Plans, Dreams, and Months that Fly Like Birds

The Inspired Artist, The Inspired Life

Image by Wendi Kelly

Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.

~Oprah Winfrey

Such great plans I had for posting here  last year.

Obviously THAT rarely happened!  I had great dreams of doing the 365 project and posting the pictures here every day and on Flckr. You can see how well that turned out. The funny thing is I took the pictures. Hundreds of them. Far, far more than 365 of them. More like thousands of them, some horrible ones, some great ones ones, some that are as boring as a plain vanilla pudding.

I took so many that I couldn’t manage all of them. Some of them ended up on Flckr. Then, I opened an account on Picasa and many of them are there. Others are strewn about on various computers around the house that I happened to upload them to, because it was the closest one at the time. I admit it, I have been a photographer management disaster. Somehow, I kept telling myself that I would sit down and get it all organized but…huh…I looked up the other day and somehow, magically, it was 2011. Looks like I know what one of my resolutions should be. Find some way to organize mountains of digital photographs into one place.

The Inspired Artist (Ahem…that is supposed to be me…) picked up a paint brush a total of three times last year. She posted on this blog exactly ONE time.  Her garden was a collection of rambling roses, self-seeding annuals and hardy perennials who refused to give up on her and weeds that were faster then her once every couple of weeks attempts at yanking them out of the ground. The only time she took her guitar out of it’s case was to tune it once and put it back in.

SIGH….

I could beat myself up over those things. But I’m not going to. The thing is, that despite my best laid plans, dreams and aspirations at the beginning of last year,there was no way I was going to keep up with all of the lofty goals I had created on my New Year’s Dream List last year. But I got to a lot of them. And besides, I am practicing the art of imperfection. I find I get a lot more done and have a lot more fun doing it if I focus on what I do and not what I didn’t do.

Here is what I DID do in 2010.

Focused on a year of learning the basics of my new camera, taking thousands of pictures and documenting all of the events of our fun year.

Wrote a paranormal fantasy adventure romance novel, Loyalties, with my business partner, Deb Dorchak and published it through Blue Sun Studio, inc. It is currently available at Amazon.com and will be available in a growing number of places shortly.

Partnered with my husband to write an original drama, which we then performed, at Church for Reformation Sunday.

Directed the third annual performance  of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the first week of December.

Formed a new corporation and had a very successful first year of business at Blue Sun Studios, inc.

Won the War against Clutter and kicked out an entire dumpster of …excuse me…CRAP…out of our house this summer with the help of our family.

Also won the War against Rabbits this summer by building- (This one was mostly my husband) a fenced in Vegetable garden complete with cute little door that kept those buggers out and provided us with delectable veggies well into the third frost.

Went on a spectacular Michigan week long, beach-side family vacation in July with John and the kids and extended family.

Went on the best ever anniversary camping trip to Door County, Wisconsin with my wonderful husband John and spent the entire time trying out great recipes in this old, old, old Dutch Oven that I fell in love with and almost loved more than him…..

Went on a autumn retreat to Asheville, N. Carolina were I received great mentoring from my coach, Christine Kane, and came away with new knowledge, clarity and vision for the new year to come.

And those are only a few of the highlights. The day to day parties and family stuff, that’s always worth writing about.

I’m tempted to say, “My oh my…where did the months fly off to?” But when I look at my list, I can see clearly where they went.

The Inspired Artist has been writing and taking pictures. Oh- and cooking. I have hundreds of pictures of new recipes, some good- some, that are…well, we can call them experiments and just move on. I won’t tell you what my kids called them. I’d like to think of my cooking as art…just don’t ask my kidst, they would rather have McDonalds. But what do they know, they have yet to even begin to fully explore the vast ways that life can become artistic.

What lies ahead for the Inspired Artist in 2011

Our first book in the series, Bonds of Blood and Spirit, Loyalties, now available on Kindle, is coming out in hard copy any time now. In fact, I am spending my days waiting by the mailbox for my copy. Then we start the challenging process of marketing and selling. That may not sound artistic to some, but there is not much that takes more inspiration than the skills of marketing, advertising and promoting.  The world of sales writing and marketing is a creative beast at best! I know I will be spending plenty of time here this year. But not to worry, sales and marketing is where I got my start in business back when my family first started our own business and I’ve never shut up since. It will all be good.

