Updated: Feb 12, 2022
Today I started reading "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon. It is a book about making your creative process visible, and public, while you are creating.
The book was suggested by a young YouTuber, Ali Abdaal, (as was "Atomic Habits" by James Clear) a Cambridge educated doctor who developed multiple successful businesses online. Ali caught my attention as I was trying to figure out how to develop an online presence for the justus cafe, an initiative focused on lifting up the arts of social change in communities around the world, so they can be seen and inspire others.
Ali also caught my attention because he was so much younger than me, and I needed to pay attention how younger minds are approaching the world.
One premise of Show Your Work, is that there are other people in the world who care about what you care about, whether it is the specific content, or the process. Since I began writing again in the public realm, I am truly fascinated by the demon voices of judgement that ring in my head, designed to shake my confidence.
But Kleon quotes Charlie Chaplin,
“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”
He goes on to say,
“We’re all terrified of being revealed as amateurs, but in fact, today it is the amateur—the enthusiast who pursues her work in the spirit of love (in French, the word means “lover”), regardless of the potential for fame, money, or career—who often has the advantage over the professional. Because they have little to lose, amateurs are willing to try anything and share the results.”
These were important words for me as I was stumbling, and at risk of falling back in the hole of despair of "why bother?" and "who cares about my process?". The answer to these questions is really, I don't know, and my response is that I don't need to. This blog is a place to keep track of my journey to follow questions and visions that I care about. That may be valuable to people I don't know, but minimally it will be valuable to me, as I consider what questions I am following, and what are the questions that emerge in that process, as well as how do my visions shift and change as I act upon them, share them with others, and develop a reflective practice on what happens, and what can I learn.
And then my granddaughter Lily came into my mind. She is so bright and beautiful, with a curious mind overflowing with questions. I thought that one day, she might be interested in my vulnerable pursuit of something that I care about, and the overwhelming questions I have. I need to share that with her. Writing about it will help me think of how I can share that with her. That is reason enough to venture into this space.
I care about...
the process of creating...
I do love the work of artists, music, poetry, visual pieces, performance, etc., but what I am fascinated by is the vision and the practices that go into the creation. Austin Kleon quotes Michael Jackson,
“A lot of people are so used to just seeing the outcome of work. They never see the side of the work you go through to produce the outcome.”
Going on to say,
“When a painter talks about her “work,” she could be talking about two different things: There’s the artwork, the finished piece, framed and hung on a gallery wall, and there’s the art work, all the day-to-day stuff that goes on behind the scenes in her studio: looking for inspiration, getting an idea, applying oil to a canvas, etc. There’s “painting,” the noun, and there’s “painting,” the verb.”
My curiosity about the verb runs deep.
the pursuit of questions
I have always lived with way more questions than answers. I remember my father, a creative man with little confidence in being able to express himself in words, being extremely frustrated by my questions about everything, saying to me, "you are going to make yourself crazy with all of your questions". There is some truth in that statement, but the craziness I have experienced did not make the questions go away. My quest now is to find great questions worthy of pursuit. My friend Judith Snow said,
"A great question refuses to be answered. So it keeps leading us into deeper connections with each other and into deeper thinking."
I need great questions. I need to see where they take me, and who I will meet and connect with on the way.
the art of social change
These last few years have made the disturbing chasms among people so visible and palpable. Us and them, left and right, conservative and progressive, and a host of other separations and distinctions designed to pit one side against the other, meanwhile we are in an era of pending climate disaster that will obliterate all distinction. Somehow we must be artful in healing the social divide, in pursuit of wholeness. I am fascinated by people approach the divided world we live with creativity in pursuit of healing and wholeness, a change from our current brokenness and dis-integration.
learning how to bring a vision into fruition
In spite of my age, I feel very young, and often naive and inexperienced, and I deeply want to learn how to allow visions into my mind, that instigate the creative process. For now, the creation of the justus cafe, is my vision of choice. I don't know where it will lead, what will emerge, who will be interested, and how the vision will change, but it remains potent enough to hold my attention. I have not dared to try to create, but it seems that I want to try. There will be so much for me to learn.
When I am flooded with "why bother?" put this out into the public realm, I am left thinking, "why not?". In a sea of thought, these thoughts, and those that will emerge are as good as any. Minimally, it will help me to continue to explore, knowing that there is always something to learn.
And then there is my granddaughter Lily, who might one day, need to know that she is not alone in her questioning mind. I hope that my thoughts and experiences might bring her some comfort.