Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Breadcrumbs Home

The Rugged Trail

Being an artist surely is fun, but still, it's no cakewalk. So many challenges, so many things to juggle, so much to dodge. We put in long, hard hours and try our level best, pouring our fervent selves into each piece. Sometimes things come together magically, but other times we just have to muscle through in the blind hope it'll all come together in the end. Yet nothing is certain when we start a new piece, even if we finish it at all. We can also feel inadequate and self-doubting at times and sometimes, just sometimes, may even wonder why we're doing this at all, especially given some of the awful criticisms pelting us. Honestly, if being hard on ourselves wasn't hard enough, coming from others can sorely test our camel's back. 

Ours is a crazy path to be sure and it doesn't necessarily get any easier either, perhaps getting even harder as we advance as expectations amplify. Yet we somehow find ourselves forging ahead nonetheless, drawing from a mysterious force of will we perhaps didn't know we had. Often times then the more established the artist, the stronger they are as if the battering and brilliance of the passing years has tempered them. They're seasoned trailblazers, charging down their rugged trails not necessarily in full control, but confident enough to stay surefooted.

Still, it can all get to be too much at times. For that then, a nudge to scoot us past our doldrums or a supportive word to sooth our doubts or an oasis of wisdom to replenish our inspiration may be in order. I'd like to share with you then some of my favorite quotes as they relate to creativity. I find they really help me in my moments of vulnerability, of self-doubt and despondency because just the right idea at the right time can swoop in to save the day, even change our whole outlook. So let's go!...

The Breadcrumbs

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." — Teddy Roosevelt

This truly speaks to an artist's struggle with the devotion, effort, and courage it takes to stay creative while still bearing the criticisms that would squelch us. And the struggle is real. It can be so hard some days, can't it? Going into the arena is a brutal business. 

It also speaks to the differing realities between the one who's taking all the risk—the artist—and the one who isn't—the critic. Whose efforts have more merit? Who's demonstrating more grit and dedication? Who's presenting something new to the world? Which one should get our attention more then? And should the one taking all the risks really give so much power to the one who isn't? The truth is this: Whatever the critic may say, they're not the one who's in the arena "marred by dust and sweat and blood." They aren't doing the work so should their words really be given so much weight? 

I also appreciate the idea of daring greatly because, indeed, just believing in yourself is powerful magic. We don't have to be super confident either, we just have to believe in ourselves a little bit. It's hopeful. So many people don't even start for lack of confidence, but just a little bit of hope can go a very long way. Which brings us to...

"Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion"
— Rachel Platten, Fight Song

When it comes to creativity, this passage speaks to the power of the singular moment, the singular person, the singular effort. It's so easy to get caught up in the flash and show of popular work, in the drama and excitement of show days, piece debuts, or model releases. Life is a big, thrilling, shiny place. But it's the sum of its parts, isn't it? And even one single effort has the extraordinary power to change everything, to shift an entire paradigm! And each one of us can truly make a difference. Isn't it wonderful? 

But it's not just about an outward "explosion," either—it can also be about an inner event, a rethink, a rejuvenation, a remaking, a rebirth. Sometimes our toughest battles, the worlds that need the most revolution, lie within ourselves. And sometimes the only hero that can save us is—us. So believe in yourself and in the worth of your efforts—even when it seems the world doesn't care or is even against you—because you just never know the domino effect they could topple into motion. 

"Some tiny creature, mad with wrath, is coming nearer on the path." — Edward Gorey

The Gorey illustration that goes with this passage from "The Evil Garden" lives in my studio because the tiny, wrathful creature is just so darned adorable! Now as for how he's connected to creativity, I grant you, you may wonder if I just included this to show you how cyoooot he was. Maybe.

But but but, seriously, yes...there's a connection. What is it? Pugnaciousness. Moxie. Pluck. Cheek. Every artist needs it. And sometimes, we need a lot of it. It can be the only thing that keeps us going if a piece is being particularly challenging or the world at large is being...particularly challenging. So get those little arms up and start flailing! Let's hear your war cry!

