What if you knew how “good” you were?

The Good Book by Federico Zandomeneghi, 1897. This artwork is in the public domain.

The Good Book by Federico Zandomeneghi, 1897. This artwork is in the public domain.

A couple of weeks ago, in yoga class, my teacher told me it was time for me to move up to the next level. I was thrilled! Her comment made me feel like “I’m good at yoga.”

In the weeks that followed, I noticed that because I felt I was “good” at yoga, I made more effort in class, going deeper in the poses and holding them longer. And I started doing more yoga at home and during breaks at work.

My being recognized as “good” made me want to do more yoga. And the more I did it, the better I became. But it was more than just feeling more stretched, my attitude changed. I was more devoted to my practice. I felt less bored and more focused. My feeling “good” helped me stick to the practice even when it felt uncomfortable.

This made me think about writing. By now, I know I can write. Or do I? Like most artists, I circle through periods of doubt and wonder at times “Am I good?”

Is there a way to translate “I’m good at yoga” to “I’m good at writing” in a way that would help me go deeper in my writing practice and stay there longer?

If you already knew you were “good” how would that change your art practice? I’d like to hear.

 

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Find a “Container” for Your Next Project

You container could be a bowl, a box, a jar -- anything that can sit in the middle of your life and and hold your next big idea as it grows into being.

Your container could be a bowl, a box, a jar — anything that sits in the middle of your life and and can hold your next big idea as it grows into being.

The ceramic bowl sits in the middle of a table in my office as a “holder” of ideas for my next creative project.

Where’s your container for your next project and why might you need one?

I discovered I needed a container when after months of marketing my memoir I felt ready to launch my next creative project but I wasn’t sure what it would be. I didn’t like this “not knowing” space, that limbo-land of transition from one project to another.

As the stress of limbo built up inside me, a colleague suggested I find a “womb” for my next project. Well, even though I live in Portland, Oregon, a womb felt way too woo-woo for me but I liked the idea of a container.

So, I found this handmade bowl. And placed it in the middle of my desk. Then, I cut up strips of paper to invite my ideas. Having an actual place to hold this gestation process has calmed me down. It sits in the middle of my office and even when I’m working on other things, it’s still inviting my ideas all day and all night long. The bowl lets me know it will hold what isn’t fully born yet until it’s big enough for me to see what it is.

Do you need a place to hold that next project in all its fragileness and possibility? It could be a bowl or a wooden box or a glass jar but find something that you can place on a real table — in the middle of your life — and live with. Tell me what you discover. What begins to grow inside of it? I’d like to hear.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

“My Secret Father” in Psychology Today hits newsstands June 30

My two-minute memoir appears in the August issue of Psychology Today on newsstands on Tuesday, June 30.

My two-minute memoir appears in the August issue of Psychology Today on newsstands on Tuesday, June 30.

This Tuesday, June 30, the August issue of Psychology Today hits newsstands with my two-minute memoir “The Proof” excerpted from Blended: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience, edited by Samantha Waltz.

A couple of years ago, when Samantha asked me to contribute to her anthology, I’d said “no” because I didn’t feel like writing about growing up with two fathers, one of whom was secret from most everyone I knew.  But when I finished the manuscript for The Inheritance: A Mother-Daughter Memoir, I realized I had an essay in there.

Publishing this essay in a national magazine was something I wanted and I’d submitted this essay (and others) several times to nothing but rejections. Then, this offer from Psychology Today showed up at my doorstep through no direct action by me, beyond getting the essay published in a book. (The publicity person at Seal Press — the anthology publisher — had sent the magazine a copy of the book.)

My “luck” seems to be another case of being at the right place at the right time with an essay that was just what the magazine was looking for.

Now I’m asking myself: what can I remember from this experience for all the future rejections that I’m sure to receive? This is my answer which I hope will help you too: You have to keep getting your work out in the world because you have NO IDEA which time it will stick or how it will arrive in your audience’s lap. As artists and writers, we need constant reminders of this. We need support from a network of people cheering us on to keep sending work out because you just never know.

