Writing 100 Affirmations for Creative People was purely enjoyable. Beginning a second career in the arts, I pondered whether painting or writing. I choose writing because I’d learn more about myself. In my youthful arrogance it simply never occurred to me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted! Now, years later, the importance of hard work and of persistence continues to impress me every single day.
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Being an artist is not easy. From the outside it can look as if the picture is painted by magic, the book appears from nowhere or the new music, suddenly and with no apparent effort, fills our ears. It took a very long time to claim writer or poet and even longer before I could call myself an artist.
“You’re so lucky,” we artists hear. “You’re so talented.” But we of the midnight hours and heavy self- doubts know differently. Art is a blessing: true. And a double blessing when it flows with perfection– because frequently it doesn’t.
Many a rose blushes unseen, to borrow from Grey’s poetry. Many a splendid creation is never begun, or completed if it is attempted, because the artist, the real artist, the dreamer who takes nothing and creates something artistic, find themselves unable to struggle past the inside and outside circumstances of their life situation.
Kaleidoscope Mind: 100 Affirmations for Creative People is meant as tribute and encouragement. And to function as a companion, to show you that you are not alone, that what you do in creating beauty, harmony, joy, understanding.
I am a disciplined artist. I make my own working rules and I fol ow them.
“Discipline is an artist’s best friend, and the lack of it can become an artist’s worst enemy. Having great ideas means nothing if you’re not disciplined enough to get them out of your mind” [and into their proper medium.] Lucinda Irwin Smith3
Here are four artists’ truths:
- “The only way to get through artist’s block is to begin,” says journalist Jan Goodwin, “It’s the same as saying you’re going to start a diet next If all you ever do is talk about it, you will never begin. The real discipline must come from within yourself.”
- “I think the best advice I ever received,” adds Beth Henley, playwright, “is finish what you’re working Start it and finish it. Don’t worry about making each paragraph or each scene perfect. Just go ahead and plow through to the end. Once you’re through, then you can go back and rework the scenes. You should even leave out the things you can’t get right. People start projects and end up not liking what they’ve done. They start something else and leave that unfinished too. It’s a bad pattern to get into.” Margaret Mead said in her autobiography that she learned from watching her professors, who didn’t do it, that she would always write up her research as soon as feasible.
- “What is the best way to dive in? asks Carolyn “Just do it. What I say in my classes and what I try to practice in my own life is: Write a thousand words a day, make one charming phone call, and write one charming note…. I must say, however, these rules are easy to make but hard to follow.”
- “An artist who has never experienced rejections simply has not sent work to the right places,” says Joyce Carol Oates. Expect rejection as a fact of life. And keep going.
Lucinda Irwin Smith, Women Who Write: From the Past and the Present to the [Writer is made generic. All quotes on this page from Smith.]
My life and work are treasures I use and guard fiercely.
“I’m frightened all the time,” she [Georgia O’Keeffe] admitted in old age. “Scared to death. But I’ve never let it stop me. Never!” Her endurance and ego had been tested by her bout with typhoid as a teen- ager, by poverty and a poor education as a young woman, and by social isolation as a schoolteacher in Texas. Her strengths and her American faith in everyone’s right to self-realization had been reinforced by Steiglitz’s belief in the divine right of artists to self-expression, and these had carried her through.
An absolute bonus of the artist life–once we get past our fear and actually do it–is the seldom-discussed joy of working as long as we can.
“Why of course I’m still painting!” she [Georgia O’Keeffe] exclaimed to a New York newspaper interviewer at the age of seventy-five. “I’m not old or worn out.” The artist simply accumulates skill and experience. Life and work become interlocked.
As a writer and a poet I like to say I’ll never retire. I like to envision myself, propped up on deathbed pillows, pen in hand busily writing about how it feels to die!
- Laurie Lisle, Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O’Keeffe (Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico, 1986). [All quotes on this page from Lisle]
I am she who cuts across the game reserve That no girl crosses
I am the boldest of the bold, outfacer of wizards Obstinate perseverer.
