Monday, February 9, 2009

Secret #5 - Committing to Self-Focus

I skipped blogging on Secret 4, it seems. By the time I had time to, Secret 5 was posted with this week’s interview and many in the 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women group had already begun to shower responses upon the 12 Secrets page. So I guess I’ll just chalk up Secret #4 to ‘present – just observing’ in my attendance log, except to say that in my own creative cycle I think I must be pregnant with twin elephants and I’m ‘expecting’ something very BIG when it finally comes time for labor and delivery.

So, it’s onward through that Second Gateway – Mastering Your Challenges As A Creative Woman (according to the structure of McMeekin’s book) and Secret #5, Committing to Self-Focus. Whew! That’s a biggie, isn’t it?

Skipping around through what some have already posted in their blogs I see we have some varying views on this one. I was a trifle offended at the beginning of the chapter by the ‘famous novelist’ whose comment was included to say she didn’t believe in contributing to anything gender separatist. Lol Well, good for her if the utopia she sees exists in her realm but in my real world experience there are differences in how all women’s-vs-men’s work – both standard for paycheck and creative - is viewed and fostered and even among women between those who are single, married/attached and those with and without children.

“Hip, hip, hurray!” I say for those who don’t find focus a ‘challenge’, who get encouragement and respect from significant others in their lives and don’t feel compelled to squeeze their creative pursuits into itty bitty cracks and niches of time and energy to ‘indulge’ them, who don’t have to deal with guilt or apologize for inadequacies elsewhere when their creative work is given priority.

For years in my marriage I felt resentful preparing for ‘art and craft’ shows I’d juried into – struggling to produce quality product to be noticed amongst the competition for the consumer dollar. My husband and children refused to cooperate/recognize/acknowledge what I was doing was even ‘work’ since it stemmed from something they knew I enjoyed. My ‘studio’ was a 7X9 bedroom I used to call ‘The Cell’ because it was barely bigger than a jail cell, in fact I KNOW there are bigger cells in some jails! The fact I was EVER able to produce anything lovely out of there amazed me because since it was MY space every stray object no one else in the house knew what to do with at anytime or anything broken or needing my attention in anyone else’s opinion either got dumped on my floor so I had to crawl over it to get to my sewing machine/work table or on my work surface to be sure to be noticed by me. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

I remember once having been invited to exhibit a quilt at a prestigious show (other quilters in that show then now have books/patterns and large $ prize winning quilts to their credit) and working feverishly up against a deadline to complete hand quilting it, doubting I’d be able to get ANY sleep at all the week preceding the deadline. I’d already arranged with the show curator to drop it off directly to her home, knowing I couldn’t possibly make the day/time for the general check in. Two days before my absolute down to the wire deadline, with about 4 days worth of work yet to go, two of my three school-age children come home with that dreaded school nurse note saying they have head lice and giving the full drill of what must be done before they can come back to school. Ummmmmm…let’s see – do you think their father, who couldn’t possibly finish quilting my quilt would step up and take care of the children’s hair/scalp? Or even run to the drug store for the needed shampoo treatment? I think that was a Tuesday, the quilt was due to the curator on Thursday evening. So I kept the kids home, quilted like a mad woman, went out to deliver it sleeved in a fresh pillow case – the very last one received for hanging and came home, kids sound asleep in their beds. The next day I get a home visit from the school nurse wondering why my kids weren’t de-liced yet and back in school. AAAAAAAARGH! You should have seen HER face when the children ‘round my knees at the door tell her I was quilting and their heads would have to wait until the weekend. You can, I’m sure, imagine the humiliating lecture that followed from the school nurse and I was totally without words to counter.

At the same time though, back in those days I used to jokingly say that creative pursuits were what kept me sane and prevented domestic violence and child abuse. The thrill of seeing the work of my hands produce something from nothing – a unique thing of beauty from rags/flat cloth and string – was/is like nothing else on a scale of pleasure and delight. Like any other pleasure addict nothing could persuade me to give up my drug of choice.

It’s the same when I’ve produced something well written also. I’ll often go back and reread with delight something as mundane as a reference letter written for one of my daughter’s friends in application for consideration for scholarship awards or the strong resume I beefed up for a friend of mine. Recently I unearthed a term paper for a long ago class at a Bible College and was tickled pink to reread those sentences/paragraphs marked with the instructor’s comments noting what a pleasure my paper had been for her to read. Never mind I never finished that curriculum or earned the certificate of graduation. I have proof, in writing, I’m capable of producing a number of pages of text someone else finds pleasurable to read!

And when I’m thrilled and delighted, it’s enough to keep at it. It feeds my soul for the work of my hands to produce beauty and pleasure. I don’t think I’ll ever truly have my fill and as long as I hunger and thirst for that ‘food’, somehow I’ll find a way to focus on attaining it. Thankfully, I don’t still have to fight to pursue it, but I would.


  1. wow - I relate so much to that story - whenever there is a deadline, it seems that's when the family has the crisis - bravo to you for getting through it, and for sticking to your dream. Feeding the soul is essential, and although my family, like yours, doesn't always understand this, slowly and painfully they seem to be learning creative work is essential to my mental health. . . . it takes a long time to learn this - sounds like you are well on the way!

  2. That was an awesome story. That school nurse sounds like she was in need of some self focused time if she didn't understand what you were doing.

    I love your dedication to your creative work. You rock!

  3. i can't really relate to having to squeeze the time in since i am one of those lucky ones who has oodles of support from my spouse and daughter BUT i can so relate to creativity being essential to mental health. i truly believe that my art has helped me stay sane during the last few years of my marriage which have been very difficult. and i can also relate to the lice story!!! i just finished doing the second treatment on my daughter for the second time around this year. sigh...

  4. Okay, your story made me laugh out loud! Too funny!! Here's to dedication...and sanity! May all your days be beautiFULL. :)

    You're such a dear heart--thank you for your kind support and for wading through my whining. hehe!

    Much Joy, Many Blissings~*