Facing fear, 3: Stepping out of one's comfort zone
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Facing fear, 4: On risk and uncertainty

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From Mastering Creative Anxiety by Eric Maisel:

"Consider the process. All day long you are supposed to get things right: drive on the correct side of the road, show up for appointments, balance your checkbook, appropriately respond to your email, and so on. Your whole day and your whole mind are aimed at not making mistakes, not making messes, not getting yourself into trouble, avoiding unnecessary risks, and looking right to the world. Then, somehow, [as an artist] you must shift from that way of being and thinking to a radically different state, one in which mistakes and messes are not only possible and  probable but downright guaranteed."

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From Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland:

"Photographer Jerry Uelsmann once gave a slide lecture in which he showed every single image he had created in the span of one year: some hundred-odd pieces -- all of about ten of which he judged insufficient and destroyed without ever exhibiting. Tolstoy, in the Age Before Typewriters, re-wrote War & Peace eight times and was still revising galley proofs as it finally rolled onto the press. William Kennedy gamely admitted that he re-wrote his own novel Legs eight times and that 'seven times it came out no good. Six times it was especially no good. The seventh time out it was pretty good, though it was way too long. My son was six years old by then and so was my novel, and they were both about the same height.'

"It is, in short, the normal state of affairs. The truth is that the finished piece of art which seems so profoundly right in its finished state may earlier have been only inches or seconds away from collapse.

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"In making art you need to give yourself room to respond authentically, both to your subject matter and to your materials. Art happens between you and something -- a subject, an idea, a technique -- and both you and that subject need to be free to move....Lawrence Durrell likened the process to driving construction stakes in the ground: you plant a stake, run fifty yards ahead and plant another, and pretty soon you know which way to go. E.M. Forester recalled that when he began writing A Passage to India he knew that the Malabar Caves would play a centrol role in the novel, that something important would surely happen there -- but he wasn't sure what it would be.

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"Control apparently is not the answer. People who need certainty in their lives are less likely to make art that is risky, subversive, complicated, iffy, suggestive or spontaneous. What's really need is nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way."

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"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control."  - Julia Cameron

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"Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."  - E. L. Doctorow

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"Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little. The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."  - Agnes de Mille

"Dancing is just discovery, discovery, discovery. As is all art."   - Martha Graham

Dartmoor ponies 7Images: Two wild Dartmoor ponies who have separated from the herd and taken up residence on our rain-sodden hill. We meet them on our walks at down -- in the woods, on the hill, and grazing in the farmer's field below. We don't know how long they'll chose to stay...but right now, they seem quite content.

Post script: Once again I put this post up before hearing the news out of Boston, and once again I pray that all of you there are safe.


Last night I realised some of the fear: one of my pieces was rejected for an exhibition. It seems I've been doing this for years submitting work for consideration and then waiting in quiet agony for the reply. I'm a published author and I've exhibited and sold my pictures, but still I get rejections, still my work is found lacking.

And no matter how often I get those politely worded blows to the artistic ego, it doesn't get any easier! And I suppose I have to accept it never should. If a rejection letter/email elicits no more from me than a shrug of the shoulders, then perhaps I'll have lost the passion and the fire. So today I'll snap and snarl and be very unpleasant company; I'll have imaginary arguments with editors and critics (that I'll win, of course) and I'll wallow in misery and ego. But then I'll carry on. I've got work to do.

I know this, I have accepted it, even embraced it at certain times, but I still forget, still need to be reminded that this is the reality!

Gosh, Eric Maisel makes ordinary life sound so stressful. Maybe we should try to approach THAT more like approaching art, and the art will become easier?

Dartmoor ponies do whatever they please if they're anything like the one I've got ;)

Interesting take on things - Eric Maisel's words. How magical to have the ponies moving quietly through the forest - I find watching creatures move throught the forest is rather enchanting, the layers of the woods adding to the drama. Hoping you enjoy a long visit with them, I'm impressed at how well behaved Tilly is!

(a nice, quiet interlude on your hill today, Terri, very unlike the chaos happening in your old hometown, Boston, I'm on edge as many, many folks and some family are close to the craziness today)

I put this post up early this morning, before hearing the news out of Boston, and believe me, I'm on edge now too. I'm trying to keep grounded and stay focused on the 101 things that I need to catch up on (still recovering from flu), but I'm worried for so many in Boston today, especially children. How on earth do people explain this to their kids?

Even Tilly is on edge, no doubt picking up anxious feelings from me.