Book two in the series, Uncivil Wars is being written as we speak. Deb and I carve out sacred time every week from January to May to write the novels. The rest of the year is spent in editing and formating and creating the fine details of the next story. This story has already written itself through part one and is so clear to both of us I’ll be surprised if we don’t beat our four month time line of the last book. This one is a movie playing in my head already. It just may pick up the pen and write itself if we don’t get to it!

Photography improvements– it’s time to go to stage two. I’ve spent a year clicking away and teaching myself everything I can on my own. Me and my camera have just celebrated our one year anniversary together and we are ready for something new in our relationship. I am looking forward to this being the year I really kick up the game. I want to master some key Photoshop skills, some editing tricks and learn some advance photo shooting tips. Oh- yeah, and then there is that storage problem. I need to find a good system for keeping all my photos in one reachable place.

Writing, writing, writing... There is so much more to my writing besides the novels. Amazingly, they take up only a small disciplined part of the week. the rest of the time is spent coaching clients on their writing projects, writing plays and smaller scripts and stories, writing articles and blog posts for various websites and editing and reviewing other content and writing.  Writing has began to take up a growing number of hours in my day. And I can asure you- I have NO complaints about that.

Directing- The theater group is growing. This year I expect it to grow even larger with more theater meetings, workshops, dramas and opportunities for participation in a lot of different ways for the members of the Beginnings Drama Team.  John and I have already put our heads together to start picking out dramas for the Sunday ones and are looking for a great script for Good Friday.

Art– In all of its glorious forms. I really want to pick up that paint brush this year. The question is what kind of paint do I want to put on it after I’ve picked it up? I’ve been focusing on watercolor while the kids were little, less mess, no smell…but now my heart is yearning for bolder strokes, brighter color, richer tones…and I am feeling the pull back to oils and acrylics. Maybe I’ll take a class and brush up. No pun intended there…  I’m also getting the feeling that I’d like to go back to practicing making jewelry again. Don’t hold your breath on this one. I might just go lie down til the feeling passes, but it’s there. For the moment anyhow.

Gardening. So help me lord, if I have one more year with a weed garden, I’ll spit. That’s all I’m going to say for now. But seriously. I have to spend more time in the garden this year. It’s embarrassing.

So, unless I get too busy living life instead of posting about it, I’ll use these pages as an Inspired Artist Journal to keep track of the artistic endeavors of the year.

Welcome to my artist’s playground.  Please, I’d love it if you leave your thoughts and comments and share what you plan to do in 2011. Hopefully together, we will both be around to play here this year!

The Perils of Perfectionism

self improvement

 

On the blank canvas I saw a majestic, proud Eagle, wings outspread in magnificence glory. Perched on his chosen spot, his view spanned the countryside, searching high and low, king of the skies. In my mind he was perfect. He inspired awe to look at, and made me feel excited as I gathered my brushes and paint. I could see the colors that I would choose. Just the right blues, the cool toned and the warm toned browns, the Payne’s Gray for blending. I mixed and I worked, the large sweeping strokes, the tiny painstaking touches.

I worked for hours. I came back day after day. I put him aside. I worked on trouble spots that didn’t match the image in my mind.

I brought him to California on vacation hoping the ocean air would inspire the majesty I needed to flow through my fingers and out of the brush. I finished it sitting in the warm California sun.

I brought him home and sat him on my art desk. And left him there. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush since.

He isn’t the Eagle of my mind. When I look at him, I see the flaws, the imperfections. The way the blues and the browns don’t flow together properly. The way the wings on one side are much sharper than the other. The list of flaws is long. You don’t need to hear them all. I abandoned him. Worse then that, I abandoned myself. The disappointment ran deep and I just lost the momentum to paint. I wasn’t in the mood. I ran out of time. Something else- writing- was giving me more positive feedback so I drifted over there. It was nicer there.