"To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it." — Kurt Vonnegut

By our very wiring, we're a creative species. From the very first cave paintings to carvings to storytelling, we're driven to create—it's in our bones. Being so, I'm a big believer in the healing power of creativity. When I get low then, I go back to how joyous my art makes me and find reassurance. In this we can also be happy in the creative achievements of others, knowing the wonderment they experienced, too. This place is also common ground with artists, a means to connect to find more mutual understanding.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts." — Winston Churchill

We're going to fall on our art face at times—that's the promise of creativity. And that's a good thing. We learn, we grow, we develop more empathy for the struggles of others. Like the most difficult horses, our mistakes are our teachers. Really, if we did things right all the time, how would we be so driven to rethink, explore, and discover? Mistakes aren't the end of the world, they're the beginning.

I also like the idea that success is fleeting, that wariness of our own status quo is something to be valued. It's so easy to become self-satisfied, but there's always some new way that bumps up the bar. Understanding that our stake in all this is never assured, we stay on our toes.

And in the end, we have to get back on our proverbial horse, don't we? We have to get up, brush off the dirt and gravel, bruises and all, and keep moving forwards, relentless, stubborn, brave, and hopeful. It tests who we are. I've learned that the best artists are a hungry, scrappy bunch. They gut it out.

"Each horse is practice for the next." — Ed Gonzales

My buddy, Ed, said this a lot and I love it. It's so hopeful, isn't it? So full of promise and assurance. Because it's true—each horse is practice for the next as we continually learn the progressive lessons. So don't let discouragement take too much of a hold—because while we will feel it from time to time—let it instead run like water off a duck's back. Just let it roll over you and move on, knowing that the lessons you learned can be applied to the next effort. And never forget, while we're only as good as our present piece, there's always the next one that will speak for us even more.

To that end, I also like this quote because it implies there's never an end, is there? And we can move forward at our own pace to boot. Two important components for staying curious and eager learning. It also provides great calm since there's a degree of acceptance here, even an embracing of our quirks and foibles that make our human and creative experiences so rich and unique.

"Creativity without discipline will struggle, creativity with discipline will succeed." — Amit Kalantari

Making art takes gumption, but making equine realism takes discipline. A lot. If we hope to be successful at this, we have to buckle down. That's simply how it is. Only discipline can hone the blade needed to cut through this inordinately tough art form because without it, there's no focus, no concentration, no impetus to perfect our skills. We have to "stay on target," as Gold Five would say, pushing forwards out of sheer force of will. Honestly, many artists flounder not for lack of skill, but because they have difficulty crunching ahead. 

"Make it work." — Tim Gunn

Sometimes we'll get stuck, spin wheels, confused or offtrack on a piece, or any number of minor catastrophes. We'll art ourselves into a proverbial corner. But because we should finish, it's time to switch gears, jury-rig, backtrack, go sideways, tweak and futz, or do whatever else it takes to save the piece, creatively rethinking it all. 

And there's great value in this. We discover, we innovate, take risks, ponder, and explore...we're changed by the process. Great challenges forge great artists because—yes—we make the work but the work also makes us.

"The only way round is through." — Robert Frost

Yet rethinking can bring us right back to the start, can't it? Sometimes there's no way to avoid it—you just have to grit your teeth and plow right through. Maybe we have to remove a part of a sculpture we love because it just doesn't work. Maybe we got the tone wrong on a paintjob, and though it's gorgeous, it has to be changed. Maybe we have to start over with a whole new piece. It takes a special kind of will to do that, but everything about our piece should remain changeable to serve the vision.

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop." — Confucius

It's easy to become impatient with our progress, but that's normal. Here's the thing: Sometimes there a disconnection between what we expect of ourselves and what our skills are capable of creating at that moment, so we just have to wait until the two coalesce with experience. These limitations are temporary. So keep going. This isn't a race, it's a journey. Learning takes its own time, too—it cannot be rushed, short-cutted, circumvented, or cheated so give yourself time to absorb and process. None of this comes easy, but momentum alone, no matter how small, can keep the groove going.

