Stress & Creativity

Mistakes

“Stress can be addiction and worry can be our lunge for control and we forget the answer to this moment.”

-Ann Voscamp, pg. 143 One Thousand Gifts Devotional

There they are, words on a page that leap out at me in the semi-dark, silent, not-quite morning. I had previously stumbled onto a site online where a woman was recounting the horrific problems she had had following the exact surgery I just had. That familiar grip in my belly… the room bending in and out of shape. I grabbed hold of worry, perhaps as if it were a blanket that might soothe me, only to find it was filled with nettles, prickling every inch of me. Stress, worry, even fear…surely we all face these things. Yet it doesn’t make them any less gripping, nor does it make them go away.

“…we forget the answer to this moment.”

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I’ve discovered an amazing connection between creativity and battling stress and worry. Early on, my artistic pursuits were propelled by sheer joy. I simply loved putting paint to paper and canvas. Still do. I also knitted up color as if it were paint and found that same joy bubbling up. But as the years went on, I realized those endeavors also had a way of calming my fears, lowering stress, diminishing worry.

I’ve often been asked how it is I do these things in the midst of a busy life. “They are my sanity!” I say. “And I need a lot of sanity!”

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The interesting part is that with each stroke and stitch, gratitude wells up. As I draw the everyday things, places and people of my life I see what I’ve been given and that it is beautiful. As I stitch with needles or hook, prickly worries are chased away by the swords of color and form.

For Ann Voscamp, “The answer to this moment”, is gratitude. The answer to moment’s of worry or stress is to be thankful. Her methods for connecting with and calling out this thanks lies chiefly in writing them down and photographing them. I too write them down in that list form she challenged me to begin three years ago when I read her book One Thousand Gifts. But I also draw and knit to find the gratitude I need to chase away what can so easily paralyze me.

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Therefore it is NOT a silly thing that one might make Art Before Breakfast (Danny Gregory’s latest book out soon!). It’s a rightful ordering of the day’s priorities. Nor is it crazy that another might take their knitting project bag along with them everywhere–fitting in a few stitches of gratitude around the beautiful and not-so-beautiful edges of our everyday lives.

So the next time worry threatens to choke me, I’ll continue reaching for my pens and paints, my sock knitting or in-process crochet blanket.

Won’t you join me in this battle against worry and stress? It’s lovely to have traveling companions!

Thankful

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I wonder sometimes if this word may become worn out. Like taffy pulled too thin, or chocolate pie eaten too much, we hear this word bantered around in various ways and forms. It’s always an exhortation, an encouragement, a command to be more thankful for what we have, where we are in life, even to consider being thankful for the not-so-good parts. When we hear something so often we can become calloused to the message, the intent behind the words, and it may go in one ear and out the other.

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And if we do practice a daily awareness of all that we have to be thankful for, we might be left bereft of a language to communicate when we are truly, utterly, grateful beyond words. We may feel we have to resort to saying we are uber-thankful, over-the-top grateful, filled-with-excessive-thanks. A simple thank you ceases to carry the full impact we wish to communicate.

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I find myself in this position after the Art Show that took place here in my little town on Saturday, November 22nd. I’m never prepared for the 3 hour revolving door of friends, family and new supporters. I can’t quite take in that others would want to travel distances to attend the show much less to own a painting or some cards of mine, one of my books, a knitted shawl or cowl. I’m left without words to adequately describe how I feel and thus resort to paint to somehow communicate the bubbling over gratitude that wells up after a show. I am simply…thankful…in all its grand and humbling feelings.

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As human beings our default setting is not thankfulness. Perhaps I generalize too much here. I should say that it is not MY default setting. My default setting tends to be grumbling, not gratitude. And for me, I have to have a daily discipline of searching for things I am thankful for in order to counter the grumbles and hopefully nullify them.

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So I’ll risk overusing this word. I’ll pull it as thin as I possibly can because in doing so, perhaps I’ll see through even the difficult things to the beauty contained therein. I’ll keep eating the chocolate pie of gratitude because it is in doing so that I sense a richness to my life that isn’t there otherwise. I’ll continue painting thankfulness in my everyday life so I can knit into the fibers of my being all the colors, lines, and shapes that make a life worth living.

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May I just say, Thank you? To all who came out for the show. To all who support the art that I am well aware is a gift given to me. To you, dear reader, who tirelessly reads this blog and to those who kindly take time to comment. To all of you…thank you. From the bottom of my grateful heart.

Through Yarn and Pen

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I am blessed beyond measure.

I feel it greatly today. Something about that rich green ball of yarn…turned a switch in me. That I am loved. That I have so many TO love. That I’ve been given much. And I have an overwhelming desire to give much. Gratitude stirred in a heart because of a ball of yarn??

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I feel it too when I draw, slather watercolor into paper. Something wells up inside of me–this life is a gift. My life is something to treasure, not merely endure. I am a recipient of grace.

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This is what I hear when yarn slips through my fingers. A song of gratitude. The needles keep rhythmic time as the tune courses through my veins. When I draw lines, it’s as if a bow is being drawn across the strings of a violin–first soft and low, then growing stronger as the tune takes shape on the page. And when watercolor splashes, it is the cymbals of a crescendo: thanks and gratitude mingling in song and I’m singing along with it.

I am not the maestro even though I hold the needles and the pen. It’s a song from another world that comes to me through these humble instruments. And so I play on, knitting and drawing, to remember just how blessed I am!