What's the Labor That You Love?


Today I'm spending Labor Day doing something that I love. The Iowa heat wave has subsided enough to open the windows in my studio, so I'm taking this opportunity to pull some prints. I've been putting off doing this book for an exchange (okay, partly because the ol' creative engine had stalled and I had no idea what to actually print, or what kind of book to make), but finally got a solid idea for it last week. I'm printing the low-tech way, since my meager studio has no press (but that will change soon, when the Big Move to NC happens--stay tuned!), and it looks like a Barbie Dude Ranch exploded in here. It's early in the process--when the wildness happens and I can't really explain how most of it occurred, and I'm trusting this will all come together and make sense in the end.

So in the spirit of spending the day doing what I love, as part of my new-found freedom, I've compiled a list of things I've been reading lately that led me back to this point--being honest enough to admit that what I want to do with my life doesn't revolve around academic calendars, close supervision by people who really couldn't care less about my dreams, or a weekly checklist handed down from someone in a main office who probably doesn't know my last name. In some ways it was hard to get to this point, and the decision wasn't as easy as one might expect (I am, after all, without insurance again--and therefore thinking twice about doing things like chopping vegetables barefoot, and trying not to worry about my appendix bursting in my sleep). But my days feel like gifts again, and not like punishment. And for that, I'm more grateful than I can say.

So here are some things I've found incredibly inspiring lately, in no particular order:

1. Brene Brown's TED talks--best viewed as a pair. Thanks to Sonja for telling me I had to read her book, Daring Greatly. I watched the talks and thought…YES I need to read this. This is what it's about. I'm a few chapters into the book, and it's pretty amazing. (For others who are late to this party, like me, she talks about vulnerability--how we have to make ourselves vulnerable in order to get what we want out of life. But you should watch the videos, because she is far more articulate than I am.)

2. Brain Pickings. They always have a buffet of inspiring articles about creativity. It's where I found the video of John Cleese talking about the creative process, and the image below. And you can subscribe to their newsletter, so you get little bits of inspiration delivered right to your inbox. 



3. My friend Laura's article in the Letter Arts Review, from back in 2011. I don't know how it took me so long to find this--possibly because I just recently began learning calligraphy, which was until now this mysterious secret-society-type vocation that was completely under my radar. Laura's piece is haunting in its beauty and honesty about what it's like to take a leap. It's an absolute must-read for anyone in the arts, anyone in grad school, and anyone who ever doubted themselves even for a second for doing what they love. Hell, everyone should read it. Check out Laura's website to see her gorgeous calligraphy, and her new Poetry by Post project. And if you dig calligraphy, check out the Letter Arts Review

4. Esther Perel. Yep. Another TED talk. Yes, her talk is about desire in relationships…for me, it translates to the other kind of desire, too. Her book, Mating in Captivity, is a winner. Particularly noteworthy was her idea that children, at a young age, are either encouraged to stay close to their parents and not stray far from what is known, or they are encouraged to go explore, knowing they can always return. I have my parents to thank for gracing me with the latter.

5. The Gift, by Lewis Hyde. I'm only a few chapters into this one too, but it came highly recommended. It's beloved by a host of writers, artists, musicians, and the like, and already I can see why. It's changing the way I think about art. 

6. Plan B Nation, a blog by Amy Gutman. Someone linked to this on Facebook last week, and it was one of those cases of reading the right thing on the right day. She poses 5 great questions that made me think a little differently about the course I was charting for myself. See if you've asked yourself these questions.  

7. Janet Echelman's talk, "Taking Creativity Seriously." Her story is amazing--she lost her paints on an international trip, and began working with fishing nets instead. That led to her amazing sculptures--in some pretty surprising environments. It's a fantastic story of adapting and taking a leap, and having enough faith in yourself to do something that feels completely crazy for a minute...and then feeling it pay off in a big way. 

All this writing about creativity has me itching to go back and get my hands dirty. The prints are calling. Next time: I take a different leap and geek out over letterforms--and learn that there may be hope for my handwriting after all.