Here is hoping the situation comes to as peaceful and bloodless solution as is possible. To many lives have been shattered to have it made worse now.

Yes, Charlotte, Yes....

I have no idea... how parents talk to their children about this either. And just as Tilly is picking up your 'edge", I can imagine how parents trying to stay calm are NOT fooling their kids. They've just lifted the lockdown on Boston, but its weird. No, we haven't caught him yet, but let's go out and play again, we think its probably OK now... Yikes!

You brought to mind my memories of childhood. I grew up during the period of mainland bombings by the IRA. No matter the rights and wrongs of the politics they were a fact of life. What I remember most strongly was that we carried on regardless. I wonder if that is why 7/7 in London created such polar reactions from the authorities here.

Dad was in an occupation that put him at risk, we just learnt to check envelopes were from people we knew, look for suspect packages and report them and to check under the car before we got in. Children are amazingly resilient and often it is we adults that make it worse for them not better.

I imagine you are right, Charlotte - that we might not have enough faith in the resiliency of children. Amazing what can become a kind of normal. Then again, what is normal?

And now the task is to shut out the noise of the endless media chatter and speculation, and re-root in our art, our lives, our communities again. To leave beauty behind us instead of destruction, in whatever ways we can, no matter how small.

I've had a friendship gently severed recently by someone I've known since high school -- not unkindly, he's not an unkind man -- because he finds my quasi-mystical belief in art too opposite of his own scientist's despair about our planet...too naive, I suppose, though he was much too gentlemanly to use that word. And I don't blame him for it -- I suppose that a focus on art, fantasy, and folklore can seem like fiddling while Rome burns, and it was good of him to explain his personal need to sever our online connection, tenuous as it was, in a repectful, not blameful way.

I'm not mentioning it here because I want to bash his action in any way (and I trust no one here will either); it's a legitimate difference in point of view. I bring it up simply because it's been on my mind in a month when bad news has seemed relentless, and as so many of us struggle to carry on creatively regardless. I too grieve for this planet, and for all of the things in nature and culture that have been lost in my small lifetime alone; constantly and achingly. But art is where I put that grief...and fear...and joy and wonder and every other emotion. I'm afraid that I do think that beauty and wonder matter. Even now. Especially now. As the Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir Edward Burne-Jones once said (in despair at the ravages of the industrial revolution): "For every locomotive they build, I will paint another angel."

And for every strip mall that tears up the countryside and fractures communities, so will I. It's not enough. It's not nearly enough. But it's what I know how to do.

'Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.' ― Graham Greene, in Ways Of Escape

And this:

Speaking for myself, I am glad to come here and read about art. There's enough despair in the world already.

Love the ponies.

Jack: Thanks so much. And I'm taking that article to heart. It's definitely time for another of my periodic News Fasts.

Everyone: Here's another poem from Jane -- who's been having trouble posting it herself. (The Typepad blog platform is occasionally temperamental.) It's stunning.


"The creative process is a process of surrender, not control."
--Julia Cameron

You walk through a landscape where birch shimmer
in a haunted copse, dogwood trees drip pearly buds,
early flowers, blue and gold, raise banners to the season.

In the river a float of ducklings, skim of dragonflies
greet the day. On a branch above, a solitary red tail
stands guard. The sky arch is cloudless, blue.

Sundered by this, you give yourself over to its lure.
Opening your arms, you are pulled into the sphere,
as close to prayer as you ever come.

So why this surprise when the making of art requires
a similar surrender? Get on your aching knees,
breathe in, breathe out, loose the girdle of your control.

Only now are you ready to begin.

-- Jane Yolen

(©2013 Jane Yolen all rights reserved)

Thanks, Terri. For posting. For everything.



"I suppose that a focus on art,fantasy,and folklore can seem like fiddling while Rome burns......"

Was it not the artists and musicians and poets that built Rome in the first place? And were they not needed to rebuild it after all? Are they not needed to sustain it and make it WORTH living in?

You might enjoy a book by Ken Carey called "The Flat Rock Journal." I met with him shortly after its publication and he described a year in which he and his family lived completely media free, choosing instead to make their own news. It was his ART that highlighted the beauty of the environment and its need for appreciation and care.
I think we all have our place, artists and scientists alike. If we can learn to love each other 'with' our differences instead of 'in spite of' how much beauty we could all create.


Here's to painting angels.
That's rather become my mantra lately.
Lovely, lovely poem, Jane.

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