Moreover, persistence and hope tend to be assets with equine realists to forge on in the belief that our efforts will be somehow fruitful. Indeed, those artists who accomplish the most usually have the most pluck—if there's a will there's a way most of the time. 

Now if we actually crash up against circumstances—because it happens—rather than stopping, why not just go sideways? Switch gears. So, say, if we get tired of sculpting full body pieces, think about bas-relief. Need a refresher from realism? Create stylized horses. If we're bored of realistic colors, paint in crazy colors and effects. If we're totally fried sculpting the head, work on a leg instead. Go in any direction, just keep going. You have an adaptable skillset so bend instead of break.

"I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." — Maya Angelou

When people buy a piece of your art and bring it into their home, they're bringing you into their home as well. They'll remember their experiences with you every time they look at your piece. Let that be a win-win.

What's more, good work should move people, inspire them, find connection, and seek to elevate. We love horses and great equine art reminds us of that, reaffirms it, nurtures it. People should feel our work rather than just look at it.

"Follow your bliss." — Joseph Campbell

I like to believe that each of us is born with a special gift and it's our privilege to discover it. How do we know what that is? We follow our heart, our soul, our gut...our bliss. What makes us engaged and happy? What brings us that special kind of joy unlike any other? What's our funktionslust? You won't have to begrudgingly drudge through it because no matter what kind of hard work you have to invest, you still love it. You still wouldn't want to do anything else. And it can be anything! So if we find ourselves pulled in a particular direction, follow it. Don't be afraid and uncertain. If anything couldn't be more certain, it's that path for you! The Universe will conspire to help you. Which brings us to...

"Find what you love and let it kill you." — Charles Bukowski (or Kinky Friedman, depending on the debate.)

I like this quote because it speaks to the madness I have for my own art that deliriously, delightfully drowns me. Indeed, I can be single-minded pursuing it, absurdly focused creating it, ridiculously distracted by it, and just essentially possessed to the point where I lose track of the outside world. When I mean "possessed," I truly do mean that word and maybe that sounds familiar to you, too.

But in another way, it encourages us to go after what we love with abandon, joy, and fearlessness. Let it fill you up and give you a wondrous reason to get out of bed in the morning, devour the day with zeal, and fill you with great satisfaction when you hit the pillow at night. Let it possess you with its "good madness," as Neil Gaiman knowingly described.

"You didn't build that." — President Barak Obama 

No—no, I didn't. I wasn't alone. I recognize I haven't done it all by myself but took a lot of other people helping me along the way. From close friends to family to colleagues to mentors to teachers to business partners to other professionals to even my postman and accountant. A host of helping hands the Universe sent my way. In my soul there lives a special place that's eternally grateful, cultivating a deeper kind of happiness than simply creating a good piece—you see everyone and everything that truly went into it and it's humbling. My accomplishments were achieved with the help of so many. Our species, at the fundamental level, is a social one. We seek each other out and work together to create something new, a feat that can inject a great deal of meaning into our creativity. And, truly, if we remember where we came from, we can better appreciate where we're going.

"The only valid rule for a work of art is that it be true to itself." — Marty Rubin

I'll do me and you do you—that's the best and only way to do art. Draw from your gut, your inner singularity, your gifted uniqueness, and work from there. Be original and your original self. Tell novel stories. Don't be afraid to be "you" in your art. There's plenty of room for all sorts of styles, interpretations, variations, similarities, ideas, ambitions, art forms...whatever you can dream up, we can make room for it. Be true to yourself in your he-art, you're on the right track. This brings us to... 

