Category Archives: Art

Learning Your Craft


And if you don’t have the honor and discipline to learn your craft, then quite frankly … you don’t deserve to be here.

Dr. Lee, Drumline

Deep intrinsic natural talent is a wonderful and, to be perfectly honest, a very enjoyable thing to have. Your subconscious, intellect and emotions come together effortlessly to create an idea, and you are able to bring it into the world with little trouble. Your work flows as easily as a strong river to the ocean, and you create a thing of beauty.

However, there is a dark hidden secret to natural talent: we rarely study the field in which we are talented. Why bother? We’re already brilliant. I don’t have to work hard to write something beautiful and meaningful. It comes to me like a symphony playing in my head for my own pleasure. I’ve never bothered to study literature or grammar or poetry or story structure. Why should I? I have a god-given gift, so elegant in its grandeur that it requires no molding or contrivance. My talent is complete in its divinity.

But now, at the ripe age of 50, I realize how very wrong I am. I have spent my life trying to create longer pieces of work that are coherent, substantial and poetic. I have tried to create a piece of written art that will deeply connect with people and create a bridge of shared understanding and metaphor between me and my readers.

I have never succeeded. Not once.

In my arrogance and ignorance, I threw my talent away, and in so doing, I also threw away a large and important part of myself. My writing has remained malnourished and stunted throughout my life because I didn’t think I needed education.

The only hope I have is that I have realized this before my life is over. I still have half of my life left. I will spend it well, studying literature and grammar and poetry and story structure. I’ll nurture my natural talent, so my writing can finally blossom into its full potential… so I can realize my gift.

Writing without my Muse

Where is she?

She’s beautiful. She makes my words flow without effort. My grammar becomes art; my narrative becomes poetry. I’m high on my own genius.

But she’s missing.

My words are flat, a dull lifeless echo sounding through a hollow concrete house. There is no poetry. Even the sunset is dull, melting watercolor on a gray paper sky.

Where is she?

I need her. How can I write without her? I’m stupid. I’m clumsy. I have all the finesse and beauty of a 6th grade English paper.

Where is she?

“Start writing,” I hear her whisper in the voice of a gossamer angel. “Start writing. When you write, you call me. I need you as much as you need me for I only live in your words.”

My beautiful muse. I found her, sleeping silently in my pen, waiting for me.

The Journey

Tears of golden glass. A sunset refracted through crying eyes. Fear and sadness are siblings. They prey on anxiety and desire.

It will never happen. You have lost before you started. You will never see the fruition of your efforts, feel the success of your calling. It is all stillborn. So why try?

Why try? Because there is no other path, no other choice. To be myself – to truly inhabit this body and this brain and this heart, to truly honor this life – the only choice is forward… even if it is leads to failure.

The Journey The Journey The Journey The Journey The Journey The Journey The Journey The Journey

It is impossible to fail because the purpose is The Journey, to acknowledge and experience and feel The Journey, wherever it may lead and whatever it may bring.

So you are incapable of failing – not ever, not truly.

The Forest of Imagination

There were three lost children. Each child thought she knew the correct way forward and that the other two were hopelessly lost. But, truthfully, they all three were lost, each in a forest of their own making. Each forest was unique with its own terrible and fearsome trees, and each forest was borne into reality from the imagination of each child.

This story is about the middle child and her forest. Running and hiding and clawing her way among the dense trees of her forest, she couldn’t see that she already was where she desperately wanted to be. The trees looked frightening and threatening. If she had been able to see with clear eyes, eyes not distorted by fear and loneliness, she would have seen that the forest was indeed her forest, welcoming and magical. She had brought all the fear and anger and helplessness with her and had painted it over the top of the trees like a canvas covering a rainbow.

“How do I let go of the fear and hopelessness?” she asked the trees with desperation coloring her words.

“You simply believe that it’s true — it’s all true. Believe in your power and our power and the power of all creation. Let go of the fear, and trust in magic and hope and love.” The trees swayed in the wind and spoke to her softly. Their words were songs of comfort that soothed the fire burning in her brain and heart.

“Trust,” they repeated. “Let the magic happen. Quiet your brain and calm your heart and allow the magic to happen. It’s been inside of you the whole time, waiting for your sunshine. So quit running and searching, and shine.”

Leap of Faith

Today I looked on Google Analytics to see how many people visit Benign Chaos.

None. Not even one.

Twice before I have built up a website audience of about 200: once with manga translation links back in the 90s when I was in college and more recently with diyplanner.com planner printables, so I know it can be done. But it still felt like a hard slap across the face and a punch to the gut (yes, it felt like both of those things at once). And I thought in despair, “How am I going to do this? I don’t exist. I spend every day working, but my talent and light are hidden in the vast noise of the internet.”

And of course, the only answer is “Have faith.” It’s always the answer given to every artist as they slam up against the inevitable question, “Why the fuck am I doing this? My voice is swallowed by the expanse of our population, by the magnitude of our existence.”

Why the fuck am I doing this?

Because it’s who I am and I actually have no choice in the matter.

Acceptance

Yesterday, I sent my manuscript off to yet another publisher. It took me four hours to do one hour’s worth of work as I wrote my cover letter and prepared the pdf of my manuscript. The emotions were crushing me and slowing down my work.

And when it was done, I cried. I cried, on and off, for two hours. Art is not a birthing process; it is the careful packaging of a part of your soul and setting it free into the world for others to experience. An artist and her art are not separate; each is the living, breathing counterpart to the other.

I had emailed a part of my soul to yet another publisher knowing full well that it will most likely be rejected. I had taken part, as I pressed the Send button, in the demise of my childhood and lifelong dream of being a published author.

