Many of you may know I was recently on a two-week writing retreat as part of the North Dakota Museum of Art’s McCanna Artist in Residency program. I had a lot of fear and trepidation around going–mostly molehills that my overly active imagination turned into mountains, but fear is a powerful emotion and one not easily reigned in by rational, stern self-talking tos.
I wrote this reflection blog post on my personal site extraordinaryextraordinary on my final day of the retreat (read that to see all kinds of photos). But I want to share some of the elements that related to my work at The Arts Partnership here:
I am a writer.
I don’t believe I will ever again hesitate to say that. But, actually, I am so much more that that. I am a multi-media content creator.
What does that even mean?
According to the above-linked site:
Content is “something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts” for self-expression, distribution, marketing and/or publication. Typical forms of content creation include maintaining and updating web sites, blogging, article writing, photography, videography, online commentary, the maintenance of social media accounts, and editing and distribution of digital media.
It means that yes, I write, in what might now be considered by some an anachronistic form: a blog. In fact, in the 14 days I was there, I wrote 15 blog posts (my goal was 4).
But I also launched a whole new video series I cleverly titled “Lessons at Sunrise” where I trudged out to the soybean field beyond the yard of the farmstead to livestream the sun coming up (or occasionally not coming up, depending on the wildfires on the West coast) and talked about various things I was learning and discovering with my audience: fear and taking the first step and overcoming obstacles and finding gratitude and so much more.
I continued the daily livestream series I do with my husband called “Daily Dose of Dr Marry & DD.”
I participated in some online writing groups. I did a 10-day Miracle Challenge. I started a 21-Day Abundance Meditation Challenge and then began a second one, which I am still leading for about 24 other people in my life. I listened to a ton of podcasts about writing and self reflection, humor, shame, joy, gratitude and more.
I read a number of my grandparents’ courtship letters and promptly abandoned them when it became clear that, though they were delightful, they didn’t spark any creative ideas for me. It was fun to see how playful they were with each other, however, as that was not really a side of them I ever saw. From my childhood perspective, they were just “old.”
I baked bread and plum tortes and made batches of soup and ate lots of popcorn.
I walked more than 200,000 steps on the dry, dusty roads around the farmstead and fields. And on those walks, I dreamed big dreams and had lightening bolt realizations because my mind was free to wander, which meant I took many unintentional deep dives into my most creative mental nooks and crannies–the places where all good ideas ultimately live and patiently wait for excavation.
I had mostly good, highly productive days and two lousy, largely wasted ones.
I got “comfortable” with the dark and grasshoppers and gigantic machinery and being alone.
And I experienced two weeks of time that was almost entirely my own.
Mostly what I am taking away from this time is the idea that I don’t have to apologize for or qualify my dreams. I’m not “kind of” or “sort of” or “trying to be” an artist: a writer, a livestreamer and public speaker. I AM those things. And I want to do more of all of them and on an international scale. And life’s too short to live in fear of either imaginary or real challenges.
But it’s virtually impossible to own that unless you have the time to feel your current state, to get really uncomfortable and to assess the why and how of that. And then to begin to climb out of that place of discomfort and see what’s on the other side.
That’s the artistic process in living form. I’m sorry in advance for the “naughty” word–it’s absolutely not a word I use, but it pretty succinctly reveals how our brains work when given the time to explore something artistic and challenging, and it’s step for step what happened to me over those 336 hours out on the prairie:
So I’m back with a renewed sense that the arts and the ways artists think and work have more value than I even previously believed. My commitment to #SupportLocalArt has never wavered in my role as an arts administrator, but it’s been too long since I considered myself an actual artist, too. This time away confirmed that for me, and I left the McCanna House filled with immense gratitude and joy to be able to say, with no qualification, that I am, indeed, an artist. And I am on the ascent, and it is absolutely awesome.