internal conflict in the studio

Last week Quinn McDonald published The Pull of Inner Critic and Inner Hero and it really got me thinking.   I’ve known for some time that my strengths are also a kind of curse: I guess if you build a strong fortress, then when you are under siege you’re a prisoner in a jail of your own making.

It took a long time to realise that my being a ‘mucker’ (my uncle’s nickname for me), always exploring and trying new things, never settling on anything for long, made me incredibly versatile.   It took time too to realise that being a Jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none wasn’t as demeaning as it sounds, because that reframes as being versatile as well.  These dubious titles led to me developing the belief that if someone else can do whatever, the chances are I can.

So this versatility, this confidence that I can do just about anything I want, how is that a curse?  It’s a curse because I want to do everything and I want to do it now and I want to do it perfectly!  And no surprises, that plan just isn’t working out well!

That aspect of my versatile Inner Hero that says “Of course you can!” is countered by the damnable  Inner Critic who provides a smorgasbord of possibilities and as a consequence I’m stunned like a possum in a cars headlights.

Wendy @ Late Start Studio

Tammy Garcia once wrote ‘much better to start late than never begin at all’ which eventually gave me the blog name, Late Start Studio.  And yes, I’m starting late, and I know I don’t have to catch up I just have to start but oh, I want to catch up!  And I want to be a master of something!   But what?    Here I am, stunned, frozen, telling myself “just to something!”  Anything!  Just pick something and DO IT!  But one day I make some crazy stuffed creature, or a little soft sculpture, or paint a page in my journal, make another stencil or stamp or pencil-case or . . . you get the picture.

Versatile Inner Hero on one hand, Inner Critic spilling out all the options like the contents of a suitcase on the other.    I guess I’ll just have to settle for being a Master Mucker!

Those who wait for every little thing to be perfect before they embark on a project or who dislike the compromise of a partial solution are among the least happy.  Ideal circumstances are seldom given to anyone for an undertaking.

Deng Ming-Dao: 365 Daily Meditations, p.295

Quinn McDonald’s guest!

I started my blog relatively recently however the people who have been the most encouraging have been at it for considerably longer and have a clear purpose.   I’m still looking for mine . . . here with this blog and life in general.

One of the blogs I visit regularly is that of Quinn McDonald.  The people who comment regularly give almost as many thought-provoking contributions as the posts themselves and appear to be a cross-section of people, all of whom seem to want to live more satisfying and creative lives.    My contributions are sometimes stream of consciousness rants and when Quinn suggested one as a guest post I was extremely flattered and, rather than procrastinate about it, the next time I had something to rabbit on about I sent it through to her.   I was thinking about all the poor choices I do, all the automatic, thoughtless habits, that stop me from doing and being the best me I can.  You can read it here or go to Quinn’s blog and read it there . . . I believe in giving choices.

Dirty Little Addictions

Yes, most of us have them and from time to time they get out of hand.  I have one: I knew of it’s existence before partaking but eventually a personal introduction was made by a friend, well it was more like the way a new convert would be indoctrinated into a cult and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.  At first it was harmless and I thought I had full control, no one, not even me, was being hurt.  Now?  I can’t quite say the same.  The effect of this energy sapping, mind numbing (most addictions are), debilitating and dirty little addiction is that I am wasting my time, time I can never recover.

Because I have had a month off work and don’t need to clear my mind of rubbish by putting even more in its place (how pointless is that!) I am noticing how much precious time this compulsion robbing away from me.

I’ve tried to ration when I allow myself to indulge but to no avail.  Do I need to go cold turkey?  Is that even possible?  Do I need to find myself a 12-step programme and work through it?    I joke that I have oodles of willpower but next to no won’t-power.  Not funny.  I have to come up with a plan whereby I am accountable for what is wasted on this dirty little secret of mine.

Perhaps some kind soul would come and wave a big stick around, threaten, cajole, encourage by turns.  That might be a fine plan but will hardly empower me to make my own decisions, live my own life.  There’s only one thing for it . . . do it myself.  I got myself into this mess and I know I have lots of company but small comfort that is!