"Comparison is the death of joy." — Mark Twain

Oh, isn't that the truth! There are few things that can disillusion us faster than comparing our work, our success, our achievements, our whatevers to that of others. Want to quickly deflate your enthusiasm? Apply someone else's standards, accomplishments, and aesthetic to your own. And think about it—that's pretty unfair to yourself, isn't it? You can't be someone else. You can only be you and that's more than enough.

So stay focused on you. Seek to perfect your own work and efforts rather than competing with others. When we jettison comparison, we'll become much happier, but even more, we learn to embrace our peers since they cease to be opponents. Which ushers in...

"I won't let my demons win; 
My only rival is within; 
I will fight through thick and thin;
My only rival is within." 
— Rival by Ruelle 

The only thing you have to exceed isn't another artist—it's yourself. You are the source of all your own limitations, most brutal comparisons, harshest criticisms, and anxious trepidations. Your own internal landscape can stop you at every turn or it can be a garden crisscrossed with promising paths. It's all inside you. So it's better to reflect everything inside and get going on the landscaping.

Because, know it or not, each of us struggle with the opposites of human nature, and our compulsions, thoughts, doubts, anxieties, overthinking, feelings...any number of things. All of this can become a creative distraction or they could also become its fuel and fodder. It's up to you how it all works best and everyone is different, but the point is this: Address the struggle within yourself where it originates, and make peace and find incentive there. "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste" advises the Desirderata and that includes within ourselves. 

"Don't be afraid. Don't be daunted. Just do your job. Continue to show up for your piece of it, whatever that might be. If your job is to dance, do your dance. If the divine, cockeyed genius assigned to your case decides to let some sort of wonderment be glimpsed, just for one moment through your efforts, then 'Ole!' And if not, do your dance anyhow. And 'Ole" to you, nonetheless...just for having the sheer human love and stubbornness to keep showing up." — Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert related how the Greeks had a very different idea of "genius" than the one typical today. They believed that genius was a spirit that visited to compel you to create an inordinately great piece of work. It didn't come from you per se, you had help from outside yourself. But today, genius lies completely within our person and that ushers in some problems. For instance, with the Greeks, if you did a problematic piece, you had someone to partly blame right? Our "genius" just didn't deliver. We have a buffer, a means to process failure better. But if genius lies only within us, we're entirely to blame with all the flooding awfulness that brings. It's a tempting, idea, isn't it? But that's what she's referring to with "divine, cockeyed genius" in that quote.

So anyway, just keep on rocking it even if your notes clank or don't come together quite right. We all have "bad horse days" and by the same token, we'll all create The Piece by which we'll always be measured, for better or worse. It's just the way of things. So whether your "genius" shows up or not, just keep arting. Because, lemme tell ya, sometimes you'll crank out a piece you think will fail horribly which ends up to be an insane success. Stormwatch was that for me. So forge on anyway because you just never know what will pop out of your effort. Give your "cockeyed genius" something to work with because there's always the possibility of magic happening.

"If you're not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback." — Brené Brown

There's only one guarantee when you display your work in public: Criticism. Often a lot of it. Some people may be misguidedly trying to help, some are careless with their words, some are tone deaf, some are simply thoughtless, some are trying to impose their vision onto yours, and some are just outright mean. And everyone is a critic. A quarter-penny per billion trillion, criticisms can be exasperating, hurtful, and deflating, and even be about the dumbest things. They can be be outright wrong, too, since they often lack the equivalent knowledge base or creative goals. Yet note how vocal they are? Indeed, critics tend to blather the loudest and most often, perhaps because they like the perceived stature it gives them or they just derive their life force from disapproval. All in all, criticism "inspires you to stay small," as Brown put it, so if we don't know how to buffer it, criticism is going to paralyze us. We'll come to doubt ourselves and our abilities, even question why we're arting at all. At its worst, it can even cause us to dislike ourselves through shame, inadequacy, and unworthiness. Some people can truly be cruel and thoughtless. 