Is there something you can send into the world today? Another query? Another essay? A painting? A poem? If so, send it on. Somewhere, someone may be looking for just what you’re offering. But if you don’t offer it, that someone won’t be able to find it.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Five Ways to Engage Visitors with Your Website

"Create an Engaging Website" is a FREE article from the June/July issue of Professional Artist.

“Create an Engaging Website” is a FREE article from the June/July issue of Professional Artist.

The magazine Professional Artist has chosen my article “Your Website: A Virtual Place to Call Home” from the current issue for the spotlight this week which means you can read it for FREE. Even though I’m Editor, I’m not the one who decides which articles are chosen for the spotlight.

If you’ve been thinking about how to make your website more engaging, read the article here. I encourage artists to create a website that is the home of all their Internet activity — “the hub” — as one of my interviewees said. It should be as inviting as your home or studio would be if you were expecting guests.

You’ll find several examples and more ideas for artist websites. Let me know what was most useful and what changes you’re planning.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

How are you “graduating” this month?

The Fourteenth of July 1914, by Roger de La Fresnaye. France, 1914, Cubism, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. This artwork is in the public domain.

The Fourteenth of July 1914, by Roger de La Fresnaye. France, 1914, Cubism, oil on canvas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. This artwork is in the public domain.

Now that it’s graduation season, I’m thinking about how important a graduation ceremony is for saying good-bye to the old you and welcoming the next chapter of your life and art.

A graduate dresses in a special robe and hat, walks across the stage with family and friends, cheering and clapping. Her name is read for all to hear and we take photographs and raise glasses. She cries for what she will miss from the closing chapter and feels the fear and excitement of a new beginning.

The last formal graduation ceremony I participated in was when I graduated from high school. I never attended my graduation from college because I had already moved home by then and my college was so big that it didn’t seem my attendance would make a difference.

I’m thinking now about how to bring more ceremony – even if it’s just a pause as I transition from one chapter to the next – into my own life.

Years ago, my elderly Uncle moved from his hand-built house in rural Oregon into a condo in town, so he could walk more and drive less and be closer to the hospital. He wasn’t sick but he was in his 80s and it seemed the right time to downsize. On the last day of moving, four strong men lifted his table saw out of the house and loaded it into the moving truck. Before he let them close the doors of the truck, he stopped.

“I want to take a moment of silence,” he said as he and the men circled the table saw, a saw he wasn’t taking with him to the condo, a saw he would never, ever use again, a saw that had helped him build the house he was leaving.

My Uncle stood with his hands on the saw and tears in his eyes saying a silent good-bye before the van doors shut and he moved onto his new life, in town.

This wasn’t a formal graduation, but it was saying good-bye to the past before he moved onto this future.

What are you shedding this season? Who’s screaming your name from the stands? Who’s standing in silent witness? How do you allow time for the daily graduations, from who you were to who you are becoming? I’d like to hear.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Develop your talent without hesitation

“Franz Marc and Maria in the studio” by August Macke, 1912. This artwork is in the public domain.

“Franz Marc and Maria in the studio” by August Macke, 1912. This artwork is in the public domain.

I ran into a poet friend this week when I was in the middle of major doubt about a writing project and when I shared this with her, she quoted a former teacher: “You serve your community by developing your talents.”

I was smacked out of the doubt and back to the activity of creating. In the days that followed, I’ve thought about what it means to “develop your talent.” To me, it means spending time writing trusting that wherever I’m going will lead somewhere that reveals a mystery.

Will it be good? Will it be right? Who knows? All I can do, is keep typing, listening, observing, being quiet, sinking into the work, not running away or hoping I was getting somewhere else faster.

