through hell, keep going.  W. C. (some do not credit him with this but I am going with it)

Keep going my friends-you are bound to come out on the other side! And I’ll be there to toast you! (I’ll be the one peeking out from behind the curtain)

Those nasty voices….

Life gets busy for all of us, doesn’t it?  It feels as though the fast pace takes over and before we know it days, weeks, months pass by before we realize what has happened.  I’m playing a bit of catch up here, adding a few new readings and working behind the scenes. I’m also getting submissions together, working on a new manuscript, and suffering the angst that all creatives deal with when it comes to putting work out there. That’s when they chime in-the voices that whisper in the background-you know the ones…

How about a little duct tape for those voices…

In a recent interview with Jane Kirkpatrick (she’ll be on the podcast this week sometime!) we discussed those nasty little voices that pop up and throw our focus out of whack, make us doubt what we are doing. Mine take on the form of piskies flying around my head -except they don’t bring good luck- only mischief. I am learning to be deliberate in envisioning them duct taped to the wall with their mouths covered as a way to cope!

How do we silence the voices that try their hardest to derail our work?

Why is it so easy to encourage and support others while falling victim to our own doubts and insecurities? It’s not hard to reach out to another creative and let them know just how important their words are, how necessary their voice is to the greater conversation but when I return to my own work, well…I kind of feel like why bother. I record another poem, listen to it and think it is all drivel.  There’s no pretending that my work is anything extraordinary but I don’t think its crap…or is it?

Encouraging my listeners to build each other up is important to me, reminding them that we are better together-which I believe 100%, is why I come back and do it again. Write again. post again, podcast again, I just keep going. After all, you can’t get anywhere if you aren’t moving- total cliche but truth is truth.

KEEP GOING!

For anyone out there thinking the “why bother” -keep going. JUST KEEP GOING.  What you are doing matters.  Your voice matters. Your work matters.  There will always be those who don’t get it, don’t understand, don’t see a point–but it isn’t theirs to own.  It is your story and only you can tell it. Sheesh, I am full of cliches today.  Whatever, let me say it again a different way.  Do what only you can do. Bring your voice to the table-again, and again, and again.  Share your work; write it, speak it, paint it, draw it, build it, record it, make it.  Afraid?? Nervous?? Great! Do. It. Anyway. I can’t wait to see what you bring to the table!

It’s been a while…

It’s been more than a while really-it’s been over two years since I’ve posted here! Two. Whole. Years.

I think the longer I waited the harder it was to convince myself there was something worth posting. What I did instead was write a book and start a podcast. Once they were done I decided I needed a space to work from so I revamped the site and put everything in one spot. So, I’m back with a new book, new podcast, and a new look. Cheers to a fresh start!!

You will find pages with links to my book, No Ordinary Time, and for Poet Kind Podcast-where you can listen to a sample episode.  I will be adding new work on the Poetry Page as well as recordings from No Ordinary Time.  You may even find some of my artwork here from time to time (the header image is a detail from my most recent series).

Thank you for stopping by and if you have been following me-thank you for your patience!

Here’s to new beginnings and all the great things that come next!

Christian Art? Not Christian Art?


While I was on a forced computer break I had the privilege of being a guest over on the Newly Creative blog. I met Bernice, who authors Newly Creative, at a retreat this spring. After a conversation about Christian art, spiritual art and creativity she invited me to guest post.  Below is the content of my original post. Take a minute and check out her blog to see the other contributors contributions to see how the conversation developed.

Christian Art?

If you ever want to have an awkward conversation with an artist, bring up “Christian Art”. I don’t think I have ever had one that wasn’t filled with strong opinions on either side-there seems to be no middle ground. This may have to do with the fact that it is incredibly difficult to nail down what the term “Christian Art” means. Some believe it is religious art, some see it as spiritual art; but one thing we can all agree on is that it is difficult to agree.

I’ll begin by defining the terms religious and spiritual, as I will use them, because I believe there is a distinct difference in their application in regards to the nature of art. Religious represents a more didactic turn in which the work exhibits characteristics of ‘telling’. It is obvious in it presentation and leaves little room for interpretation on the viewers part. A good example would be images of the crucifixion, biblical stories and almost any image that contains a visage of Christ. Spiritual, on the other hand, is more enigmatic. The content is less direct and may be parabolic in nature, distinctly indiscernible as specifically spiritual in nature and can serve as an extension of the artists spiritual inclinations.

How this applies in my own work has been a journey. Long before I had any formal training I had an idealistic viewpoint when it came to the role of religion/spirituality in art. As an artist and a Christian I believed that I was called to be deliberate in my choice of subject matter and have a moral punch line for each piece. I worked with my church to bring about a better understanding for the role an artist could play-besides merely watering plants-in both the worship space and the worship experience. While this fed my creative nature it left me feeling constrained and, at times, not much more than a propagandist for leadership. In my attempts to create ‘good Christian art’ I was operating under the misnomer of what, I thought at the time, Christian art should be.When I returned to complete my degrees I walked away from any idea of creating work with religious or spiritual implications. I was heavily vested in conceptual interpretations and often imbued my work with densely layered philosophical underpinnings-which I loved. I still love deeply hidden meanings 

What came next?

Anomaly, Oil, spray paint, cattle markers on Linen, 60h x 48w, 2017

Following the completion of my MFA my art has undergone several permutations and, at one point, the complete suspension of any work at all. I walked away from creating for a period of about three years because I could find no reason to continue to paint. It wasn’t an existential crisis of any sort it was in response to a fresh calling to let go of everything. My personal life, my work and my spiritual life were in a season of deep transitions and when I finally went back to my work I found that the old ways of creating were of no use to me. Concept felt empty and I was forced to reevaluate what it meant for me to create.

The work I now began felt directionless but more necessary than what I had previously done. I discovered that when I was in my studio I entered into a space where I was finding a deeper expression than I had previously known. It was as if all of the training I had undergone had peeled off and I was painting from a place that lacked a definitive explanation. I couldn’t tell you the why of it, I only knew it was what I was supposed to do. That doesn’t mean I erased what I had learned-I still have a conceptual foundation based on ideas that have clung to my work all along-I just didn’t rely on knowledge but more on spirit. My work became more intuitive, abstract and, ultimately, satisfying.

Epoch, Oil, spray paint, cattle markers on Linen, 60h x 36w, 2017

It also became more spiritual. Not in the physical manifestation itself, but rather in its creation. In my studio I encountered a kind of communication with God than I could not find anywhere else. As I worked, I found I would ease into a sense of suspended time-a kairos. I poured out my frustrations, my prayers and soul longings without the use of words. Would I call the work I am doing now ‘good’ within the context of the contemporary arts culture? Probably not. This said, the work I do now is infinitely more valuable to me as a person-it possesses meaning and purpose in a way my previous work did not.

 

My understanding and appreciation of the role of religion and spirituality has evolved. I use to argue the intrinsic necessity in application of both within the context of the contemporary art world. Through the experience of how my own development as an artist has transpired, I have come to value one over the other. The larger argument of religion and spirituality in art has roots that date back all the way to the reformation but I will speak only from where I stand at this point. My work itself is neither Christian nor non-Christian. It is certainly not religious but could be categorized as more spiritual – but, being abstract it can be argued that it is neither. It possesses qualities that only express themselves through individual interpretations. No one comes to a work of art without bringing their own experiential narratives to the interpretation process and, therefore, the work will be defined not by whatever intent I put into it but rather what they bring to it themselves.

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