I hadn’t realized I had done it. Sometimes we do these things to ourselves and it isn’t a conscious gesture. We don’t have an outward temper tantrum and throw the painting down and say, “That’s it, I hate my Eagle, and I’m never painting again!”  We just drift. Just suffer a little disappointment in something and drift slowly, like a gentle current in the opposite direction. Then one day we look around and notice we are far away. Sometimes it’s a hobby. One day we are a painter or dancer or runner, and then it has been months or years since we picked up a brush, or danced or ran. Sometimes it’s a relationship or job. We just begin to move away. We don’t even remember why.

The other day a friend e-mailed me a picture of a cat. I needed it for a story line I was writing on Escaping Reality. The expression on the cat’s face caught my interest and I started drawing his face. Then a pen and Ink. Then the idea of doing a pen and ink watercolor popped into my mind and I suddenly realized I hadn’t picked up a paint brush in over a month. I couldn’t think of a single reason why not. I love to paint! I have plenty of time to paint. It’s summer! The perfect time to relax with brush in hand!  Only then did I think of the Eagle. Only then did I realize I had been a victim of the perfectionism drift.

I had high expectations of that Eagle. I had a perfect vision of how he was going to look in my mind. When my ability didn’t match up to that vision, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, or just didn’t at that time, cut myself any slack. I decided on some level that I’m just not a very good painter anyway so what’s the point. I’m obviously not very good at painting Eagles.

All because my Eagle wasn’t perfect.

Well…you all can tell it’s an eagle right? It’s not like I’m expecting someone to buy it. I just paint for the fun of it, for relaxation, for a hobby, so why was I acting like I suddenly was UNWORTHY of a hobby if I couldn’t do it PERFECTLY???

Hello, my name is Wendi and I am a recovering perfectionist.

This is an issue I have battled with over the years my entire life. Getting perfect grades in school, being the *perfect* friend, the *perfect* daughter, the *perfect* wife, then the pendulum would swing to the other side of “forget it; If I can’t do it perfectly, I’m not doing it AT ALL. I QUIT.” You would know that if you looked at my desk. It is either perfectly spotless or it is a mess. When it is spotless, I won’t let someone move even a PAPERCLIP on it. Because once it’s messy again, I just give up, until the next time I clean it. Then it starts all over again.

It doesn’t make me proud to tell you that. In my defense, I will share that I have come a long way up this hill. The journey has been paved with many scars and battle wounds. Many of you have heard me say that I am a two time high school drop out. What I might not have mentioned is that I was on the Honor Roll. Both times. YEP…I’ve had a long hard climb learning how NOT to quit, how not to have to live the perfect life. How there is no such thing. I’ll say this, making a million mistakes and failing a lot does help you to get over yourself. It’s one cure for being a perfectionist. Not the easiest way. But it is a cure!

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly
~Robert Kennedy

So when I catch myself still doing things like quitting on my painting for not having a perfect Eagle, or quit running because I’m getting discouraged for being so slow, or get frustrated because it’s summer and I can’t seem to keep the house as clean with all these kids around and my schedule isn’t working out quite the way I thought it would or the vision I had of how this summer was going to be the very best one ever or that there wasn’t going to be A SINGLE WEED IN THE GARDEN OVER MY DEAD BODY OR ELSE…

I just have to sit back and take a deep breath.

I’m not perfect and I can’t quit. I can’t let the pendulum swing to either side. I have to take each day as it comes and know that it’s good enough. The house isn’t perfect. The kids aren’t perfect. My art isn’t perfect and my life isn’t perfect. But it’s good enough. As long as I keep on going, one step at a time, being realistic and doing my best and never give up, I have a perfectly good chance of being very successful at whatever I do. Here is the secret it has taken me most of my life to learn. I am more than happy to share it with you here.

Persistence is better then Perfection.

It’s that simple…and that hard.

 

Before the Play is Done

Attitude of Gratitude, leaving a legacy, self improvement, The creative urge, The Inspired Life

Epigram

MY soul, sit thou a patient looker-on;
Judge not the play before the play is done:
Her plot hath many changes; every day
Speaks a new day; the last act crowns the play.

