Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 7

Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

The final chapter in the section on relationships deals with the artist’s relationship with the audience. Dr. Paris starts this chapter with the following sentence:

The difference between artistic self-expression and creating a work of art is engagement with the audience. In creating a work of art, the artist is reaching out for the audience, attempting to convey or communicate feeling, experience, or idea. The artist is hoping to touch the audience in some way, to elicit a certain kind of response from them.

And the nature of our engagement with the audience throughout the creative process is largely determine by what perceptions we have about the audience. Such perceptions can include what they need and want and their expectations. Are they appreciative, approving, admiring? Or are they critical, hostile, withholding?

Where do these assumptions come from? From our previous experience and encounters with audiences. Positive experiences cause us to anticipate future positive responses; likewise a poor experience will cause us to anticipate that the next audience will also be critical. And when the experience was negative, we may stop our creative process or deny that the audience’s response matters at all.

This reminds me of the belief that if you’re rejected, the problem isn’t you; the problem is with the audience, the jury, the gallery owner. While this may be true in many cases (e.g. your contemporary art isn’t a good fit with a country theme show), we still take this rejection personally on some level.

In addition to our previous experiences with audiences, our assumptions about what to expect with and from others can be traced back to childhood.  According to Dr. Paris, new research on parent-infant interaction suggests that the way parents relate with their child forms the child’s prototype of relationships throughout life. That is, early interactions with parents organizes the child’s assumptions about what to expect from others. So a child who has regular and frequent moments of shared enthusiasm with his/her parents comes to expect this response and feels safe enough to allow immersion with others.

If our original interactions with others involved feelings of rejection or dismissal, we have the potential to develop more positive interactions but only if we understand how our reflexive positions help to re-create and maintain old patterns.

Dr. Paris also briefly discusses “parallel identities” where a child/adult is secure in his/her artistic relationships but insecure in his/her personal relationships. This often occurs when a child begins artistic expression and performance at a young age, develops confidence while performing, but cannot transfer those same feelings to personal relationships.

Maintaining Self

“The ultimate challenge in engaging with an other…is retaining our own sense of self while still responding to the needs of the other.”

Here Dr. Paris refers to our ability to maintain a balance with our audience. Do we concern ourselves with self-preservation, that is “I do what I do and the audience can like it or lump it.” Or do we only meet audience demand, that is “What I do is only as valuable as the audience’s response to it. I must give them what they want.”

While we may bounce from one extreme to the other, as creative types we cease to be truly creative if we merely fulfill a formula for audience approval. This belief can be applied to more than just a creative, immersive experience. Consider how you feel if you do anything in life just for someone’s approval.

Deadlines

How we deal with deadlines depends on several factors, including how we experience boundaries, especially those imposed by others and how a deadline is presented. Imposed deadlines can feel inhibiting; they become something to resist and rebel against. If the “deadline-imposer” is perceived as insensitive or unreasonable, we may feel paralyzed by the deadline. If the “deadline-imposer” offers support, we feel strengthened and supported.

Creating our own deadlines can be a way to reduce resistance. We do not feel at risk of being controlled by an outside force and we may view the deadlines as “helpful containers for our creative process.” Personally, I know I work better with deadlines, whether set by my self or set externally by an other. However, it is often easier to fudge a self-imposed deadline because an external force is not controlling the deadline.

Finally, Dr. Paris states that deadlines can be experienced as incentives; small, bite-sized, manageable chunks that help us remain engaged in the creative process and to fend off overwhelm. A reward along the way (chocolate chip cookies or taking a half-day hike?) or a celebration of your achievement at the end (hot fudge lava cake or a massage?) can’t hurt either.

Guides

Dr. Paris offers three guides at the end of Chapter 7 to help us understand our relationship with audiences.

1. To explore our assumptions about our audience. Make a reality check about your assumptions. Are these assumptions based on past experiences with audiences or based in previous experiences in personal relationships?

2. Set your own deadlines. With externally imposed deadlines, create your own smaller deadlines within the allotted time frame.

