Friday, May 18, 2012

Creative Confidence

When everything around you feels like chaos and even your own mother is disappointed in you... it is very easy to forget your purpose. Assuming you ever knew it in the first place. You give yourself points for keeping your head above water and repeat over and over "Keep swimming, keep swimming." (Yes, Dory from "Nemo"). Come to think - maybe Dory has another lesson - because she constantly forgets what she has just done or who she has met, everything is constantly new for her. Hmmm... I need to ponder that one too.

Anyway. "Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."

I have been wracking my brain trying to solve (perceived) problems for my mother, my children, even my ex-husband. I have "complaints" about work, friends, family, real estate, and the current state of Zentangle®. Seriously! I bet you all know what I mean? It is so easy to fall into that state of just being discontent. Like everyone is out to get you and messing up your stuff... just because they can. Yes, we both know it is just a way of thinking about it, "thoughts become things", be happy, don't worry...

I was trying to remember why I felt so much MORE confident last year even though it was filled with insane events that were not in my control. Sure, I whined plenty last year, but I FELT more in control of my own actions and feelings. Is that confidence? This year, as part of my feeling-like-I have-to-solve-everyone's-problems I've thought about moving my studio downstairs where Wingdoodle (my recently closed store) used to be. I've been agonizing over what to call it - The Belfry- doesn't really work for a ground floor space, how do I fit all my stuff into that space, and how do I run another store when I can barely keep up with all my current endeavors? Yep, I have seriously been making myself crazy with these stupid thoughts. Yet, when you finally get angry enough to want to scream - that's when you actually find out what is important to you - my inner child is yelling "but I don't WANT to move! I don't WANT to run a store! I don't WANT to be responsible for solving YOUR problems!" Interesting.

I am a problem solver. Some people would call me an artist. My mother calls me flaky. But I work in whatever medium is required to solve the problem. It might be acrylic paint, glass, dirt, teaching Zentangle or database design. "Problems" are not always bad things - often they are just situations that need ideas or solutions. And many, many times, there is no one within ten miles of me who can actually see the problem that I am addressing.  Once the problem is dealt with, there is no point (for me) in doing the same thing. To many people, it appears that I lose interest or I move on to something else. Flaky. If I continue in the same vein, repeating something - like running a store, or other repetitive work - I get depressed and lose all my confidence. If I continue to solve things and do new things, I gain confidence, make friends, make money, and I'm pretty much happy.  It makes sense.

The one area where I seem to get really snagged is in the area of solving problems FOR a person. I KNOW that you can't change other people. I KNOW that, but my brain can't distinguish one challenge from another. What I have recently come to understand is that my confidence is reinforced from helping people to learn to solve their OWN problems. No, not like a therapist, more like a Zentangle teacher. I have been explaining Zentangle for years as a way to teach creative confidence. I have noticed that even the Zentangle people have taken that tagline as their own to replace "meditation" in their descriptions. Because that's what everything important boils down to: creative confidence.

People with creative confidence not only can solve their own problems, they take responsibility for themselves (thus decreasing their negative impact on those around them), and they see the world as basically a good place with some "problems" that need tweaking.

Here is a wonderful TED talk by David Kelley on this very subject.

Creative confidence is what powers our perception. What he says about the people who are afraid of snakes makes sense, but the example of the MRI machines is just a whack to the side of the head. "DUH!?" We are afraid of things because we are told to be afraid of them. We make everything so much more complicated than it really is. It's all perception.  If I hear the words "CT scan", "radiation", "Xray", "needle"... agh, my hands start to sweat. I have had plenty of bad experiences with all those things and more. But take a look at the MRI room in this video.... ohmigosh it looks like FUN!

Hospitals are cold, impersonal and terrifying. What else would you expect? But one person saw it as a problem to be solved, had a vision of how to fix it - his friends thought he was crazy - but he made it real anyway. And now it seems so obvious to everyone.

So instead of feeling cut off from people because they don't see what I see, perhaps my purpose in life is to help change what others are seeing?


  1. Interesting. Very interesting! Ted gives another 'perspective' in viewing LIFE! Consider being flaky an honor! (here's my "perspective" LOL) No two 'flakes' are the same, so in that theory, you my dear are to be considered, 'UNIQUE'!! Way to go!! Good job!!

  2. "they don't see what I see" - you're an artist, isn't part of our job description trying to show people what we see?

    Also, 'flaky' ... hmm. Cornflakes are tasty (with lots of honey)... flakes of mica are pretty, so are snowflakes ... when you pan for gold you're very happy to find flakes...of course exczema and dandruff are flaky and that's not so awesome... I can picture a motivational poster here - what kind of flake are you?!

    Maybe you're not the only flake in the family?

  3. sandy -interesting post. makes me want to go running into the yard - screaming. hahaha! been there, done that, i could have written this post! i feel your pain - hang in there and take care of yourself!

    and, thanks, my order of 100 tangle/pattern cards got here several days ago - super fast! i appreciate you helping me with that issue - there i go, someone else needed a problem fixed - sorry. seriously, i appreciate all you do for the zentangle community! you are a blessing to me!

  4. Really LOVED this post and the David Kelly talk was just incredible! About the flaky thing...that's only one person's opinion. You may be flaky, you may not. But either way, you wouldn't be able to do all the amazing things that you do if you weren't YOU. Michelle x

  5. I think it's fun to be a flake! There's a lot of beauty in each flake's uniqueness too! As for solving other's problems we rob them of the opportunity to make better choices next time. We CAN say no in a loving way. You go girl! You are right where God wants you to be! It will all work out!

