Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 2

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Chapter 2: The Light and Dark of Immersion

In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares various scenarios on the struggle of immersion. I love the passage from Joseph Campbell that introduces this chapter:

Destruction of the world that we have built and in which we live, and of ourselves within it. But then a wonderful reconstruction of the bolder, cleaner, more spacious, and fully human life-that is the lure, the promise, and the terror…that we carry within

And so it can be with immersion; a struggle to begin, fear of starting, fear of the unknown, but the promise of a potentially wonderful outcome.

This chapter focuses on artistic blocks and how recognizing and understanding our blocks helps us get past them. And if we don’t recognize the nature of these blocks, we risk staying in a state of being unproductive.

I have to admit here that I still cringe at the word “productive.” The reason being the nine years I spent working as Speech-Language Pathologist. Whether I worked as a therapist for contract companies or whether I worked internally at a specific facility, we were expected to track our hours. Hours spent treating patients, time spent evaluating patients, time spent in meetings, etc, etc, etc. And though I understood most of the rationale for this (e.g. billable time), I couldn’t help but feel like someone was constantly looking over my shoulder. In some ways, it instilled a feeling that we weren’t trusted to do our jobs effectively.

Even today I tend to track my hours in the studio but sometimes I wonder if seeing that time written on a piece of paper contributes to my feeling guilty that I didn’t spend enough time working on my art or if it keeps me from getting started on a project in the first place. You know, because someone is looking over my shoulder checking to see if I’m being productive.

But I digress…..

In this chapter, Dr. Paris shares two examples of artists experiencing blocks and how they dealt with their individual situations (one through therapy, one through addictive behaviors.) But regardless of how these people dealt with their situations, the resolution in both cases revolved around understanding the situation and the significant role relationships play in the process.

It is when we disengage from one immersive experience and have no where else to turn for another immersive experience that darkness can set in. We become vulnerable to this “darkness” which may take the form of loneliness, hopelessness, feeling unsupported, or feeling worthless. The feelings may be fleeting or they may last for a period of time.

I can certainly relate to these feelings. I felt this way when I returned from France this summer. I now realize it was the immersive experience, the sense of community and friendship that made the trip so enjoyable. When I came home, I felt a sense of emptiness, loneliness, and overall blah. This is when I learned the importance of community in my artistic life. That is, connections.

Dr. Paris discusses five symptoms that can result as a lack of immersion and lead to blocks:

  • anxiety and restlessness which leave one feeling lost and without direction (yep, felt that one)
  • distrust and paranoia; lack of trust in the self and in others (sure, sometimes I don’t trust my self, my ideas out of fear of failure)
  • underachievement; that is, it is safer not to immerse and risk failure (yep, related to that one)
  • numbness and social isolation when the vitalizing effects of immersion are not present (makes me wonder if working in a home studio contributes to social isolation)
  • anger, aggression, and violence; connections with other detached and angry persons can lead to aggression

So many lightbulb moments here!

This chapter concludes with a section titled “The Light” and this sentence seems to sum it all up:

We know what we need: to feel special, to feel safe, to feel understood, and to feel connection.

In the guides section, Dr. Paris outlines three points:

  1. To be aware of and respect the fears you are facing. To take a deeper look at what fears you are facing. Awareness of these fears is the first step in stretching beyond them.
  2. Understand your dread to repeat. Here is where you want to identify previous experiences of disappointment, failure, etc and how you coped. Then identify moments of success. Together our memories of disappointment, failure, and success contribute to our fears, dreads, and hopes.
  3. Reach out for support. When you disengage from creativity, turn to other relationships or activities for immersion.

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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Standing at Water’s Edge-Chapter 1

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Standing at Water’s Edge: Moving Past Fear, Blocks, and Pitfalls to Discover the Power of Creative Immersion by Anne Paris, Ph.D, arrived on the scene in 2008 and became an instant hit and highly recommended among many artists. Paris is a “clinical psychologist who specializes in helping artists and other creative people reach their potential.”

I remember reading an excerpt online in 2008 and being instantly drawn to the book. I received it as gift later in the year and promptly put it on my bookshelf. This often happens with the many books I want to read. Buy them, shelve them, sometimes forget about them, and eventually read them.

I believe, however, that a book comes to us, or we remember it and read it, when we need it. Such is the case with this book.

After witnessing some curious messages from the universe last week, I remembered this particular book, pulled it off the shelf and read the sleeve. Then I sat down and read the introduction. The introduction alone hooked me and I started reading the book in earnest late last week.

