I have a question that I very genuinely want to know the answer to.
Do you, as an artist, feel that you keep some thoughts hidden from those closest to you?
I ask for this reason: my friends are always telling me that they never hear my inner-thoughts until I write them in a blog post. I don’t like to share my feelings, emotions or musings with anyone. I can’t put my finger on why that is, precisely. It could be my desire for mystery, or privacy, or both.
I do tell my husband, and that is why he is my husband and best friend and generally everything in the world to me.
But everyone else? Sometimes I come upon the realization that they don’t really know me. And I love it. Does that make me sick? Probably.
I love knowing that no one else knows what I’m thinking or feeling. I get to experience it privately, not having to explain myself unless I choose to. And when I choose to, it is almost always here, publicly, never confiding in a friend or letting my emotions spill onto the floor.
I take a certain amount of pride in analyzing and dissecting my inner-workings. And here is the point of me asking this – I am coming to believe that my creative process is dependent on it.If I told everyone what I was feeling all the time, would I still create?
I am motivated to create because I hold certain mysteries close to my heart. They are mine, and I release them in the form I feel most comfortable with when I want to. It is selfish in so many ways. My friends beg me sometimes to share something private – to let them help me with a problem – to be more human. Numerous friends have said I’m like a robot.
I don’t mind it so much. I used to find it hurtful, until I realized it is a totally intentional thing I am doing.
Do you feel the need to keep some things
for yourself as tools to create with?
So much of the creative journey is doing what is natural and then, only later, understanding why. I love seeking knowledge about how my interaction with the world changes. I believe it can only lead to a deeper form of creating. Thank you for sharing, my creative family.
Today’s honest and vulnerable #FailureFriday comes from a story I wanted to share. Some of you may of seen it on my Instagram story last Sunday. As many of you know I have anxiety, particularly social anxiety. It causes me grief sometimes, but I have been proud of how well I keep it under control most of the time. Last Saturday night I let it overcome me, and I had a rough Sunday morning.
I was in Palm Springs for the incredible Palm Springs Photo Festival. My hotel reservation was messed up and I found myself driving aimlessly around the street of Palm Springs until midnight on Saturday wondering where to stay. It all got worked out, but it started my anxiety up. I felt out of place and vulnerable and overtired, and I started to fall apart. By Sunday morning I felt somewhat better, so I decided to drive around and find some vintage stores. Every small thing started triggering me: talking to the shop owner, shifting through a group of people, even the thought of going to a restaurant.
I knew I had to do something about it.
BTS image of my shoot while trying to do a live Instagram video. Image to follow soon!
I pulled my car over in a neighborhood and tried to calm myself. I thought very deeply about what would make me feel better. Two things: creating and community. The foundation on which Promoting Passion is built on. It was natural.
For anyone who suffers from anxiety or depression or something similar, you know how difficult it is to push yourself to do something in that state. I decided I needed accountability. I turned on my Instagram story and started talking – about my anxiety, about how out of place I felt, about my nerves regarding the festival and how I was by far the least experienced instructor there. It made me feel less alone.
Next came the creating part. I saw some rocks and wanted to create something there, so I turned on my Instagram live story and recorded the process live, intermittently running back and forth with the phone from my camera to the rocks to create an image, while also talking about my feelings/emotions.
When it ended, I started getting messages from my community staying THANK YOU for sharing. Saying THANK YOU for being honest. Saying THANK YOU for giving me permission to feel.
I felt like such a failure that day. I felt like I would never be good enough, like I would never fit in. And while I didn’t manage to make it to the faculty dinners or “shmooze” with the “right” people (good grief, how is that even a THING?!), I did do my damn best at teaching my class, and I took my students to eat, and I went to lectures, and I fufilled myself with yoga and spontaneous moments and hugs like you wouldn’t believe.
I never anticipated that my anxiety could be something good. You never do when you are in the throes of it. But there I was, shaking from nerves, trying to breathe deeply, and someone was there, watching, and thanking me. It proves that though we may see ourselves as failures – we may feel out of place and low and sinking further – that is the very thing that connects all of us beautiful creatures. That is the depth of our soul. It is joyous and it is deep. It is melancholy and it is bliss.
Image created during my workshop at PSPF when one of the attendees asked me to demonstrate a self-portrait.