3. Break projects down into small chunks. If breaking a project down into manageable chunks isn’t your thing, break the project down into time frames. Setting time limits is another way to contain anxiety. Spend 30 minutes on a task and if you can’t immerse after 30 minutes, call it a day.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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The Christmas Spider Legend

Long ago on Christmas Eve, a mother prepared for a visit from Christ.
She cleaned, scrubbed, and decorated the tree.
When all was quiet, the spiders who’d been swept away, crept to see the tree.
They crawled on every branch, admiring each ornament.
Alas, when they finished climbing, the tree was draped in cobwebs!

Christ smiled when he saw the happy spiders,
but he knew the mother would be heartbroken over the shrouded tree.
So, he turned the webs into silver and gold, and the tree was even more beautiful.


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Winter Solstice & a Snow Storm

Happy Winter Solstice to all!

Here is a favorite post I wrote a while back on the Solstice: Happy Solstice

And here is a curious article from the Sunday Globe explaining the history of Christmas in Massachusetts. Those good ol’ Puritans. To them Christmas celebration was rooted in pagan tradition and, therefore, a bad thing. Businesses stayed open and kids went to school on December 25. Talk about Scrooge and ba-humbug!

Yes, we had a little snow here yesterday. Not nearly as much as some areas, like Cape Cod, Washington D.C., New York City, New Jersey or Philly. But, 6″-7″ of snow isn’t small stuff either. Here is a view of how it looked yesterday morning in our front yard:

And later in the morning, these guys showed up in the backyard to dine on fallen bird seed. They stayed for a couple hours!

Yes, those are wild turkeys. They started showing up last month, 7-9 of them in a group. One afternoon I watched them fly up into the trees which was pretty funny. This pair poked and scratched in the snow for quite some time.


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Standing at Water’s Edge: Chapter 6

I apologize for not keeping up on my chapter reviews. The end of show season and upcoming holidays have sent my thoughts elsewhere. But, delay no more, here is the synopsis of Chapter 6.

Finding Comfort in Twins

In chapter 6, the shortest chapter thus far, Dr. Paris concludes her discussion on the three types of relationships that are important for creative types. So far, she has discussed “mirror” relationships and “hero” relationships. In this chapter the focus is on the “twin” relationship. That is, being with “like-kind.”

The twin (or “twinship” as Dr. Paris calls it) relationship is the relationship we have with people who are, essentially, going through the same thing(s) that we are. I’m sure you’ve experienced this type of relationship most often. This is the person who shares our same struggles and feelings.

In the twin relationship, we “connect with others who are experiencing the same things,” we feel “less alone” and freed to be more playful. This relationship also boosts our courage to immerse in creativity, comforts us when we’re stressed, and encourages us when we are filled with self-doubt.

Blocks and Fears

As in the previous two chapters on mirror and hero relationships, Dr. Paris provides examples of blocks and fears that may prevent the development of or the ability to sustain twin relationships.

Absence of Twinship Relationships

As always, we return to childhood, to those early relationships and how they impact our future development. In childhood, our first twin relationships might involve siblings, friends, or peers. Here we experience a sense of belonging. We feel part of a larger group.

Keep in mind that these experiences in childhood do not necessarily revolve around just any peer group. The others must be a good fit with the child’s temperament, physical, and emotional abilities and possibly life circumstances.

Successful early childhood experiences of twinship causes some people to readily seek out and establish these kinds of relationships in adulthood. However, for people who did not enjoy group experiences in childhood, developing these relationships as an adult is difficult. If the now adult person felt painfully different from others as a child, this identity of being different becomes established in adulthood. This leads to fear of exposing his/her “differentness” and subsequent retreat from peer and intimate relationships. And fear of exposure may inhibit one’s artistic endeavors.

Competitiveness

“Competition among peers can be a facilitating or an inhibiting force.”

I can relate to that statement because I hated competition as a child. And that feeling stemmed from a sense that I wasn’t good enough in the particular activity. Because I didn’t often feel a sense of accomplishment or success, it was easier for me to give-up or not try hard enough. You know “what’s the point, I’m just going to lose anyways” or “I’m not good enough.”

In this situation the perceived risk of failing in competition threatens one’s self esteem. It is safer to withdraw from competition than risk “annihilation of self-esteem and self confidence.” This often happens when the goal of the competition is about performance rather than process.