Zulu–Oral history–Southern Africa9
I am she who decided to be a writer with no real models. I am she who made tons of mistakes and keeps on going. I am she who devises experiments to encourage me to do what I want. I am she who does not tell everything to everybody. I am she who searches for beauty in everyday life, who does what she can. I am she who climbed the Gaza pyramid in Egypt and I am she who will see the Taj Mahal before she dies. I am she who rises at dawn with a book that won’t come right and sits down to work. I am she whose possibilities are marvelous.
As an experiment, just now, perhaps in the blank space below, write your own, I am she who…
I am she who survives and perseveres.
I am he who survives and perseveres.
- Zulu – Oral history – Southern Africa. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women’s Literature, edited by Clair Buck (New York: Prentice Hall, 1992).
All I know of her is that, personally, she is a prize bitch. William Carlos Williams talking about the poet, Laura Riding6
Some of the most useful writing advice I ever got was tossed out casually from a beloved male guru saying something like this, “Long ago I started reading the biographies and autobiographies of other artists; it’s a caution and an inspiration.” I could add that it’s also jolly entertaining.
As Alice Walker talks about Zora Neale Hurston’s life being a cautionary tale, so is Deborah Baker’s, In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding. Oddly enough both Hurston and Riding died in Florida, in relative obscurity. Laura Riding renounced poetry and spent 30 years fighting with almost everybody and in writing the Dictionary of Rational Meanings. In her introduction Deborah Baker tells us what a hard time she had writing this book and that: “In this respect In Extremis is only partly a narrative of Riding’s chosen lives as poet, lover, editor, visionary, wife, it is also about a woman who tried hard to articulate the conflicts between them in her imagination and intellect, while fighting the conventions and institutions of literature and society.”
Here is a poem by Laura Riding, which is inscribed on her tombstone: Measure me by myself
And not by time or love or space or beauty. Give me this last grace: That I may be on my low stone
A gauge unto myself alone.
I would not have these old faiths fall To prove that I was nothing at all.
Incidentally, William Carlos Williams appears not to have personally met Laura Riding at all, but was jealous of her poetic ability.
I keep myself on track as an artist. And as sane as possible.
- William Carlos Williams, quoted in Deborah Baker’s, In Extremis: The Life of Laura Riding (New York: Grove Press, 1993). [All quotes on this page from Baker]
Artist n. Abbr art. 1. One, such as a painter or sculptor, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts. 2. A person whose works shows exceptional creative ability or skill: You are an artist in the kitchen.
Artistic adj. 1. Of or relating to art or artists: the artistic community. 2. Sensitive to or appreciative of art or beauty: an artistic temperament. 3. Showing imagination and skill: an artistic design.
Art 1. Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature. 2.a The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty, specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. b. The study of these activities. c. the product of these activities; human works of beauty considered as a group.
- High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value. 4. A field or category of art, such as music, ballet, or literature. 5. A nonscientific branch of learning; one of the liberal arts. 6.a. A system of principles and methods employed in the performance of a set of activities: the art of building. b. A trade or craft that applies such a system of principles and methods: the art of the lexicographer. 7.a. Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation: the art of the baker; the blacksmith’s art. b. Skill arising from the exercise of intuitive faculties: “Self-criticism is an art not many are qualified to practice” (Joyce Carol Oates). 8.a. arts. Artful devices, stratagems, and tricks. b. Artful contrivance: cunning.
The American Heritage Dictionary7
We have the singular words: painter, writer, musician, sculptor and the inclusive words of art and artist. Notice how often ‘beauty’ is invoked.
I am an artist of my work and of my life.
7The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992).
I have been so impressed with your book 100 Affirmations for Creative People. It is excellent! The sort of book you keep by your favorite chair, or on the bedside table to give you a reason for the day, to lift you up out of your chair and jog you back to your word processor or your yellow pad. I like the layout you have given each page. I do like your summation in the bold print and your page 100 is beautiful, provocative! Marion Conner Price
Thank you Jo Ann. A very inspiring book. Elaine Waidelich, Two-time President of National League of American Pen Women
Dear Jo Ann, Your 100 Affirmations book has been a real comfort to me lately. It jumped off my bookshelf at exactly the right time. Thanks, John Shoemaker