My One Word

"Start," ©2014, 2.5" x 3.5", Collage and monoprint There's a New Year's practice that I've often read about on various blogs: choosing one word to guide one's actions for the coming year.

I'd forgotten about it though, until I read Alyson Stanfield's post this morning entitled "Clarity."

I skimmed the article and while walking down the halls of the hospital where I work, I began to internally audition my own lettered candidates.

I tried out various words; self confident, aware, determined, acceptance, safe, secure, peaceful.

I noticed different body sensations. Safe and secure felt contracting (although they are not necessarily so). Self confident felt a bit too other-oriented and acceptance--well, I spend a lot of time with that already!

I checked back with Alyson's post and came across this line: Your word of the year should inspire and motivate you. It provides focus without limiting you.

That provided the 'Goldilocks' moment and the 'just right' word popped into my mind: FAITH.

Faith covers it all. Faith in my self, faith in my art making, faith in my practice of art therapy. Also faith in my ability to be present as I encounter the uncharted territory of 2014.

How about you? Do you have a word or intention or new practice you're beginning? I'd love to hear about it.

Postscript: Many thank to Gretchen Miller. The word "START" in the collage comes from one of her revo'lution pieces, which she shared as a PDF for readers of her blog, Creativity in Motion.

Is it Failure or Seasons of the Creative Process?

Recently there have been a number of blog posts, books and articles on the subject of failure. One such thread began with a question by artist Lisa Call who asked Artbiz coach, Alyson Stanfield:

Something Touched Me, ©2003, 11" x 14," Acrylic, collage, colored pencil on paper

“Is failure in your art practice something to be embraced, managed, or forgotten?”

Alyson answered in a follow up post, saying “The only failure is not trying your best.”

Lisa responded with a blog post, Failure Sucks. What happens, she asks, when despite all your best efforts (and perhaps skillful denials), you just get derailed?

"...In my opinion, the interesting part of the failure question: what do you do in between?"

All this talk about failure got me thinking. To a certain extent there are are flops that are best treated by brushing the dirt off your pants and getting back on the proverbial horse.

But often, things just die on the vine. Where does that fit into a culture obsessed with saving time; one that chops time into smaller and smaller bits, allowing us to leap from act to act and achievement to achievement without respecting the time it takes to pass through the stages of the creative process.

We forget to think about the seasons of the earth. There is no way to immediately replace a failed crop of wheat or corn, almonds or oranges. Farmers have to clear their fields, let the soil regenerate and wait for the next planting season.

When a tree drops it's leaves, it doesn't immediately sprout new ones, yet the buds are already in place for when the right time comes. Spring, summer, fall and winter; birth and rebirth, growth, harvest and hibernation.

The creative process is no different. There is incubation, growth and fruition of an idea. And when it doesn't work, sigh, the process needs to begin again. And you wait while an idea, the wave, builds. The time it takes to mature; that's the mystery; the awe inspiring and at the same time totally frustrating part, because we don't know how long it will take or what will result.

Lisa asked what do we do in between? Even though the idea may not have hit the shore, I think we can be skillful. We can cultivate a mindset, a state of mind that invites the ideas in.

The October, 2013, Atlantic article, Losing is the New Winning notes “Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?” asks the Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, in which she argues that a willingness to court failure can be a precursor to growth.

I'm curious. How do you face failure--or do you call it that? What do you do when something you've worked on for some time crashes to the ground?