Yesterday I started editing some images I had shot a few weeks back with no notion of if they would work out or not. I pulled old stock images I had taken years ago combined with one that I purchased online as well and started playing. My friend Dave Junion is always telling me to play in my craft. It is too easy to be too serious. We put such pressure on ourselves to create something good that we lose sight of the fact that what is good now won’t be good later. And, that if we continue to create what we feel is good we will never progress to what is better.
That said, yesterday I played. I played from morning until night and then this morning again, working on this image, not caring if it turned into something or not. I followed my vision, made a few changes, and experimented. All-in-all this edit took a few hours which I recorded and condensed into one minute, so chunks of the process are missing. Notably, the cutting of the various figures to fit into the scene.
I record these quick editing videos not to share my whole process or to show what I do, but to show what is possible. You don’t have to create like me. You may not even be an “artist” in the traditional sense at all. But the fact is that we all create, and we all need inspiration to go further in our craft. I hope that my videos like this, if nothing else, inspire you to try new things. To see what is out there and to believe that your vision can be brought to life.
This image is called “Contact”. My fascination with two worlds colliding has been growing and growing ever since I started reading Myst. Have any of you read it? It was my husband’s favorite book series (and game) for a long time and I never got around to digesting it. Now it is all I can think about. The premise of the book being that there is an underground race of people who can create new worlds. Pretty much right up my ally.
I hope you enjoy this speed edit! Let me know if there is anything else you’d like to see me share!
Image: “Contact”, self-portrait (x6)
Music: “An Old Picture” by Above Envy
“Rough Waters”, self-portrait taken in Brazil, April 2017, background from Iceland (2015).
I am so worried all the time that I will never again create something that is meaningful to me. I spend days thinking and thinking, hours staring at blank walls. My husband walks into my office as I’m sat in the middle of my floor, staring. He backs out slowly. There is nothing to say to me. I am within myself, brooding.
I travel through Brazil and teach workshops. At some points I feel like a fraud. I teach, but I feel stuck. The best I can do is be honest about that with the students. I tell them I know my process but that what I will do next is out of my reach.
I drive through Brazil to a remote location with my dad. I come up with a new novel idea that excites me so much I can hardly sleep. I excitedly chat to my husband about it and he adds even better details. I wake up wanting to write, but I look around at my surroundings and I feel guilty. I am looking out over a huge river, a myriad of birds and vegetation, and an old, crumbling house that I call home for a few days. Why don’t I take pictures?
As I watch the water I begin to see the metaphor emerging. There is a cure to the unknown in it. The key, I see so clearly, is not to hold on to inspiration tightly. It is to know when to let go.
As an artist, we should not seek to contain our inspiration. We should seek to know when we are riding a wave and when we are trying to catch one. Or, simply, when we are in calm waters awaiting a storm.
Right now I see my photography as a wave I am trying to catch. I paddle hard and fast but each time it comes I miss it. The wave isn’t right. That wave was meant for someone else. I sit and wait again, I try again, and still it is wrong. I feel like I’m not on water at all, but some dried up space that leaves me wedged between rocks. There is maturity in recognizing this process. There is peace in it. I find acceptance of the self in giving permission to wait for the right wave.
My change in mind is a beautiful thing. It means I have moved on to another level of creating. No longer am I satisfied with easy concepts and beautiful locations. I want something more than cheap clicks. I desire to be challenged.
I am sitting looking at the river. It is constantly changing. It is never the same river at any two moments. This is why I have always been connected to my name. I am constantly changing. I am chasing myself into new forms. I may not even be me, anymore.
Now I’m home, finishing these thoughts after having created. I did explore Brazil, and I did take pictures. I was inspired, all at once knowing that what I would create would not be my best. Sometimes we do not seek to create our best work, but to create at all. Sometimes creations are stepping stones to what we are meant to do, and they are no less special despite their lack of staying power. They are beautiful in their own way.
Where are you in your creation process?
Riding a wave or trying to catch one?
If you want to grow your craft and be inspired in your art and life, join the Promoting Passion Convention.
I put my heart and soul into this 3-day event and would love for you to be there!