I don’t need to tell you what it is; you might try and experience the initial thrill of it for yourself and so it’s better you remain ignorant.  No, I need to ‘fess up to myself, put on my big girl knickers and get on with living! First SpreadRemember, “Each day passes whether you participate or not,” Deng Min Dao, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations.

in search of a hero

Warning, the inner critic causes the use of mild expletives.  You see I have a copy of Quinn McDonald‘s new book The Inner Hero Creative Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic and I’m working my way through it.  As a first step I let the IC out so we could get acquainted.  If you take a look at the very generous preview on Amazon you’ll see what I mean.  Not that I purchased the book from them . . . Book Depository is a far cheaper option for me, or even Fishpond.

But I digress.  What I wanted to tell you is that, while I knew the IC is really negative and does not hesitate to criticise me, undermine my confidence and reinforce any little hesitation on my part so that it overwhelms me to the point of inertia, I did not realise what an utter bitch it is when challenged!  So if or when you delve into this wonderful publication, be prepared!  Even my digression about book suppliers started a minor skirmish.  “You can’t stick at anything for long can you!”   These criticisms are always said as a statement of fact, they are not posed as questions.

So yes, an utter bitch and there’ll be more on the gendering of insults and compliments at a later date . . . I have made a note.  If I start in on that particular rant now I’ll get it in the ear again.  I will let you know up front however, I bought my copy of the book, I am not being paid to review it in fact I haven’t read it all yet, oh, and I do follow Quinn’s blog . . . I start my day with a coffee and Quinn in bed . . . just the coffee, not Quinn.  It’s not just her posts that are great, the community of people who comment is marvellous.

This fiendish IC seems to not only carry all the negativity and criticism that I grew up with but has some very tricky and slightly more benign company.  Yes!  There are two of the little buggers!  Do I need to point out that ‘bugger’ is not considered swearing here in New Zealand or in Australia?  Check out this ad, there were several of them over the years and although there were complaints to the NZ Broadcasting Authority but they weren’t upheld.   In fact to call someone a bit of a silly bugger is almost affectionate (mental note, write a post about NZ colloquial language) but I have no affection at all for these two.

IC #1.  You would be amazed at what this guy says to me . . . I’m not sure of its gender but I think of it as male, a great ugly, sticky, black cloud of a fellow who is now out on his own trying to fend off my attack.  What does he say you ask?  Well, as the mouthpiece of all the historical criticism,  both real and perceived (my reality Pete if your reading this) he seems to spurt an almost constant stream of verbal diarrhea aimed squarely at my self-esteem.  I’m thinking that I must have a healthy self-esteem or he wouldn’t shout so bloody much!

The tone of his barbed comments is rather predictable.  They’re barbed like fish hooks that stick in to you and can only be removed with some pain but oh the relief when you get them out!  The comments, similar to the one above, are all about how I’m unlovable, undeserving, unworthy, inconsistent and ill-disciplined, just a jack of all trades and have no originality.  What utter garbage!  But of course now that I’m on to him and challenging at every turn he thinks it time to step up the volume.

Want to know what I do?  I laugh!  And say “Yeah, right!” in a very Kiwi way.  No, not the fruit, they’re actually kiwifruit, I’m a Kiwi and a kiwi is the bird.  See IC, my digressions are f-u-n-n-y!  How do you write a word so the reader says in s-l-o-w-l-y? As if to someone having trouble understanding but in this case, loaded with sarcasm.  I can give as good as I get!

I’ve also reframed some of the comments over the years: jack of all trades is now versatile and flexible in my thinking.

IC #2.  Now this character was harder to isolate because it had a purpose but then went rogue on me.  This one is probably feminine but very, very sneaky now because she doesn’t want to be uprooted.  Mind you if she could join up with an Inner Hero (they get the courtesy of full title), she might just go back to her role of cautionary protector and get something of a reprieve.  You see I think this one tried to stop me exposing myself to criticism but very quickly became the perfect squelch to creativity and originality, to taking risks.  Yeah, Squelch is a good name . . . slimy little character.