  6. I try to make decisions leaning on what feels right. If it's a really hard decision then I put it off rather than make a mess. As for being flakey, who decides about that? I know some people who really need a dose of flakey! We're not all built the same. I'm not nearly as artistic as you but I normally have umpteen projects on the go or on the waiting list.What's wrong with that? They all get done when I'm in the frame of mind for whichever project. Just keep going

    Brussels, ON

  7. Sandy, you are a stunning illustrator. Screw your mom for whatever she said. You are long past the necessity of being directed by a birth relative, and besides, where does she get off insulting another adult? Does she think she's on a reality show or something? Does she think she is entertaining someone with the wit of aged wisdom? Only Betty White can do that, and even that's a stretch.

    Anyway, I have no idea if you are able financially to keep body and soul together, but assuming that you won't starve (another problem altogether, especially if you are thin), I think expanding on the Zentango design effort would be a huge plus. As it is now, I think it is way too narrow.

    I have a friend who so believed in art therapy (she was an art teacher in the Milwaukee Public School System) that she pursued it as a line of work, then established herself as a nation-wide public, private, and tribal school consultant with, I believe, a specialty in drumming! When it comes to managing $'s, this lady is the most conservative in the world, but when it comes to exploring and expanding ideas for the benefit of others and herself, she's the most liberal and successful liberal, at that. Amazingly, she makes her dreams come true!

    Anyway, some day in the future, I look forward to taking a class or several from you. Right now, I covet your book as it visually describes the basics of illustration as no other has.

  8. You are all giving me a lot to think about!
    Jodi Ehler (CZT) and I sat outside in the sunshine today at Spring Into Warner. We made people come draw with us and we brainstormed about what we felt called to do with our lives. No, we didn't reach any conclusions! But it is definitely a step in the right direction to realize you were stepping in the WRONG direction! :-) And it was SUCH a beautiful day!!

  9. Once again, your post hit home with it's rawness and reality check. I just love your blog because it always seems to touch just the right spot at just the right time. And it's filled to the brim with both vulnerability and strong truth. You have it way more together than you know. Thank you for sharing it with us. :-)

  10. Beautiful and thought-provoking post. Thank you sharing your heart with the world. {Hugs} And, I can SO relate to what you are saying. You aren't flaky, you are "multi-passionate." (This is from Marie Forleo. She is a an awesome life coach.)

    1. We have the same name (and same spelling!)

  11. Since grade school (I'm 50 now), I was called "flaky", or "drifty", or told I had my head in the clouds. Maybe so, who knows? I have had multiple careers, all successful. I find lots of things interesting and challenging, and love to learn and grow. My latest endeavors are in the artistic arena (though I am not ready to quit my day job just yet! LOL!). If that is flaky, that's fine with me! I think it just makes me a more interesting person, but I guess that depends on who you are talking to! Someone else might find a person like me "unstable" (not mentally, I hope!). It isn't important to me to have worked for one company for 25+ years and then retire at age 60 (in fact, I can't imagine it, but that makes some people very happy!). Our parents generation (those in their 70-80's) grew up in a much different era, especially those who experienced the depression. I know my parents believed strongly that you chose your profession (always practical), got a job right out of college (or high school), stuck with it even if you were unhappy, and stayed there until you retired. Switching jobs was only done if you were fired or promoted/offered a much better job.

    As for being a problem solver, I totally relate. I have to steel myself from jumping in and fixing everyone elses' problems. I try to take a deep breath and think "okay, who is responsible for this issue?" At times I have backed off too much, not offering help when I should have, so I am still trying to learn the balance. I agree with what another poster put, that people need to learn to work out their problems for themselves. I have an 11 year old daughter, and struggle daily with not solving her problems for her.

    I'm also an introvert, though am open to meeting people. I am just not a "people collector", in that I don't need to have a large group of friends (two of my sisters are extreme extroverts, and have hundreds of friends, literally!). I'm happy if I have several good friends. Being open to whoever comes into your life, but discerning as well, is important. Sounds like you are doing a great job of it!

    Love your art - can't wait for your next book! :)

  12. Don't you love the internet?! I think it was designed BY introverts FOR introverts. :-) Where else can we say what we are thinking and respond to others - without actually speaking?

    As for moms - I do have a really great mom. She is a very "integrated" part of my family though (if anyone says "co-dependent" I'll scream!!) but the intertwined-ness can truly have bad side effects too. Your insights are dead-on though - she is in her 70's, and she survived the war. She escaped from Estonia with her family when she was 5, was shipwrecked, her sister was killed, she was rescued from the water by a German minesweeper and spent the next 5 years hiding in German attics until she finally came to NY at age 10. (There is at least ONE blog post here, right?) Anyway, I have always considered her justified in her eccentricities, I just need to find a way out from her large shadow.

  13. Sandy, look- Cloth Paper Scissors Magazine used one of your journal pages in an ADVERTISEMENT! How cool is that? You have to have something on the ball for a major publication to select your work for advertising- seriously, think about it....they picked only four awesome examples of art to convince millions of people to buy the magazine, and one of the four was YOU. It's on page 59 of the May/June 2012 issue, just in case you missed it.


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