And as I cried with the depths of a barren woman, feeling my dream burn into nothing around me, I realized something: I am only a writer. When you strip away the dream and ask, “Well, if you can’t write, what will you do?” there is nothing there. I have other things that I enjoy such as music, but I am only a writer. There is no fall back. If I can’t write — if I don’t write — then I am genuinely not fully alive.

So standing there, holding the husk of my dream and my cheeks still wet with my tears, I made a decision. I will write. I will write until I die. I will write until all my words have blown away into the winds of time and I’m not even a memory in the minds of my great grandchildren. I will write because that is all I am, and if no one can hear me and the universe swallows my voice, then so be it.

And when the time comes for me to draw my last breath, I will die happy because I will have lived as a writer.

You see liquid; I see a path.

whiskey

“C’mon,” he said, his voice low and rough, steeped in unfulfilled desire. “Let’s get a drink.”  Her eyes were cloudy with her own unsatisfied hunger. He took her hand and led her out of the shadows of their own private silent world back into the world of the living and the sleeping. “We both need a stiff drink,” he repeated.

Through the side door and into the noisy lounge, he led her straight to the bar, waving for the barman. “Two whiskeys,” he said, “your best scotch.” As the barman left, he turned to look at her for the first time since the world had shuddered for both of them. Her silence was solemn and her blue eyes spoke of history and unanswered questions. Neither spoke until the barman delivered the whiskey glasses. As he took the glasses from the barman, he seemed relieved. This would be the end.

She took her glass; the golden liquid was subtle and beautiful. It moved around the glass following the laws of physics and poetry. “You see liquid,” she said as she watched the light refract through the whiskey, bringing its color to life. “I see a path. A choice.” She looked back at him. Her heart was heavy and her whole body felt her sadness. “Goodbye,” she said, and she drank the whiskey.

He felt her sadness as it matched resonance with his own. “We sometimes see ourselves very clearly through the lens of another,” he said. “Her unyielding desire to possess him destroyed her. I have to let you go. I’ll keep the love, but the desire must go.”

She could feel the moment fading away as the whiskey settled into her system. “I know.” She stood and held out her hand, “Shake my hand and say goodbye.” As he took her hand, they both felt the familiar magnetic pull towards each other through their skin.

“Goodbye,” he said, and then she turned and walked out of the bar.

It’s okay to be naked

nude_painting
Painting by Kandrashov Sergey

I’m afraid of being exposed. I’m afraid of revealing myself. It’s one thing to write anonymously on a little blog, my tiny words drifting in the digital black nether. But in real life? Where people can actually see me?

I have a million masks, one for every occasion. They fill my soul and clutter my identity. I hide behind their wooden colorful lifelike displays. Hiding, always hiding. Hiding everywhere except in words.

Words are my sanctuary. Words are my truth.

But I have to put the masks away now because there is something I want to do with my life that requires naked honesty. And some of my masks are beautiful and some of my masks are ugly, but none of them are me.

Now, to step naked onto the stage…

Dream

forest_med
Photo by Tabetha Harrison

Every one of us has a chance to be heroic. Every one of us has been given the divine providence of an epic journey and a heroic life. And hidden within each soul there lay a map, given as a birthright and waiting to be discovered. This map is the color of golden light and all of the symbols on it are written in the esoteric language of the angels. Most of the map is shrouded in a veil of unanswered questions and unlived experience. It is at the same time both indecipherable and entrancing.

The map lays out our hero’s journey. The enigmatic symbols equate to actions and events, slowly taking place, one by one, as our life progresses and we come to understand their meaning only through experience. But there is a crossroads on the map, a question which absolutely no one else on the face of this planet can answer but you.

“Do I follow my calling?”

This calling is different for every person, but we all hear the distant voice in the wind, floating through our waking dreams. It calls us, incessantly, never giving us peace. Some folks, the lucky ones, follow this inner voice and find a peaceful and meaningful life. Others of us fight it, ignore it, run from it.

But then we dream, the haunting dream of dormant passion. Dreams are worthy of pursuit. To set a plan into place to achieve your dream is a worthy pursuit. Our dreams, when realized, enrich the world for everyone. Everyone benefits. Living your passion is to truly be alive, to be present and to be accountable.

I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.
I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound
to live up to what light I have.

Abraham Lincoln

The First Step

catchme

I’ve wanted to own my own business for years. It’s been a constant dream of mine, as constant as my dream of true love (which I did eventually find in my husband).

So I step on the path, saying to myself, “This time I’m going to do it. This time I’m going to work and create my own business. I have an idea. I have a capable competent business partner. I can do it!”

And then I sit at my desk, and I crumble. I crumble into tiny bits of defeated dust that blow away in the wind. My own negativity destroys me.

The old wisdom is to not listen to the naysayers. Surround yourself by people who support your creativity and dreams, and ignore those who would clip your wings with their words. But what if the most relentless and negative of all the naysayers is actually your own voice in your own head? What if you are your own enemy? How do you quiet the voice of fear, doubt and disbelief… especially when it’s so loud that its soundless screams drown out any positive thought?

I don’t know the answer to this riddle. Right now, I choose to continue to work towards my dreams with the cacophony of fearful and doubtful words as my companion. The work is slow as I am regularly derailed by the fear, but then I pull myself off the floor, dust myself off, and get back to work.

To believe in the worth of your work – to believe in the worth of yourself – is a constant battle for many people. And that’s why I write these blog entries. It is in finding our worth and sharing ourselves that this world will blossom. The battle is worth fighting for when you win, your victory will touch everyone around you, bringing light and hope to others still deep in the journey.