What would it look like to you if you were to “develop your talent” without hesitation or doubt? What would patience for yourself and your art look like? I’d like to hear.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Six dos and don’ts I learned this week to foster calm

Landscape with palm tree and blooming flowerbed, Oleksandr Bogomazov,  c.1905, Place of Creation: Kiev, Ukraine. This artwork is in the public domain.

Landscape with palm tree and blooming flowerbed, Oleksandr Bogomazov, c.1905, Place of Creation: Kiev, Ukraine. This artwork is in the public domain.

This week, with a major change on the horizon and a few too many projects on my plate, I felt anxiety’s flames licking at my feet. My mind ran wild with worries, what ifs and worst-case scenarios. So, I started keeping track of what worked to calm me. This is what I discovered:

Vacuuming – It’s hard to believe but that repetitive, physical and focused work of sucking up dirt, dog hair, and dust bunnies calmed me down. And my house looked so much better afterward.

Cleaning green beans – The repetition of: pick up, cut off edge, put down, cut off other edge, pick up next one, was a soothing balm. Nothing to do but cut off the next bean.

Doing anything physical – Dancing, walking and yoga brought serenity.

Working in baby steps – Focusing on the next baby task of work and doing it, helped the most. To do this, I broke down my tasks into baby steps. For example, one big task was to write a magazine article, but the first step of that was just to print out the interviews I had done. Done! Second step was to find a highlighter, read the interviews and highlight the parts I wanted to put in my article. Done! Next step was to outline the beginning of the article. Done! (Notice how I never, ever worked on the whole article, just the baby steps.)

What didn’t work:

Writing – Although, I’m a writer and often use a journal, I discovered that writing about my worries did not help me feel calm. Writing became another form of thinking. And thinking led quickly to worries which only fueled anxiety’s flame.

Sitting there and doing nothing was the worst thing I could do even though I seemed convinced that taking a break would help.

So, this week, I committed to a daily morning meditation practice and to engaging with the work at hand by breaking it down into baby steps interspersed with vacuuming and yoga. What works for you when you need to find and keep your calm center? I’d like to hear.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

Give yourself the first hour of your day

The Artist by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin, Germany. This image is in the public domain, from WikiArt.

The Artist by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1910, oil on canvas, 101 x 76 cm, Brücke-Museum, Berlin, Germany. This image is in the public domain, from WikiArt.

Today, I recommitted to writing for the first hour of my day BEFORE checking email. I’ve made this commitment before but I’d gotten so out of whack in past months that I turned into someone who checked email while I was just out of bed. It was as though I was expecting a limited time offer of a million dollars and I wanted to be the first person to email back.

I felt ashamed that even I had succumbed to FOMO. I didn’t think that would ever happen to me.

It didn’t matter that I never missed anything, except eventually my calm center and next to come, my sanity.

Today, resisting email first thing, was hard. Jumping out of bed and double-tapping the gmail app had become a habit. Hard to break.

This morning, I only had time to write for 15 minutes at home so when I arrived at my office I still owed my writing another 45 minutes.

I wanted to check email.

I lit a candle instead.

My fingers itched to turn on my computer.

I sat next to the candle instead.

That felt a little better.

Every moment I didn’t succumb, I felt a little freer.

Interspersed with these moments of freedom, I needed to check my email to hear from a literary agent, to get an answer to a question I had asked someone yesterday. But the more I resisted, the more my craving for email subsided until the craving stopped. Not giving in, made it diminish, which I never imagined it would. In the moment, it felt like giving into the craving would solve some problem or put an end to something that needed closure. It’s the opposite. Resisting puts an end to it.

I also noticed that the urgency I had felt about an answer to a question faded too. There was no burning building, no life or death, no ambulance. It could all wait.

This is the way back to my writer self and toward my own hand sailing across the page. I had time to watch a black, speckled bird on the treetop outside my window, I wandered over to my writing drawer and sifted through some abandoned projects and found two short essays, I still like. The writer me was back.

Are you spending the first part of your day on what matters most? Are you making it creative and enjoyable? Or are you sounding like a drill sergeant? How do you resist the siren call of email? I’d like to know.

