Posts Tagged: art

Five Inspirational Women

2016 has been a rough year for celebrities. We’ve lost so many. Additionally, I recently lost my beloved grandmother. It got me thinking about women who have shaped me into the person I am today. First, let me say I love women who are the first in their field – those who break out of the mold that they are forced into. Women who dare to go where no woman has gone before are truly inspirational. That’s where I chose to start my list of women that I find inspirational. I originally called this the “Top 5,” but I’m not sure that I can truly quantify a top 5. So, here are my thoughts on women I look up to.

Hurston-Zora-Neale-LOC 2Zora Neale Hurston. Who is that, you might ask? Ms. Hurston was an African-American woman who came to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance. I first discovered her work while taking an African-American Literature class in college. We had to read her book Their Eyes were Watching God, and I thought it was amazing. I read the book in several other courses after that first time, and it had no less of an impact with each re-read. Ms. Hurston detailed the struggle of a black woman in the south who overcame several obstacles, but it was so much more than that. She wrote at a time when there wasn’t a platform for African-American women, or their works of art. In fact, she is said to have died penniless. I’d like to think that she knows of her impact on the world of literature once her books were rediscovered.

earhart 2Amelia Earhart. Have you ever wondered how many times she was told that a woman couldn’t fly? Think about it. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928 – just 8 short years after women were given the right to vote! I’ve spent a lot of time imagining her conversations with people who doubted her or tried to convince her that she couldn’t achieve her dreams. I’m glad she proved them wrong!

 

Summitt 2Pat Summitt. Her death at the end of June is really what started me thinking about this blog post. I wrote a paper on her for my Master’s program and discovered how inspiring she was. The winningest coach in basketball history – men OR women! Think about that!! I’m a HUGE basketball fan – as any of you who followed me on Twitter during March Madness know. I was born and bred on UK Basketball – it’s practically a religion down here. Though I was never a UT fan, Pat Summitt stood out. She represented grace, strength, power, humility, eloquence, and so much more. Her attitude was inspiring, both on and off the court. Google her – some of her more popular quotes will bring tears to your eyes.

 

Force 2Marie Force. Of course I couldn’t go without listing the one person who has made self-publishing into an art form. This woman went from a working mom and wife to an author who has published 50 books! She has established her own business, helped other authors begin to achieve their dreams, and still manages to keep in touch with her fans. I am exactly 10 years behind her in this adventure, and I hope when I reach the mark she is at now, I have a quarter of her success, and 100% of her character.

 

C Mellon 2Connie Mellon – my mother. I know, I know…she isn’t famous… But what she has in common with all of the women above is her support. I am sure that there was one person who supported each and every one of the women I listed in #1-4. I’ve read that Earhart’s husband published a book lavishing praise on his wife after her death. Pat Summitt had a family, both related by blood and by sport, that stood beside her during her final years. Marie Force has often talked about the support she receives from her family – namely her husband and father. For me, that support has come from my mother. She never fails to encourage my dream or to believe that it’s possible (p.s. I should say that if this was a list that included men, my father would be on it, too!).

My lesson to you by including my mother is that word do mean something. Look around at the people you love – support their dreams. What would have happened if Amelia had never taken off the first time? Or if Pat had never accepted a job as head coach? Women are making strides to accomplish their dreams. There aren’t many fields that haven’t felt the impact women bring to the table. Now, it’s time to build higher – go further –dream bigger.

Three Years and Counting…

My friend, Michelle, and I sat down three years ago and had a conversation about where we wanted to go with our careers. Both of us were in jobs that didn’t really call to us. They paid the bills and paid the bills and provided health benefits – you know, the things people want and need to feel secure. But the long-term prospects for those jobs just weren’t satisfying. Instead of letting this conversation become a ‘woe is me’ pity party, we decided to set goals – with time limits and action steps. My goal for that first year was to write and publish one book. Looking back, that was a very naïve and uninformed decision – good thing I’m adaptable.

During the first year, I went to two conferences, signed up for many courses on self-publishing, and started researching the success of some of my favorite authors. Not only did I learn how much more was involved in being a self-published author, I finished not one, but four books. I had headshots taken, got a website up and running, joined several social media platforms, and, yes, published my first book.

Year two brought some major changes to my personal life. I spent several months in transition between day jobs and finally ended up with a job that is perfect for accommodating my second career. I can now leave work at work and go home to spend my evenings and weekends writing.

The third year is coming to a close with my 40th birthday in June. My original goal wasn’t to become a successful, self-supporting author. It was to see if my books had gained traction and, more importantly, if I still enjoyed the process. I’ve worked in the professional world for over 20 years, and the last thing I want is to be pursuing something that doesn’t bring me joy. So, what have I decided, you ask? I love writing! It still fulfills me every time I sit down at a computer. I love dreaming up new stories. I’ve discovered that even something that I do for fun can strike a chord with a reader. Putting in humor has become easier. And, I’m almost over the embarrassment when my parents read an intimate scene that I’ve written…not sure that will ever go away completely!

Blue TempestWhat about my friend Michelle? Well, she too has made adjustments to her day job. She’s expanded her art to several retail spaces around town, started her own social media campaign (in addition to running mine…), and sold several paintings/mixed media art pieces. If you’d like to see her talent, take a look at the photo attached to this blog – it’s one of many of her pieces I’ve purchased.

We might not be successful by society’s definition, but we made it! We’ve set out to do what we outlined. And we’re going to continue to grow and expand and adapt and learn. Most importantly, we’re going to keep creating. Because that’s what brings joy.

Artistic Advice, Toxic Advice

I ran across this article the other day:

21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors

My first thought was, “Great! Advice from ‘real’ authors.” Then I showed it to my friend and social media queen Michelle. Her first reaction to the opening paragraph derailed my train of thought and knocked some sense into me. After a bit of reflection, I can really see her point.

