i have so much to say about squam. my heart is bursting with words, thoughts, and pounding beats. i really want to tell the story of it all right here in this post but today words are failing me the way they do when we are still processing big big life moments. so, i thought i’d post my little piece/talk/story from thursday evening (mati and i each spoke seperately – the following is my little diddy. i hope mati also posts hers as it was so charming and sweet and provided some hearty chuckles. after we spoke, we led an inspiring panel discussion with the teachers. the evening also involved surprise hope notes for each person in the audience and a couple giveaways of my book – so much fun!). mati and i were so nervous to do this, but we did it and walked away feeling like we released something inside of us that needed to be released, that it deserved to be seen. total magic. for those of you who were there, i so hope you enjoyed it and that you couldn’t see my legs and hands and heart shaking like leaves 🙂
i’d like to start my story by taking a quick poll. how many of you arrived at squam yesterday with worries and questions of “am i creative enough to be here?”, “will i meet anyone and where and with whom will i sit at lunchtime?” how about a show of hands for those of you who worried and wondered if your fellow blogger friends would accept and adore you in real life?”
i just want to say that you are not alone. these are gremlins and insecurities we all share no matter who we are or where we stand in our creative journeys. in fact, i have very very clear memories of being scared to death in the weeks leading up to artfest in 2006. for those of you who are unfamiliar with artfest, it’s an art retreat similar to squam, but held in washington state each year. i attended artfest two years ago before i dared to claim that i was an artist. before i knew what creative inspiration felt like. before i started painting. and way before i launched my website and creative business. i was just a girl working an uninteresting 9-5 day job with a few creative longings tugging on my heart sleeves. just as i suspect many of you did prior to coming here, i hadn’t a clue what to expect. i had feelings quite similar to the first day of 7th grade – i worried about not knowing a single soul and whether or not my roommates and i would click. i worried, too, that i wouldn’t be creative enough for an art retreat. afterall, i had no idea how use art supplies with names like “gel medium” and “gesso.” in essence, i was a nervous wreck.
but guess what happened once i arrived? even with all the worries and fears and gremlins, i found my place. i explored. i got inspired. i made friends. i embraced my creative beginnings and off i went, soaring into the blissful experience that was finally finding my passion and community. we’re doing it here at squam, too. each of you are here because, like me, you felt a creative longing tugging on your heart, a small or perhaps large whisper calling you to take notice. i applaud you for listening to it, paying attention to it, and for arriving here, even with all the fears and doubts.
the truth is is that these creative gatherings can be some of the most affirming and important experiences of our lives. not only do we find like minded soul sisters + brothers inside a funky, unique creative community, but our creative spirits soar on the permission we’ve given it to play and learn and grow. i bet for many of you this experience has already dusted off your creative wings. i bet you are already settling into new friendships, new inspiration, new curiosity. my sincere hope is that no matter where you are in your creative journey, that you are catching a glimpse of your creative potential and possibility. we can all take flight into new beginnings and ideas and perspectives no matter who we are, how old we are, or what we do for a living. we are ALL creative beings with great possibility – i know it inside my heart.
speaking of taking flight, i want to share a quick story with you that happened on the plane ride over to squam. my friend andrea and i were in our seats chatting up a storm when the plane was on the runway getting ready to take off. as the plane’s engine revved up i began to get nervous the way i always do when we’re about to take off. to help calm my nerves and distract myself i began to purposely chat even more with andrea. but all of the sudden, she interrupts my chatter and says “oh wait a second and hold that thought because i love this part.” she then faced forward in her seat, looked out the plane window with a wide grin on her face, and genuinely enjoyed the experience of taking flight. meanwhile, i held my breath, closed my eyes, and prayed my way through take off. i mention this story because the same is true in our creative journeys. some of arrive at the point of take off with sincere enthusiasm and a sense of adventure. and some of us arrive exhausted by the thought of it with fears and doubts. either way, we are all meant for the journey of taking flight into the lives we’ve always wanted and the reward is the same: we all soar.
