Fearing Commitment


Fearing Commitment

 

“The irony of commitment is that it’s deeply liberating – in work, in play, in love.  The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation.  To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.” –Anne Morriss

 

I’m afraid of commitment, of taking that decisive step and telling myself I can do this.  With commitment comes responsibility, and the toughest of any responsibility is that I’m obligated to follow through, and what happens is on all me.  I own it.

 

Yet, as Anne Morriss points out, there is that freedom you gain.  Other tasks and activities can fall by the wayside, and I don’t have to do things that I’m really not invested in, and that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life, the frivolous things, trivial, inconsequential.

 

If I am going to do something really well, with all my energy and creative talent, then I need to be completely committed, and engage my heart and my soul into the task at hand, my eye firmly focused on the goals I have set for myself.

 

And allow myself to be relaxed in that emotional space, to take it easy and let it flow.  That’s when I’m at my best.  So why not give myself permission to go to that place within me, where my creativity and spontaneity can be let loose, and thrive?

 

There’s that old fear, that I’m not good enough, not able enough, not competent. But, all that is on me, what I think, and what I believe about myself, my capabilities; my commitment.

 

I need to own it. And, when I own it, and pour my energy into it, I find myself in that state of being where my task and I become one, that what I am doing is really the essence of me, and my creative spirit.

 

Lately, I’ve been trying to focus on my music and my art.  And, I’ve found again, and am relearning again, that when I am engaged in that work, I do best, and find the greatest satisfaction, when I am completely in the moment, completely engaged, and committed. Not only on the conscious level, but deeper, on a soulful level, subconscious, intensely internal.

 

I try not to listen to those old voices, the naysayers, the doom and gloomers. Instead, I need to embrace my commitment, and rejoice in that liberation.

 

–Neal Lemery, 11/4/2018

On Creativity


 

 

I’ve always felt that what I create isn’t really much about me. In what I do, the writing, painting, gardening, photography, and music, I feel that I am often only a conduit for what comes out of the word processor, the paint brush, the guitar, the camera lens, and the garden trowel.

I don’t “own” my creations; I just put them into a form for others to experience. And I certainly don’t want the responsibility for what people might think about my art, or how to react to it and apply it, or not, to their lives.

Elizabeth Gilbert has a wonderful way of expressing this idea:

“…my deep and lifelong conviction (is) that the results of my work don’t have much to do with me.  I can only be in charge of producing the work itself.  That a hard enough job.  I refuse to take on additional jobs, such as trying to police what anybody thinks about my work once it leaves my desk.” Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, (2015, p 123).

I’m just the curator, the presenter of an idea, a concept, perhaps a new way of looking and thinking about something.  It passes through me, and goes on to others. They can do what they will with the idea, the experience. Or not. It is out of my hands.

Looking at my art this way takes a burden off of me.  I’m really not responsible for what people do with my art, what they experience and where they go with it.  My job is to respond to the creative spirit in and around me, and create.

As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “Just keep doing your own thing.”

 

–Neal Lemery, August 23, 2018

Valuing Art


Valuing Art

 

(First published at Art Accelerated’s Blog, July 30, 2017)

 

By Neal Lemery

 

What is the value of art in our lives? Does it have an impact?

 

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” (Pablo Picasso)

 

Art is a way of finding and expressing the truth in our lives. It allows us to explore and find things within ourselves we may not have realized are there. Art allows us to discover who we are.

 

“Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world,” said Dana Gioia, chair, National Endowment for the Arts. “There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions.” (Commencement address, Stanford University, 2007)

 

Working in high school art classes, researchers Hetland and Winner found that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the school curriculum—what they call “studio habits of mind.” One key habit was “learning to engage and persist,” meaning that the arts teach students how to learn from mistakes and press ahead, how to commit and follow through. “Students need to find problems of interest and work with them deeply over sustained periods of time,” write Hetland and Winner.

They found that “the arts help students learn to ‘envision’—that is, how to think about that which they can’t see. That’s a skill that offers payoffs in other subjects, they note. The ability to envision can help a student generate a hypothesis in science, for instance, or imagine past events in history class. Hetland and Winner, Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Art Education (2007).” Karin Evans, Arts and Smarts, Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkeley, (December 2008)

 

“Along with the perks of enjoying and experiencing art, there are real-world benefits to making the art with your own two hands. According to a 2014 study, producing visual art improved psychological resilience and increased brain activity for the participants by the end of the experiment.” Gabe Bergado, Mic.com (December 15, 2014)

 

“Art allows children to express emotions that can be difficult to discuss with others.

 

“According to research conducted by the Childcare Education Institute, ‘art offers children an important outlet for emotional expression and the assurance that their feelings are valuable,’ which is particularly critical for disadvantaged children whose feelings might have never been validated. Expressing emotions such as anger or fear through artistic expression such as dance or writing allows children cope with aspects of living in a healthy, safe space. It also enables them to release difficult emotions instead of repressing them.” K. Nola Mokeyane, Information on How Art Helps the Behavior of Disadvantaged Children, (oureverydaylife.com)

 

Does art have value? I would argue yes.

 

“When Winston Churchill was asked to cut arts funding in favour of the war effort, he simply asked,’then what are we fighting for?’ ” (Kazuo Ishiguro)

 

In my own life, art has had a tremendous impact. By allowing myself to be creative, and to have space in my life where I can explore and play, I have greatly expanded my view of who I really am.

 

I’ve always been a photographer, exploring light, composition, and “seeing” the world in a different way. That creativity helped balance my life in college and law school. I played in school bands, and loved music.

 

My interest in art, and my hunger for a creative outlet brought me to look at my love for gardening as a way of expression. Years later, I took art classes at my local community college. In that work and discipline, I found a sense of freedom and self expression.

 

Over time, I’ve learned to give myself permission to experiment, to “let go”, and be uninhibited with my art. In many ways, it is a return to the spontaneity of childhood play. Now, I play my guitar, and pick up my paintbrushes with a sense of excitement and limitless possibility.

 

And, in my art, I have found a self I never really honored before, and am getting acquainted with my soul, a person I really enjoy.

 

A Month of Writing


National Novel Writing Month participant

National Novel Writing Month participant

Whew, it is quite the month, writing wise. Going over the first edit from my editor, for my upcoming book, Mentoring Boys to Men.

And, then, I jumped into the National Novel Writing Month project. The goal: bang out a rough draft of a book, at least 50,000 words, in the month of November.

That seemed, at first, formidable. It still does, but it is becoming doable. It has taken some organization, and the guts to just start out, getting some words down, and moving ahead. I follow my rough outline, but then, as the Muse inspires me, I start to really tell the story of my young man in prison, and his adventures, trying to find some sanity in his life.

It is going well. I remind myself that it is a draft, that I will revise it and probably rewrite a great deal of it. But, it is started, and it is moving ahead. Eight more days, and only 11,000 words to go. That means I’ve written 39,000.

I’m OK with that!