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

I found my name at the Letterpress

images

 

We set the type, letter by letter, picking up the cold metal squares and placing them upside down and backwards into the “composing stick” which looks a little bit like those metal contraptions used to measure your feet at the shoe store.

As a member of the board at the Independent Publishing Resource Center, I get to take workshops from time to time and this was “Introduction to Letterpress.”

Our first assignment was to pick two words, then choose a typeface and then letter by letter build our words. So, off I went browsing the heavy drawers of metal and wooden type feeling somehow comforted by these old, once ignored, now precious letters.

I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired so I decided to make it easy and set the type for my first and last name. That’s two words, I figured. And because I’ve been planning a revamp of my website, I wanted to see my name in a new typeface.

As a sidenote, I have a long, complicated history with my name. I was actually born with a completely different name but at birth my grandmother nicknamed me “Gigi” and then when my parents divorced, I asked my mother if I could use my stepfather’s last name “Rosenberg” so that she and I could have the same last name. My mother said that yes, I could change my name, but we’d have to lie to my father about it. One day, when I was with him, he discovered and… well that’s another story.

I placed the letters of my name as instructed into the composing stick and carried it expectantly to my teacher. I’d assumed that I would print my name on a card at one of the presses and that would be that. It would be my own private moment with those two words that make up my “found name.”

Instead, the teacher instructed me and then all the students to put our two words all together into one “frame” and explained we’d be printing all the words at once onto one sheet of paper.

As it turned out, I was the only person who chose to typeset my name. Here I had thought I’d have a private moment with my hard won name and instead I was possibly coming off as a raving egomaniac.

IMG_0145 copy

The resulting “class project” read like a found poem or fortune cookie message written just for me. Are these my instructions for 2015? See photo.

“Create art, Gigi Rosenberg” is a pretty great place to start my year. I’m not sure what a Volkswagen (which was my first car), merry, Vera & Charlie, and type love will come to mean. But perhaps more will be revealed as this year unfolds.

 

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+

3 ways to capture your best headshot

Gigi on December 18, 2014  Photo by Christian Columbres

Gigi on December 18, 2014
Photo by Christian Columbres

A new year calls for a new headshot.

As 2014 came to a close, I felt a new energy in the air. Last year I carved out time to finish a major creative writing project, fell into the groove as Editor of Professional Artist magazine and limited my coaching to artists who were making a serious commitment to their careers.

So, feeling serious, I wanted a headshot that reflected the tone of this new year.

Then, Christian Columbres showed me the headshots he had taken for a colleague and I saw a quality that drew me: a feeling of grounded soulfulness. When I scanned his portfolio, one black and white photo of a very old woman caught my eye. “I obviously don’t want to look like a very old woman,” I told him. “But there’s something about the quality of this photo that I love.”

He nodded like he understood. The next thing I knew, he was ushering me into his studio as I clutched two long-sleeve t-shirts and a new tube of lipstick. Almost two hours and hundreds of photos later, I had my new headshot for this year.

A headshot is your face to the world. Does yours reflect who you’re becoming this year?

If it’s time for a new one (and when isn’t it?) I have three pieces of advice beyond the obvious ones of get a good night’s sleep and try to relax.

 

  1. Find a photographer who specializes in photographing people. Faces are different than inanimate objects so even if you know someone who does a great job shooting products for catalogs, he’s not your guy.
  2. Scrutinize the photographer’s portfolio of headshots. Find examples you love and point out exactly why you love them. What’s the quality you see that you’d want in your own headshot?
  3. I was going to advise bringing a friend because I thought that having a friend might make help me relax. But no. I realized that it was best for me to be on my own. Having a third person in the room changes the dynamic. There’s something to be said for the intimacy that’s captured when it’s just you and the photographer. So, choose someone you can be silent with so when the shutter is pressed, your whole self is looking back.

I look forward to seeing your new headshot for 2015!

Share this post: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+