“Learning never exhausts the mind.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci
It boggles my mind sometimes—that creating is breathing is life is who we are. At our core. When no one is watching. When it’s just us and we’re working at our craft because we can’t stop and we don’t care what anyone else thinks.
I’ve been living creatively, making a life of it, teaching it, as a professional for going on fifteen years.
Which is a long-winded allusion to that fact that I published my first novel in October, 2004.
Since then—twenty-seven novels and counting—I’ve given myself over entirely to the art of being exactly who and what I was in the beginning…
A kid who saw and existed in my own reality so entirely, so often, so blatantly not caring if anyone noticed, my father drilled it into me that my natural facility with math (not music or words or the emotional connection I intuitively seemed to forge with every person, creature and flower I encountered) was my one true path.
Because talent and soaring with your dreams always ends in disappointment. And where will you be then, after the crash, when no one’s there to support you? Be afraid of who you are, where that will take you, and what drives you to be uniquely different.
Compete to give people what they tell you they want—not the best of what you are.
Shed the you that people don’t even realize is possible, until you show them and inspire them and excite them to create as well. That you is a scary place, a learn it all the hard way, HAVE TO keep believing in yourself place, a magic that feeds on you and you alone. And are you really good enough to keep that going? I mean, REALLY good enough? Why take that chance… Go for the sure thing instead.
I should get the grades and the scholarships and the job and the salary and the money and all the things my father sacrificed because he went for what he wanted, or thought he wanted (who really knows, he’s been gone for most of my life), only he gave up on it prematurely, and ended up settling for the rest of his short life for whatever he could cobble together from the wreckage.
And he wasn’t wrong. In a way, his advice was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
I needed to learn “real world” skills in order to make my dreams of creating come true. The discipline, the hours and hours and hours of non-stop, demanding work. The realization that I could do anything, learn anything, become anything I wanted, as long as I was willing to learn and learn some more and never, ever, stop learning.
I regret sometimes, that he didn’t live long enough to see me apply that to my second and third careers—both as a creative artist.
I tell writers all the time (and soon will be sharing my philosophy with visual artists) that the attention to analytical detail required to improve on what you’re instinctively gifted at creating can be exhausting.
Not that you HAVE to improve on anything. What you capture, write, create is yours, and if you’re satisfied with it, then you’re good.
If you want to get better at your craft, though… You’re going to have to learn, and learning means work, and REALLY learning means a lot of work.
Art is about you. How others experience your art is about you. What you show, don’t show, add, take away, enhance, shadow…
Whether your art is words or notes or about motion or a moment in time, you decide where you go with your inspiration and innate vision.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that you can’t be as good as someone else, because they seem more naturally talented than you. Things are rarely ever what they seem, especially when we’re trying to give ourselves an easy out.
Don’t be afraid. Don’t quit. Don’t sacrifice your dream because it’s too hard, or someone says you should, or you’re just never going to be good enough, not if it’s going to take this long and be this hard and mean risking so much.
Work. Create. Become what you want. And then become more.
The world needs to see that. It needs to see that from you. YOU need to see that.
But first, get your head around being willing to learn, and learn the hard way, just how much your leap of faith will require of you before it becomes reality.
I’ve shared six images in this post. All, with the exception of a couple of crops, very similar to the original capture. Nothing added, nothing removed. Looking at my time stamps, they represent a hour and a half of post processing—of images I shot last June.
The end result is what I saw as I shot on the median of a North Georgia mountain highway, surrounded by the DOT’s wildflower project. The shapes and curves and the sea of color and light and warmth and pattern. Now, in the midst of winter, I get to see that vision bloom to life. I get to coax it out of the shadows to play. I get to share it. Is it tack sharp throughout? No. Is it a “perfect” image? No. Do I care or worry if others will think it’s perfect? No. Does it make you feel summer, breathe it, dream of it, want it again…? I really, really hope so. This morning I was determined to draw that emotion out of my RAW image.
Luckily, in the last seven months I’ve invested heavily in learning the ins and outs of intermediate post-processing, using Photoshop, Nik software and Topaz.
Because details matter, even in art, especially in art, and I’m a geeky girl who loves details. AND art. And, oh, learning.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that I believe our only true job on this planet is to learn how to do what we love to the best of our ability.
Join me, won’t you?