Pretense is strong here online. We see people making their lives seem happier than they really are, or sharing their successes when failure comes more frequently. I love to share my joy, and I feel joy a lot of the time. Sharing only that becomes a problem when we decide to take responsibility for the mental health of those who follow what we do. I don’t think it is necessary that anyone take on that responsibility, nor do I think one can, fully, do such a thing. However, we can learn to be more honest about our lives and in doing so, give others permission to have bad days – to feel bad things, and to consequently dig themselves out of that rut.
In that spirit, I’m starting #FailureFriday where each Friday I will share an image/story/etc. of a failure. It could be photographic, it could be in business, but all of them will be in good humor. I have learned to laugh and learn from myself. Who better than the person embodying this life and all of it’s demons and butterflies? I decided to start this after having a long chat with my darling friend Lindsay Adler. We were helping each other with our businesses and talking about connection, when I thought it would be a great idea to intentionally show more of who we are.
Share your #FailureFriday to create a kinder,
more human online experience!
For this first Failure Friday, let me note, that I use the term “failure” very loosely. I don’t consider most things I do to truly be a failure, because when you learn something from your experience, that experience has value. Hey, you might like these pictures (if so, I appreciate that! and if not, I feel ya). Take failure to be whatever you feel. For me, I categorize a failure as a project that doesn’t turn out how I had hoped. Failures often lead to even better things, so keep an open mind.
It was June 2015. I was in Australia – Perth – for my first solo trip to the great continent. I was speaking at a convention (AIPP) and didn’t know a single soul. I was scared out of my mind. I am the first in a room full of people to turn bright red, break out in a stinging sweat, and locate an exit. I found that this event had a lot of socializing and I was so uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do with myself. I tried, so hard, all week to connect and put myself out there and make friends. And, I’m proud to say, I did. But I did a lot of floundering as well. I spent too much time in my room refusing to come out. I even tried to go to the big event party, but in reality all I did was get in the taxi, get out for 5 minutes, and immediately run around the corner and call the same taxi back.
When it came time to give my speech, I knew that I had to break out of my shell. So, when I was finished talking, I told everyone about how nervous I get in crowds and how this was so very out of my comfort zone, and how I wanted to change that habit. So, I invited everyone in the room to come with me the next morning for an impromptu photo shoot at a beautiful location, locally known as the secret garden. I had scouted it the day before.
I woke that morning with trepidation, as my demon brain told me that no one would show up and I’d be there by myself. At least, I said aloud, I would have a camera and a smile and some neat pictures, so it wouldn’t be a waste. To my surprise about 30-40 people showed up and I did some shooting demonstrations. We started branching out, using each other as models, and soon everyone was laughing and having a good time. I do better in those moments, when I have some control over the situation and I’m doing what I love.
It was very, very muddy that day. We were sometimes knee deep in thick, sticky mud. I decided, after about an hour of shooting, that someone had to do something about it. Naturally, I volunteered myself for a self-portrait. I asked for help, and everyone gathered around me with their tripods set up and helped slather mud all over me.
When I was well up to my ears in mud, a girl appeared. She said she had driven hours to join the group and possibly be photographed, and there I was literally covered in mud and unable to take her picture. I felt terrible! So, I said, join me! I asked her to jump in the mud, on a leap of faith with people she had never met before, and that we could be in the picture together! Her name is Laura, and she was such an inspiration in that moment.
We finished the shoot and laughed so hard I thought we were all going to have sore stomach muscles the next day. We tried our best to wash off in the creek but it was of little use. Some people offered us towels or clothes from their cars which we tried to change into, but we looked like we had just been dragged through a swamp…which was not far from the truth. I was having such an awesome time connecting with everyone I didn’t want it to end, so I suggested, looking like a crazy lady, that we all go out to eat. Looking like we did, embracing our complete weirdness, we went to lunch and made even more new friends as people asked us what – in the world – had happened.
The images never turned out how I wanted. I have worked on them every single month since I went to Australia and played in the mud with my new friends. It breaks my heart that I just don’t like them, because the experience was so rich with wonder. That’s how it goes sometimes. Sometimes the picture was never the point. It is just a bonus if it works out. If the experience itself isn’t worth it, don’t bother. If you can’t say that you would still have done what you did without the success, don’t do it. Life is too short to rely on outcomes when the journey is so much richer.