Directly linked to the first quote in this post by Roosevelt, the "Man in the Arena," here Brown also affirms that only those in your same boat know what's truly encapsulated in the experience. Everyone else? Not so much. They just aren't living the same reality you are. They aren't taking the risks, making the sacrifices, doing the work, taking the hits, and lurching back up after the beatings and stabbings to do it all over again. They're on the safe sidelines, in the safe seats. So instead focus on those who are also in the arena, fighting side by side with you. When they offer help then, that's the help to take.

But at the same time, we're also our own worst critics, aren't we? Brown observes, "We orphan the parts of us that don't fit the ideal...leaving only the critic." This could be our human penchant for "negative bias", or because we expect so much of ourselves, or because we're comparing ourselves others, or any number of reasons. Yet try to balance it with seeing your creative positives and congratulate yourself often. We truly do rewire our brains based on negative or positive thinking so keep that in mind when you start to wear yourself down.

There's this, too: Critics are loud, admirers are often quiet. Kind people just tend to be on the unobtrusive side whereas obnoxious types are in your face. For every critic then there are probably ten quiet people who love what you're doing only they may be too shy—or too put off by the boorish critics—to chime in. As such, toxicity may simply be more noticeable and corrosive, but usually not an indicator of the general sentiment out there. Just please remember this when criticisms start to beat you down. Remember the silence out there doesn't mean agreement, it means timidity and that's someone's anxious nature that asks for sympathy.

Likewise this related quote resonates as well: "Do what you feel in your heart to be right—for you'll be criticized anyway," said Eleanor Roosevelt. Don't let anyone's ick detour you from doing what you love. Your joy gives you zestful purpose and when you do that with love, critics can't touch you, can they? The best rebuttal then is to be happy in your endeavors. 

And finally, notice that your critics aren't your collectors? So what they're saying is literally disposable and inherently skewed, isn't it? Only listen to your collectors and knowledgable peers if you wish to vet feedback; otherwise you're giving too much power to exactly the wrong perspective!

"In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so." — Anton Ego, Ratatouille

Bingo—there it is...the true value of criticism. So you just keep on, keeping on, in full knowledge that what you're doing is worthy, worthwhile, and wonderful. You're a brave art warrior! And the people who matter most are behind you four square.

And actually Ratatouille is my all-time favorite film, for obvious ratty reasons of course, but also because I think it speaks to artists and the irrepressible, beautiful spirit of creating despite the forces that may be pushing against us. Indeed, Ego goes on to say in that monologue, "But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist; but a great artist can come from anywhere." We've all heard it before, haven't we? "Drawing horses isn't real art." Or, "you didn't graduate from art school? Oh, then you're just dabbling." Whatever. Don't listen to them. You just be you. Great art is great art, no matter what.

"People say graffiti is ugly, irresponsible and childish...but that's only if it's done properly." — Bansky

I like this quote because it reminds me to never take things too seriously—good or bad, especially the bad. Stay playful, lighthearted, humorous, irreverent, and be silly whenever possible. Laugh at yourself. It's good for you. Because it's so easy to lose perspective in all this, isn't it? Doesn't mean we can't be serious about our work, of course, but it does suggest that we balance it with a bit of cheek, especially with ourselves.

"Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end." — John Lennon

Every time I start a new piece, I draw on hope like a ratty chows down yogies. This is because—with every single piece—there are phases during its creation where I'm very uncomfortable, where I'm thinking, "What the heck am I doing?! You fool! You cannot do this, you useless, incompetent idiot. What were you thinking?" But those feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, disgust, helplessness, shame, and fear will eat you alive. This is where hope comes in. If you can just follow its glimmer, no matter how dark or monster-ridden it gets in there, you'll make it out and probably happily surprise yourself in the end. I know a lot of people talk about the importance of the journey over the destination, and that's true to a point—there's enormous value in the adventure. But the destination is equally important. It's the moment when you prove to yourself you can do it, that you can rise to the challenge despite the odds. You can be changed during the journey and still be just fine, perhaps even better off. And all fueled by the power of hope. You don't have to follow a giant beacon, either, just a little flicker can lead you through.