On the other hand, a competitive spirit can propel people to reach beyond their comfort zone. Seeing others take a “successful dive” can strengthen one’s hope that he/she can take a risk and achieve. Here a person may stretch beyond her fears in order to keep up with others.

Guides

This short chapter ends with two suggestions for creating or enhancing the twinship relationship

1. Seek out twinship relationships. Do you have a presence in a twinship group, a group of like-minded people? Consider taking classes, joining an art association or writer’s group.

2. Explore your past history with twinship relationships. Think about your peer groups as a child.

Join Me

I invite you to join me as I read Standing at Water’s Edge. You can purchase the book through Amazon, Dr. Paris’s web site, or perhaps find it at your local library or bookstore. My goal is to post every 7-10 days a summary of the chapter and share any a-ha moments that occurred. I welcome your comments on this and successive posts. Share your a-ha moments and experiences while reading the book. You can join in at any time. If you have a blog and are also writing about your experiences with this book, please include a link to your blog in your comment. I’ll include your blogs at the end of my posts.

Book Outline

Standing at Water’s Edge is divided into three parts with 10 chapters as follows:

Part 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 1: The Secret World of Creativity
Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

Part II: Relationships
Chapter 3: The Need for Others
Chapter 4: Finding Strength in Mirrors
Chapter 5: Finding Inspiration in Heroes
Chapter 6: Finding Comfort in Twins
Chapter 7: Connecting with the Audience and Meeting Deadlines

Part III: Stages of the Creative Process
Chapter 8: Approaching Immersion
Chapter 9: Diving In
Chapter 10: Coping with Disengagement and Reentry


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Share This!

It is the month of December and that means many people are blogging about goals and planning for 2010. Here are some blog posts on these very topics that I enjoyed this past week:

Itchy Goals

I loved Sarah Marie Lacy’s revelation on why goals make her itch. It is wonderful when we have these a-ha moments. Does the thought of setting goals make you itch? Read Sarah’s story here.

Consistent Creativity & Productivity

When I read Charlie Gilkey’s post on what he calls our “engagement threshold” and how this impacts our ability to be creative on a consistent basis, I felt like he was describing exactly what I go through. You know, the time it takes us to make meaningful progress on anything and how we don’t make progress because we don’t have enough time to “get into it.”

This is a great post for anyone who feels they just don’t have the time to start a project or to continue a project because of limited time. Read it here.

Strategic Planning for Creative Types

Lisa Sonora-Beam, author of The Creative Entrepreneur shares her plan for creating a very personal strategic planner. I agree with Lisa that most planners found in stores are boring. And if the planner is boring (basic brown anyone?), will you really be drawn to it and use it? In this post, Lisa shares the first in a several week series on creating your own planner, including writing prompts to assist you in thinking about goals, intentions, and/or plans for 2010. Read Lisa’s post here

Celebrate Your 2009 Accomplishments

December is the month when many people look back at what they accomplished during the year. Often we know we did stuff but we end up saying to ourselves “What did I do this year?” as if we can’t recall a darn thing.

Alyson Stanfield, author of I’d Rather Be in the Studio, offers some wonderful prompts to get you thinking and reflecting on this past year. I started this practice after taking Alyson’s Blast Off class online. I created a document in Word and each month I type in everything I did that month, big and small. It is a great way to review the year and say “Wow! I did all that?!” Read Alyson’s post here

Take Time to Pause

Finally, in the rush-rush hubbub of this season, Kathyrn Antyr of True North Arts reminds us that it is essential to take a break during all the craziness. When we take time to pause, in the words of Pema Chodron, we create “a momentary contrast between being completely self-absorbed and being awake and present.”

Kathryn was inspired to reflect on pausing and prayer as part of an art day and the season of Advent. Her post also includes some wonderful prayer inspired activities such as making prayer beads, a prayer journal and a prayer box. Take some time to pause and read Kathyrn’s post here.

And remember to pause not only this month, during the rush-rush and hubbub, but everyday.


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Monday Reflection

When I speak of change,
I do not mean a simple switch of positions
or a temporary lessening of tensions,
nor the ability to smile or feel good.
I am speaking of a basic and radical alteration
in all those assumptions underlining our lives.

—Audre Lorde, American poet and essayist

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