Ah!  I feel stronger already!  Expose the enemy and highlight their flaws for a change!  IC #1 has absolutely no sense of humour which it why laughing works for now . . . no doubt he’ll disguise his bitchy self but for now, I have the nasty little bugger cornered!  And IC #2 is just a timorous wee beastie.

I have a Warrior Inner Hero who stands up for the misunderstood, the marginalised, the frail and the less fortunate, and now she has armour on and is standing up for me!  Happy hunting Warrior Woman!

Want a pretty picture?   Here you are. I found this piece of driftwood, shaped like a pregnant belly on the beach a while back and it really needed the stud in its navel.IMG_2366

good intentions honoured

Knowing that I had two weeks of holidays, albeit with some day-job work to do at home, I got out some books and supplies to start playing.  I will have a few days of granddaughters staying so the house will be completely given over to creativity as they have a tendency to get going before they even get out of their pyjamas.IMG_1835

I got out the pile of journals that I used in a rather haphazard way and was really surprised at how many there are . . . and horrors!!   I even found a travelling journal that the wonderful Quinn McDonald had sent me for a contribution before sending on to another journaler in this neck of the woods.  I cannot believe I have been so remiss!  What was going on in my life at that time that I forgot?  I’ll send it on very soon Quinn, I promise!

But I digress . . . here is the pile I have.

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The third from the top has “Draw you mind before it expires” written on it. As I’ve had it for about 4 years without using it much, I thought the time had come to give the message some serious thought!

The one on top is a duct-tape journal I made after watching a video of Diana Trout‘s.  It lives in my bag and has its innards replaced from time to time.  The zibaldone is my commonplace journal, my ‘everything but mostly writing, daily pages’ journal – read this and you would know my innermost thoughts!  It’s a 2002 diary that somehow did not get used and was put in storage while I was overseas.  While I’m thinking of it I should perhaps see if I can pick up a 2013 A4 diary before they get sent off for recycling.

A favourite for now is this visual journal with alternating black and white pages.

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Black and white journal cover – gesso and permanent markers

I had been thinking about how vulnerable the heart is, that while we need to guard it well, we also need to let others in.  I have mentioned the TED talk by Brené Brown, The Power of Vulnerability before . . .  do watch it.   I thought that for this serious topic, I’d have a little play with cut outs.IMG_1882IMG_1875Tomorrow, I’ll try for three posts in a row but no promises with the darlings arriving here this afternoon . . . I could be busy.

un-shelving and 3 insights before lunch

Un-shelving is a word, because I just used it.  My blog had been deliberately laid aside, shelved, for a further two months for no reason other than I chose to do so . . . and that should be good enough.  It’s not that I’ve been busier than usual, unwell or not creating anything, it’s just that I make choices to (pretty much) suit myself and being able to do that is one of my most basic needs.

What I need in my life are very simple things: people I love and respect; peace and tranquility within; play, the activity when I get lost in the moment, is essential to my wellbeing; being productive whether at work or play is immensely satisfying to me; and power, the power to make choices.  These are my 5 Ps and I have been thinking a great deal about them over the past couple of months . . . well, years longer if truth be told.  Maybe I will blog some more about each . . . are you interested?

I could have blogged about the pohutukawa tree in my garden that burst forth in blossom in time for Christmas . . . IMG_1345DSC09963the art I have created . . . IMG_1207work inspired by Diana Trout on 21 Secrets, call it emulating or copying if you will, I really admire her style – it was wonderful so I signed up to 21 Secrets 2013 (check out all the amazing tutors) over at Dirty Footprints Studio.Meg's fish carcase and crab Emulating Diana Troutthe beach treasure that has been found and the creativity it inspired . . . Meg's fish carcase and crabJeanne's garden sculpturethe forgotten potatoes, desperate to grow . . . Potatoesthe 20,000 bees that thought the bench seat at my front door would make a great hive . . .Visiting bees my holiday visitors . . . Jeanne with flowersMeg and Elmoor even my new flagpole – you simple cannot live at the beach and not have one.  The flag represents the five elements and I brought it back from one of my visits to Hanoi . . .Flag - 5 elements. . . however I didn’t.  I chose to take a break and today, with the sun shining, cicada’s chirping and sound of the surf in the background, I have chosen to resume blogging partly as a response to thought-provoking blogs such as Quinn McDonald’s. 