"When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." — Buddha

One of my favorite quotes, it affirms so much, doesn't it? Patience, serendipity, inevitability, stacking up circumstances to always be ready for the lesson, and on and on. It's also hopeful and assuring—have faith and trust that when you're ready, the Universe will send help your way, and stay open because it can come from anywhere.

It also alludes to this fact: We can only absorb at the moment what we can absorb at the moment—no more. In other words, if we aren't ready for a particular lesson because we don't yet have the ability to process a more advanced tidbit, it'll be lost on us and will usually render us frustrated. Learning builds on previous lessons and efforts, not absorbed all at once out of nowhere. So be patient, be persistent, and accept that improvement is often a series of baby steps, trusting that each is truly taking you steadily forwards.

I also like that it encourages teaching and holding it in a reverent place, and speaks to staying a learner, too. Yet it's a call to action to be a teacher as well. When we're invited to help others in their efforts, we ensure a clearinghouse of eager brains at the ready.

"To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And Heaven in a Wild Flower. Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour." — William Blake

I love how this quote speaks to the wonder of the world around us, even in the smallest, most seemingly insignificant thing or moment. Magic exists. As to creativity for me, it alludes to the wonder of where it comes from, how its manifested, what it encapsulates, and what it achieves. Each of us is a complete Universe, and each of our pieces is an expression of that Universe. And likewise, to see the same in our subject with all the infinite specialness he embodies takes our appreciation to the next level because, like us, each equine is a complete Universe, too.

I think this passage also suggests that the power of art to express the profound beauty of existence—and our subject—is a magical privilege to be reflected on and appreciated. I also like how it implies that every little touch lends power to the whole—every expressive nuance, every tick in a pattern, every dapple, every highlight, every line and curve, everything contributes in equal measure. The whole is truly the sum of its parts, no matter how seemingly small, and I find a lot of inspiration, challenge, and purpose in that.

I believe it also asks us to be mindful and present as we work to find marvel in our moments. That our entire Universe could narrow down to the love we're practicing, creating a euphoria of creativity. I find so much blessing in that.

This quote also nudges along the idea that no one's creative contribution is insignificant or without merit or wonder. There's always—always—something nice and encouraging to say about every piece even if simply the devotion, pride, and hard work it took to create it in the first place.  

"If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart." — Buddha

Your art is important, for the world and for you, so dive in with your entire being with happy mania. It also relates to the Japanese concept of "ganbaru," of doing one's very best no matter what that is, and in doing so, everything gains a deeper meaning (just don't push yourself to excess stress). There's no small job, no insignificant effort so be present in the moment. 

This also gets to what I also heartily embrace, the German concept of "funktionslust" (the pleasure of doing what we're meant to do) and the Japanese idea of "ikigai" ("the happiness of always being busy"). When we embrace our creativity as a purpose in life, we gain a different perspective on challenges and obstacles because they cease to be creativity-stoppers, they become creativity-generators.

"I loved writing more than I hated failing at writing — which is to say that I loved writing more than I loved my own ego which is ultimately to say that I loved writing more than I loved myself." — Elizabeth Gilbert

You're going to get knocked down by the creative life. You're going to faceplant, make mistakes, create bad pieces, get psychologically beaten up, and stumble towards your potential. That's the flip side promise of creativity and there's no way around it. And you'll probably also create a piece so popular that everything else you crank out afterwards will be viewed and measured through that lens, creating a dreadful pressure that damns you if you do or damns you if you don't with all the pieces that follow. People will love what they love and be disappointed in the rest. That's just the way of it.

But don't you love arting more than all this? Isn't your art where you find so much of what you need to be happy, serene, and balanced, too? Doesn't your art bring you a sense of joy, accomplishment, and satisfaction even if no one else appreciates it? Gilbert came to this realization after her manuscripts were rejected for almost six years and she came very close to quitting writing altogether. Can you imagine being rejected for almost six years? Talk about demotivation! But the point is, despite all the garbage, remember that you love arting "more than you love yourself." So try to stay in that inner space regardless of the consequences—good or bad—because what you do makes you happy and whole, so let the rest melt away.

