Here’s how Webster defines the verb form of “weather”:
transitive verb 1 : to expose to the open air : subject to the action of the elements
2 : to bear up against and come safely through <weather a storm> <weather a crisis>intransitive verb : to undergo or endure the action of the elements
Imbedded in this definition is a key to how we can weather creative upheavals, blocks, and crises. But let me back up a minute and tell why this subject is of interest to me.
I have experienced a plethora of creative crises, ranging from minor to major in the 12 or so years that I’ve been actively pursuing art. The forms these crises have taken have been anything from switching to a new medium, jumping styles, shifting artistic passions, to out ‘n out stand-stills where I felt I could not move forward in what I thought I wanted to accomplish. With each crisis, big or small, comes its own set of questions, doubts, fears, and complications. But there are some common elements that are helped by a few basic thoughts. My thoughts are all bound up in this definition…”to bear up against”. Or, I prefer, “to bear up under”. What does this look like? What does it mean to “bear up under?” How do we do this in the midst of creative upheavals?
My first thought comes from a theologian, Martin Luther, who said at his trial for the doctrine’s he believed in, “Here I stand, I can do no other.” I have completely extrapolated this statement to my own purposes in the creative journey. When I find myself “stuck” creatively…it helps to remember…Here I stand, I can do no other. It reminds me of the exhortation of quicksand. Though I’ve never been in literal quicksand, I have been stuck in creative quagmires; and I’m told that when you encounter quicksand, you should BE STILL! Stop flailing around! It will only make you sink much faster!! The crazy thing is that our knee-jerk reaction to quicksand is to fight, to struggle, to flail and scream and grasp and grab. It helps me to remember that in these times, I need to stand and wait it out. I need to stop flailing. My efforts to grasp and grab my way out of the creative quicksand only worsen the situation. Just stand, just wait. I’ll weather the crisis better if I do no other.
My second thought is close on the heels of this, which is to say, that I’m not very good at “just standing”. I’ve gotta DO something. So it helps me to remember to “do the next thing”. Often when I’m stuck creatively, I have virtually hit a roadblock or a detour. At the time, I don’t know which one it is: a detour which will eventually land me back on the original path? Or a roadblock, which will set me off on a completely different path, the old one never to be revisited again. This is where my dislike of the word “against” in the definition comes in…working against these roadblocks and detours is futile, indeed it is much like flailing around in quicksand. I need to “bear up under”. I need to simply do the next thing. When I am unable to do the creative thing I want to do but am finding it too hard to move forward, it is good to look around me and find what I CAN do. This might be a load of laundry. Perhaps baking some bread. Perhaps it is picking up a creative outlet once enjoyed long ago…or trying that new one you’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it is to take a nap. So many times I’m stuck because I’m tired. I need rest. We all do! When you find yourself hitting the proverbial wall creatively, look for “the next thing”, something, anything you CAN do and do that.
My third and final thought is that I need to find/contact friends who are on this journey with me. It is best to find someone who is NOT stuck (sometimes they have a way of pulling you down further with them) but someone who has “weathered” a few of these before and can speak to/encourage you/come along side you in the midst of the mire. This is where creative friends are vital! “Two are better than one…if one falls down, his friend can help him up.” We need each other to stand and bear up under the prevailing weather. And just because I’ve “weathered” a few of these, doesn’t mean I won’t face them again! No indeed. They are an ongoing part of a creative person’s life.
I really don’t think I need to draw out for you all the parallels to our everyday life and the crises that we encounter. So much of this applies to our everyday lives which are often frought with difficulties and hardships of varying degrees. Wind, rain, snowstorms, earthquakes…we all endure these things, both creatively and otherwise. Some may be more “seasoned” or “weathered”…but we are all in it together.
Here we stand…we can do no other.
P.S. The above paintings are pastel over watercolor paintings I did two years ago. I stood in a nearby field in the presence of this grand tree and made several charcoals of it. Back in the studio, I worked a few color versions. I loved this tree. It had certainly weathered a lot in its years. I kept thinking how children used to swing in its branches, how storms had wreaked havoc with it, and how this grand tree, which once stood in the front yard of an old home was now going to be mowed down to make way for a CVS Pharmacy. So sad.
P.P.S. I apologize for such a long post…I should have told you to grab a cup of coffee or tea before sitting down to read this one!
P.P.P.S. And, of course, I would make you wait until the VERY END to announce the WINNER of the drawing for a set of my new notecards! Can we have a drum-roll please…………….I drew from the names of those who commented (and thank you all for commenting and playing the game!)….the winner is……Crystal Neal!!! So, from here…Crystal, I need you to place a comment on this post to say you know you are the winner, and so I can get your address from you to send you your set of notecards! You have a couple of days to let me know you have read this. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll need to pick a new winner….so, I hope you get this announcement, buried as it is in this extremely LONG post!!:)