I keep a journal, mostly writing, very personal and occasionally a blog or the journal itself will throw up a quote I want to use as a leaping off point for creativity or just to ponder and write another page.   Today I was reading the comments on Quinn’s blog entitled Speaking Up For Your Own Sake, the comments are always worthwhile. There was a quote from Meg Hess, “you can tell the helped by the hunted look in their eyes” and it made me think of how I hope to respond, both personally and professionally.  My success is variable.

And Violette Clark’s blog today had me thinking about balance and the struggle, that perhaps most of us have, in retaining our equilibrium.   Personally I think there is a lot to be said for shaking it up occasionally.

So, my three insights or BFOs (Blinding Flashes of the Obvious) before lunch?

  1. Helping is something I try not to do, even when asked, as I believe the most valuable thing I can do is to make a space where they can help themselves.
  2. I respect my body: we’ve been through a lot together.
  3. Just like a tightrope walker . . . getting the wobbles is fine as long as you know where your centre is.

So there you are . . . I’m back, how often I have no way of knowing.  Sometimes daily, but I doubt it.   Maybe weekly?  It will be irregular and although I’d like to say I’ll provide X posts a week and have a particular focus, that isn’t me.   Yes, there’ll be links to interesting blogs and inspriational TED talks, yes, I’ll posts about my delightful granddaughters, yes, creative endeavours and insights and, goodness knows what else . . . I just don’t like being boxed in.   My need for freedom of choice is way too high!  Ah, the power to choose!

I am content with myself at this point in time.

I’m still here

I know . . . it’s been forever and I will explain it a little but just not this morning.  This is the teaser:

If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading – Lao Tzu

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined – Henry David Thoreau

Put your ear down to your heart and listen hard – Anne Sexton (via Quinn McDonald)

Each is true and each is what I am thinking about . . . as well as working full-time and spending an extra 2.5 hours a day commuting in my car.

A recycled jersey, now a dress for my granddaughter – a little hand-sewing (so unlike me) and thinking (too much like me)

Now . . . I’ll be late for work!

wonderful weekends

I’ve had two fantastic weekends and a Blinding Flash of the Obvious – the BFO can wait until tomorrow.

But the weekends . . . I try to squeeze as much creativity into the day-job as I can and because I work mostly with primary school teachers, supporting their practice in the classroom, I sometimes manage more than a bit of creative problem solving.

I worked with a group of children scraping paint onto A 2 sized paper to make some books.  It was pretty slow so I finished them off over the weekend before last.A2 bookletsI am learning bookletWhile the students will be writing about the skills they are developing in class, mine will be about learning to play again!

I’ve been making these booklets in various sizes in the classroom for years and just in case you want to make one too, here’s an explanation of how to do it that I found for you on You Tube.  They can be made from any size sheet of paper – the booklet ends up 1/8 the size of the page.  I usually glue the pages after I have finished all the folding and cutting.

The painting was so much fun that I decided I would make some more the next time my grand-daughters came to stay – and that was last weekend.  So there we were, a old painting drop sheet on the floor, jars and tubes of cheap acrylic, old credit cards, brushes, corks carved into stamps and some sponges.Nonsense DreamlandBy the end of the weekend, the whole family had had a play, the dining table was covered in supplies and everyone is feeling very satisfied with two watching Milo and Otis. 

The dining table is still covered with bits and pieces . . . one of the few joys of not living there during the week is that I get to walk away and leave it all behind waiting for next weekend’s playtime. And as if having family to stay wasn’t joy enough I had mail! 

Quinn McDonald was celebrating reaching 1500 posts (I’m up to 55) and sent out these wonderful journals . . . where will I send it on to?  Any takers?  I’ve not got supplies here at my little mid-week abode so next weekend . . . there is much smiling going on here!