"Because vulnerability is certainly a part of fear, self-doubt, grief, uncertainty, and shame, but it's also the birthplace of these...it's the birthplace of love, belonging, of joy, trust, empathy, creativity, and innovation. Without vulnerability, you cannot create." — Brené Brown

Creativity is an act of excruciating vulnerability. Indeed, being an artist takes a degree of everyday courage many others don't realize. Putting your everything into something then holding it up to scrutiny over and over and over again—fully knowing you're going to be repeatedly chopped to pieces by countless knives—takes a level of guts and devotion many folks take for granted. And to some, taking potshots can be sport or a means to amplify their self-worth at your expense. Truly, artists make themselves targets every day, especially in this age of keyboards that expose them to the worst among us.

But as tempting as it is to "armor up," Brown warns that this comes at a terrible cost: The numbing of the sensitivity we need to be thoughtful artists in the first place. See, we cannot kill off one and nurture the other—our emotions are a complete package. Instead then, we have to learn how to take the blows without missing a step to keep moving forwards, confident and hopeful. (Four related videos are recommended at the end of this post which, I think, are mandatory watching for all artists.)

"I'm not going to quit, I'm going home." — Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert talks about how whatever success or failure her work found, her visceral love of writing—that "place" where that feeling lived—was her "home." What a great way to put it, right? Home. Of course. Our sanctuary. 

We each have that home inside of us where our instinctive love of creativity dwells, and the biggest candle in the window burns inside of us. Our home is where our inner creative self shines in its pure form. No matter how lost you get on the map then, how "vaulted from your home" by success or failure as Gilbert puts it, your inner sanctum is always there for rejuvenation, affirmation, and new attempts. Return there, always.

Gypsy says, "Tom, I don't get you." Tom Servo responds, "Nobody does; I'm the wind, baby!" (Mystery Science Theater)

I'm an unabashed Tom Servo fangirl, and I love his quip here because it's so irreverent and matter-of-fact. Even if no one understands him, he still confidently keeps on being Tom. 

And for me, that's reassuring. Some folks—maybe a lot of folks—may not "get" your work. Many may flat out not like it. That's alright. We each have our way of doing things that no one has to like, and that anyone does like it is simply amazing! So you keep on being you, even if no one understands, can't see the same things you can, appreciates the same things you do, or gets where you're headed. Each of us live in our own vibrant reality so you live your Truth and they'll live theirs. If they intersect, great. If not, such is life. Your Truth is in your work and it'll speak for you even when you can't—and that's enough.

Home, Safe and Sound

And there ya have it—bits of wisdom to steer you back on course no matter how far you've swerved off. You'll make it "home," as Elizabeth Gilbert would say, back to that safe and exquisite place, that still point, where your creativity resides and rejoices, feeding your psyche, heart, and soul. Yay! Really then, in so many ways, these quotes have saved me, pulling me up when I was most down, or slapped some sense back into me, or got me to lighten up. They also kept me centered, serene, and bolstered my confidence, and I hope you find similar help in them, too.

But even more, I hope you find your own collection of fortifying ideas that keep your arting tenaciously tracking forwards. Because the journey is rugged and will always test you, and every artist—no matter how seasoned—has difficulty along the way. But as long as you find you way home, you'll be okay, because, truly, the guiding breadcrumbs you follow will always get you there. 

Speaking to all this, I highly recommend these four talks. They do well to inspire and reaffirm your convictions and reveal our commonalties within the creative process:
So keep homebase close, and wad all these quotes into a ball and gobble them down when you need a detox. Refreshing our élan vital can also refresh our art, even refresh our entire outlook on this delirious obsession. So chin up, strive forwards, and art on!

"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves." — Edmund Hillary

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