My intention is to share with you my learnings and a-ha moments as I read the book. If you’re feeling stuck, dealing with fear (of failure, of success, of getting started, of moving forward, etc), or struggling with blocks to creativity, I think you’ll enjoy this book and hopefully find it beneficial.

Chapter One: The Challenge of Immersion

In this chapter, Anne Paris defines creativity as coming from a state of experience she calls “immersion.”  That is, an experience of total connection and engagement. You know, being “in the flow” or “in the zone.” And we’ve all experienced that. Paris further explains that the experience of immersion can be found in many realms: creativity (artistic expression), spirituality, intimate relationships, play, learning, parenting, and psychotherapy.

As Paris states “It is not the activity, per se, that generates immersion, but the doer’s internal state and engagement that define it.”  However, it can be quite frightening to immerse ourselves in an activity.  Instead, we often choose not to dive in, protecting our vulnerable selves but diminishing our sense of aliveness and connection.

Can you relate to that? Sounds like our friend fear is at work here. In this chapter, Paris also describes several universal fears that block immersion: fear of letting go, fear of loss of control, fear of annihilation, and fear of emotions.

So we have the immersive state, or being in the flow. Then we have fear of immersion due to blocks. The other player in this is what Paris calls “disengagement” or the time when we evaluate our work and perhaps feel threatened by judgment. This is when we are out of the immersive experience, perhaps after we have finished a piece of work. If we feel inadequate during this period, we need to find other sources of immersion, such as play, relationships, and so forth, in order to restore our energy. This, in turn, rejuvenates us and allows us to reengage with our artwork.

At the end of this chapter, Paris offers three guides that summarize the chapter and offer suggestions for working through the challenge of immersion. These include: making immersion the goal, accepting movement in and out of immersion, and engaging in alternative realms of immersion.

I had several a-ha moments when reading this chapter and several pages are marked in red ink with notes and underlining. My most significant a-ha moment, however, came when reading guide #3, engaging in alternative realms of immersion. I have always had some difficulty transitioning back to work after a vacation. In the last couple of years, this has become even harder.

What I realized by reading chapter one is that when I am on vacation, I am totally immersed in the vacation. The end of vacation represents the time of disengagement. It often takes me 2-3 days before I can get my groove back and work in the studio. What I need to do is engage in some other immersive activity that will assist me in getting back into the studio (something other than sitting like a lump in front of the computer, if possible :-))

This realization was like a light bulb going off for me. It has helped me to stop blaming myself for being lazy when this period of disengagement occurs. I’m not being lazy, I’m just working through the disengagement from one immersive experience to re-engagement in another immersive experience.

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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Book Review: 500 Handmade Dolls

I recently received the newest book in Lark Books 500 series: 500 Handmade Dolls: Modern Explorations of the Human Form

The book starts with an introduction by Akira Blount, who provides a brief history on the evolution of dolls as an art form.

The book is then divided into five sections: Non-Traditional Dolls, Fantasy Dolls, Found Objects, Assemblages, and Toys, Traditional Dolls, and Cloth Dolls.  The featured artists come from all over the world.

Non-Traditonal Dolls is the largest section and features artists such as Laura Balombini, Debra Dembowski, Lesley-Anne Green, Akira Blount, Dima, Reina Mia Brill, and Mona Adisa Brooks.

Fantasy focuses on art dolls that are projected into the future, fairies, nymphs, and those beings that appear in our imagination.  Featured artists here include Nuala Creed, Tine Kamerbeek, Kim H. Goldfarb, Marilyn K. Radzat, and Tatiana Baeva.

Found Objects, Assemblages, and Toys features art dolls created with an assortment of non-traditional materials.  These are not your mother’s or grandmother’s dolls.  Artist work featured in this section includes Linda and Opie O’Brien, Pamela Hastings, Chomick+Meder and Melody Ellis.

The Traditional art doll section features more stunning dolls that are reminescent of those dolls we remember seeing (and not being allowed to touch) when we were kids.  Several depict dolls in different cultures such as those by artists Kyoko Nakanishi, Sylvia Natterer, Vladimir Gvozdev, Dan Fletcher, Mary Ellen Frank, and Bets van Boxel.

Cloth art dolls, the final section, features dolls created entirely (or almost entirely) from cloth from head to toe.  Artists in this section include Amanda Gary, Georgette Benisty, Dee Dee Triplett, and Mar Gorman.

500 Handmade Dolls is a wonderful and inspiring book!  A definite must have for anyone who makes art dolls or collects art dolls.