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Transition

June 24, 2013

Though it has been mentioned occasionally here, I’ve been wanting to talk more about the ‘place’ I’ve been in on and off for about 2 years now.  Until recently the only way I could frame it was as a light burn out or some kind of long incubation period before the next creative cycle.

But it seems to go deeper than that this time. I have no energy or desire to promote myself or my work within an art world context, and my interests seem to be veering steadily away from the prevailing ones in this society. When I realized that there was no shared language to talk to even my online artists support group about my aversion to current contexts and marketing techniques for art, I realised that I am in a transition period comparable to the one I experienced when I was in my late 20s.

At that time, I had had 6 years of professional success as a calligrapher, artist and graphic designer in Pittsburgh, and I was facing the fact that internally I had no idea of a direction for the future other than more of the same. That started me a long internal search which ended up leading me to an international spiritual community, now an ecovillage, in Scotland.  It was a radical move to leave my family, boyfriend, cats and career to jump into the unknowns of communal life.  I’d expected to stay 2 years but ended up living there for the period between my 27th and 33rd year.  6 intense and beautiful years which formed my values and consciousness profoundly.

Now I am in my early 60s with the feeling that my best work is still in front of me. But the issues I care deeply about – the ones that I have always cared about most- are pushing to the surface and asking to be acknowledged and honoured.

I feel a new urgency to align with the healing, rebuilding, and transformative forces emerging in society, and not just through the arts. One recent trigger for this was the book ‘Walk Out, Walk On’, by Margaret Wheatley and Deborah Frieze. The two take a magical journey around the world visiting 7 different communities. These communities are almost all located in poor, dangerous areas with few resources or opportunities to build a safe, comfortable life. Yet through initiatives of  impassioned individuals coupled with the strength of community, these communities have found ways to be positive, resilient and healthy by drawing on their own resources, traditions and culture. And most significantly, without outside aid.

Always in these stories, one person takes a risk with a new idea. This one small step sometimes ends up spreading until it gathers momentum to become a major transformation which radically improves conditions for many people. One example of this kind of viral idea (I think they call it a meme)  is microcredit started by Muhammad Yunus.

So even though I live out here in the rich, Western world,  I, too, feel to be in a transition which many others are also facing. How to use my energy to help transition to the new society wanting to emerge in the midst of our broken dysfunctional systems. It is a healthier, more resilient society built on trust, community, collaboration, creativity, caring. That is my work as a person and an artist, and in a sense always has been.  I just don’t yet have an idea of what it is going to look like here in the north of Holland.

For right now it is just about taking the next step here- cleaning our home, tending the garden and my relationship, going deeper with my painting because that is where I draw my inspiration.

And holding still. Not grabbing at the first opportunity to be useful just to alleviate the discomfort of seemingly doing and achieving nothing. These periods of unclarity and sometimes darkness are necessary in transformative processes.They are rarely documented because one feels so uncertain and confused whilst in them. But things are a bit clearer now, and it is an important place to communicate from.

Of course I am also active, writing as guest author a chapter for a new book on care; reaching out for new connections in the circles which are involved with transformative societal work; planning my courses for next season; keeping up my blog and important new connections with other bloggers in transition(more on some of these great people in another post); and perhaps even starting a new blog just to track this journey, which I am sure will be ongoing.

Coming along for the ride? Would love to have you. I’ve started a new blog on this subject, you can see it here, www.tendingtime.wordpress.com

 

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I recently read,   The Elevator Speech by Greg Peters, an article for artists on how to present themselves quickly with a 30 second sound bite. This business technique may have grown from the speed dating trend, where you have to make clear to the person sitting across from you in less than a minute just what it is you do.

Viewed within the paradigm of artists as aspiring business men/women, the article is good. The useful part of the concept is that it gets you clear in some very concise statements about just what it is you do.  And you can communicate it if caught off guard without your cards or in another spontaneous encounter with someone who may be interested in working with you.

In my experience, however, having a prepared statement about what you do has some disadvantages as well. This is especially true for those of us who are active across abroad range of creative work. For instance, I have written a book on creative approaches to activities for people with dementia, I decorate period instruments, and I am a fine artist and graphic designer. OK, that could be a good elevator speech, but it is only about what I Do. And certain aspects of this would be less interesting to one sort of potential client than another.

I tend lately to try to communicate what it is I care about. And then I present whatever projects I am engaged in as an expression of that.

If you are only concerned about presenting what you do well, you are already approaching the other person narrowly- as a prospective client. Personally I turn off when someone is coming on to me just to sell somehing or to get ahead.  If, on the other hand, you genuinely share what your passion is, there is a likelihood that it will connect with the same place in them, and you will meet as people. In my experience there is much more potential for collaboration between two people who share a cause than between two people looking for how someone else can be of use to them commercially.

Also, I challenge the model that artists have to conform to current business marketing practices. I don’t think they work for most of us. We should be using our creativity (and we are!) to create more playful, out of the box, awesome, amazing ways of bringing our creativity into everyday situations.