i arrived home from artfest two years ago with an inspiration i hadn’t known before. and although i arrived home to the same demands, day job, and chores, it seemed my entire life had changed. my heart felt lighter. my joy was bigger. and i too was beginning to catch a glimpse of my creative possibility. before artfest, i would have never in a million years considered the possibility that i was an artist, but after artfest, my inner artist was ready to take the lead. and so, with a child’s curiosity, i gave myself permission to play. to come home after work and make gluey messes on the dining room table without the pressure to clean it up before going to bed. to create collages on the weekends for the sake of learning and having fun. to experiment more with painting which was what my whispers were really calling me to do.
i want to encourage all of you to keep your creative curiosity alive when you get home from squam. i have a feeling each of you will arrive home like i did two years ago with inspiration overload and with deep and wide sight of your creative bliss. hold on tight to that inspiration and curiosity. i strongly believe that if we try to keep the mind of a beginner, even when we think we know what we’re doing, then our creative lives will unfold all around us even inside the daily demands of our day jobs, carpools, and huge to-do lists.
as the months went by after artfest, my creative voice grew stronger and i considered perhaps opening an online shop and selling my work. this is the part where some pretty heavy fears kicked in. they sounded like this: what if no one bought anything? what if i wasn’t good enough. what if everyone could see that i wasn’t as talented as so-and-so? could i handle the rejection? sound familiar? what i learned in all of that self questioning was this: that i would have to very bravely identify each and every fear, face its direction, and then make one heartfelt committed decision to say yes to my creative dreams in spite of all of those fears. that i would have to start taking small, deliberate steps in the direction of my dreams even with the fears chiming in from time to time. they would be become travel companions along they way – sometimes quiet and sometimes quite chatty. either way, the journey would have to be forward.
once we make our decision, whatever it may be, we can begin to take small steps toward the life we envision for ourselves. for me these tiny steps meant putting artwork up for sale just to see what would happen. it meant submitting applications to juried artfairs with a hopeful heart even if i had no idea what i was doing. it meant buying a fancy printer and scanner and offering prints. it meant slowly learning how to build a website. it meant submitting article ideas to my favorite magazines just to see if they would call back.
perhaps for you, your tiny steps have nothing to do with selling your work. perhaps it finally getting started on that idea you’ve had tucked away for months. or perhaps it’s finally listening to the whispers that call to you to paint, or write, or knit. perhaps it’s doing what you’ve already done: signing up for squam and coming here despite your fears trying to persuade you otherwise! the point is is that action comes in all different sizes for each of us. either way, soon you’ll be leaping your way from one small step ot the next until you find yourself right where you want to be: in the middle of a creative life you’ve always wanted.
surprisingly, i discovered that making the decision to go for it coupled with small steps brought big rewards, including licensing deals, authoring several articles for my favorite magazine, and even authoring a book for my favorite publisher. my creative business eventually grew to a point where i no longer financially relied on my day job. but even more than any of those things, the truest reward has been the inner joy that seemed to permeate my entire life once i acknowledged my creativity and gave it a voice. none of this is to say that there haven’t been some rocky ups and downs – because every journey comes with its fair share of inevitable ebbs and flows. but i found that my spirit still soared on the discovery of my very own possibility.
the same is possible for you, whatever your creative dreams may be. may you hold these dreams and your curiosity close to your chest. may you always remember squam and what it brought into your life. and may you continue to soar into your creative life with your very own set of wings.
in closing, i’d like to read the very last paragraph of my new book, Taking Flight: whether you’re just embarking on your creative journey, or have been on it for years, i wish for you this: that you embrace every ebb and flow. that you feel the full breath of inspiration and that it takes you places you won’t ever want to leave. that you remember all that you’ve learned here [at squam]: to listen to the whispers that are calling you to take notice. to face the direction of your fears and act anyway. to embrace the funky and unique community that has been waiting for you. to honor all that you were and all that you’re becoming. to reveal your truth along the way, even when it hurts. and lastly, that you embrace the journey, complete with all the uncertainties along the way. it will undoubtedly lead you back to the best parts of yourself. your creativity is your soul rising, your spirit taking flight. go now. and don’t look back.