Frances Quarles

 

From the first moment that I met Margaret, I was blown away. It was my first day of watercolor class in college and I was anxious, frightened and fidgeting with all of my shiny new supplies while waiting for students and the teacher to arrive. One glance around the room had already told me that I was in over my head, that there was much more talent surrounding me than I had bargained for. The class was a combination class. Newbies like me jumped in at the beginning and tried to keep up as more accomplished artists painted around them. The theory was that by observing others, there would be more growth. Yeah right, I was going to look like a preschooler with finger-paint.

I began re-packing my things. With five minutes to spare, I figured I could withdraw from the class, no harm done and go sign up at the local park district, where I belonged, before anyone had even realized I was in the room.

Then she burst in.

She was tall, and rim-rod straight, with perfect posture that a soldier would pay good money for. She pulled behind her a cart with three large cases filled, presumably, with art supplies and canvases. “Good MORNING everybody,” she boomed in a huge strong voice. “IT is a BeaUTiful day.” she marched over to a table and bustling about in a flurry of energy, began unpacking everything from the cases.

I sat.

I tried to keep my mouth from hanging open.

Margaret’s hair was silver-gray, piled on to the very top of her head, wound in a long braided bun. Her face wore the road map of many years and many troubles, with lines upon lines intersecting with each other. My brain struggled to keep up with the information it was receiving. The hair, the wrinkles, the thin blue skin with whispers of veins running through it, all spoke of a woman at the end of her life. She had to be in her nineties. But the voice, the posture, the energy, the vibrancy which radiated out of her being screamed No way. This is youth, not age, she can’t be as old as she looks.

I was wrong. She was 93 years old.

The story of Margaret unfolded bit by bit that semester. I learned more about the illusion of age then I did about how to be a great painter in those 16 weeks. And I was grateful for the lesson.  Margaret was an amazing artist. What she could do with a little brush and pots of paint was astounding. Her paintings were hanging in galleries and selling for $4000.00 each for an original. She came to paint in class with us just for the fun of being around people. She had never even picked up a paintbrush until her late 70’s after her beloved husband had passed away. Then with her children grown and no one at home, she decided to go to college and get a degree. A random art class had led to painting and she never stopped.

I asked her what her secret to long life was.

“Never stop learning” she said. “Keep trying something new. You have to make mistakes and figure things out. Oh, and be stubborn. I’m very stubborn. Oh..and don’t forget to walk. I walk every day.” Margaret was big on walking. Every day, she hauled in twice as much stuff as the rest of us. She parked at the far end of the parking lot and walked briskly to the room. She had two big dogs at home that she claimed to walk every day after her morning meditations.

If you asked her if she wanted help with something, you could expect to get glared at. She may have been a sweet, old lady, but she was unwaveringly independent. She didn’t believe in being beholden to anyone, for anything. She was proud, strong and fiercely young at heart.

I lost contact with Margaret after that semester. I finished the class and moved on with my life. Margaret stayed in school for another 4 years, painting in that same room and making a decent living from selling her art. I was saddened to open the local newspaper one morning to see the headline begin with “Oldest College Student has Died…” with a picture of Margaret and one of my personal favorite paintings on the front page.  She had still been in school at 97 years old.

Next week, I will turn 48. As I begin the march up the “Over the Hill”, and the second act of my life’s “play,” I am starting to get very excited. The teasing about fifty looming in the near future has begun, but it means nothing to me. When I think of Margaret, I feel like a baby bird barely sprouting wings. There is a very long list written down on my “things I want to do while I’m still breathing” list and I’m adding new ones all the time. Before the final curtian comes down in my final act, there is much I want to do, much I want to see.

I feel like a kid at the Baskin and Robbins Ice cream store and I want to try all 31 flavors.  I don’t want to miss anything. I want to know that I have tasted every drop, inhaled every fragrance, and touched every soft and wooly item. Lord, let me experience all that Life has to offer and not miss it in my daily round. Don’t let me wander through life unaware.

Never Stop Learning… Margaret’s secret to a long life. Good advice, and I haven’t forgotten it. All the world is a beautiful school with classrooms in every corner, just waiting to teach anything we are willing to learn, as long as we are willing to listen, down to the last day. We can start over at any time, re-write our scripts, begin a new scene, maybe even come up with a surprise ending.

It’s never too late if you’re breathing. What do you want to know? What do you want to do?  How are you going to get there?