…having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.

What is an artist? It’s someone who writes, paints, draws, sings, or any other form of self-expression. True, not everyone can/will make a living with their art, but does that make them less worthy of the title of Artist? No. However, society has instilled in us an idea that in order to be successful, we must achieve a certain status, usually financially defined.

Well, I am here to say I AM AN ARTIST. I AM AN AUTHOR. I write because I love to do it. I love the entire process. Stressing over plot points. Arguing with characters when they don’t want to behave. Deadlines sneaking up on you. Formatting. Editing. Cover design. And the list goes on… I AM a REAL author.

So much of the various art forms are subjective. When you look at paintings, do you prefer realism, cubism, or abstract? I am sure several of you answered that differently than I did. There are a ton of famous artists whose work I wouldn’t want hanging in my house. I can appreciate them for their appeal – to someone else. The same can be said for different forms of writing. I detest horror and gore, but I love mysteries. I don’t enjoy historical romance, but love paranormal romance. And just as before, I am sure some of you disagree.

All of that being said, the advice in the post does give me food for thought. Here is my favorite of the list:

  1. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

When I finished reading this, I reflected back on my post from a few weeks ago: Passion…or Happiness? Since I wrote that, I have been following Mark Manson’s blog and ran across a few more that have inspired me or made me think. The first was on life purpose (http://markmanson.net/life-purpose) and the second was on dreams (http://markmanson.net/dreams).

What is life purpose? That is an interesting question and one I think has a different meaning to different generations. One of the things that I have noticed over the past few years while working in higher education is that the newer generation doesn’t go into a career thinking in terms of forever. Stop and think about that for a second. Your grandparents and parents went to college or trained for a specific job with the full expectation that they would be doing that until they retired. Plumber, electrician, attorney, teacher, on and on and on. They wanted the security that came along with longevity. College students today have multiple ideas of what they want to do. And they aren’t afraid of thinking that ten years down the road they will be changing professions.

Our parents and the generations before had mid-life crises when they reached the point of burnout. But even then it wasn’t their job that they considered changing. Think about all the clichés you hear: affairs, divorce, sports cars, etc. The newer generations don’t put pressure on themselves to make life-long decisions at the age of 18. That can be scary, or it can be incredibly freeing.

I have seen a larger number of non-traditional students coming back for different degrees. These people are of my generation. Those of us that were raised with the idea that we needed to find a career and stick to it. But we have also grown up with technology and a world that has, and is, changing more than it ever has before. We are now reaching our mid-30s and 40s and realizing we are no longer happy doing what we chose to do at 18. But unlike our parents, we take inspiration from our children. We fall back on the idea that education can take you far and we use that to move forward. We take action to change what no longer makes us happy.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is
the result of action, not the cause of it. 

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life
and what matters to you is a full-contact sport,
a trial-and-error process.
None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity
until we actually do the activity.

Do you see how passion and life-purpose go hand-in-hand? It’s impossible to reconceptualize (yes, David Ogilvy, I used the word you said not to use…) your purpose in life without knowing what you are passionate about.

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are. And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

I have been dealing with this over the past several months as I reevaluate my career. I took a huge leap back in June and completely changed career paths. Last year, I also started publishing what I write. Whew! Do you know how nerve wracking that was? When I first started thinking of publishing, I thought I would use a pseudonym – something so no one would know I was the author. I don’t write erotica. I write mysteries and romantic suspense (and surprisingly paranormal romance). I don’t write anything that I would be embarrassed for my mother to read…though the first Tip of the Spear book did make me blush when she read it.

What I discovered was that I was embarrassed about what people would think – of me, of my books, of my beliefs and values, of everything. How would people I have known for years react to my books? Ultimately, having a built in network to start promoting my books is what swayed me to use my own name. Imagine what I felt when I read this:

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

And every word of that is true. I am passionate about what I write. I still care what others think, but not enough to stop me from pursuing what I enjoy. I am doing what I love. This is my passion. This is my dream.

So when should you pursue your dreams? Again, I refer to Mark Manson:

  • Fall in love with the process, not the result – If your job is drudgery now, then there’s no reason to suspect it won’t still be drudgery when you make partner or when you’re managing your own division. We live in a results-based society, and unfortunately this gets most of us (70% by some surveys) into the wrong pursuits and career paths.
  • What’s motivating you? – Take a long, hard look at what’s really driving you. Is it some compensation for an unmet need? Or is it a genuine expression of enthusiasm and joy? The fact that I fantasized about being on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans and didn’t fantasize about writing or playing new songs is telling.

Working in finance, I always jokingly tell people, “If your idea of saving for retirement is secretly hoping to win the lottery before you hit 65, there is a problem.” The same can be said for whatever dream you want to pursue. Writers always talk about the massive pile of rejection letters they received before ‘hitting it big’. And all of them will follow that by saying how it inspired them to push even harder. When you face obstacles, it is human nature to try harder – if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. It makes us appreciate what we have more than if it was just handed to us.

“When all of your wishes are granted,
many of your dreams will be destroyed.”

–Marilyn Manson

What does all of this mean to me? I love writing. I love being an author. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it draining? Yes. Is it rewarding? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far and I plan to continue to do it as long as I’m able. I am not defining my success by how much money I am making. My success depends on how I feel about the finished product, the reaction of my readers, and the satisfaction I feel if even one person says they loved what I wrote. That makes me happy. That drives me to continue.

So here is my advice to you: If you want to be a writer, write – even if it’s just in your journal. If you want to be a painter, paint – even if it’s just a piece you hang on your wall. If you want to be a singer, sing – even if it’s just in the shower. And, if you are willing to put in the hard work and follow the process, give it a shot.