Monday, July 22, 2013

I Still Believe!

Sometimes the anger and hatred that comes up on the internet in response to Zentangle® discussions just takes my breath away! I have to mentally back away and try to find some distance. It can feel very personal to those of us who are passionate about Zentangle and even more so to those of us who are connected by name. I think what makes me feel most... resentful... is that I have to feel like I must defend it at all. Seems like people could just make a choice - do they care or not. Not? Fine, move on.

A few days ago I saw a great article on Michael Hyatt's blog written by Jon Acuff, called 3 People You Need to Ignore Online.  Jon talks about the Spectator, the Hater, and the Complainer.
I had heard the saying "Haters Gonna Hate" but I didn't really understand what that... meant. I had learned, the hard way, of course, not to respond to mean reviews on Amazon. And I am learning that there is a difference between someone asking a question because they actually want an answer, and someone asking a question because they just want to be mean!

In the blog post, Jon Acuff says:
"Haters only get loud when you do things that matter.
People who don’t stand up never get rocks thrown at them.
The average and ordinary don’t get bothered by haters."

The second two points make me want to be ordinary! But the first point - that makes me realize that - hey, maybe I'm actually doing something that matters - if I'm pissing someone off! ;-)

I've written about it before, but I am still trying to find the balance between when to speak up and when to keep my views to myself. There are so many things that I would love to write about here on this blog that I feel need to be said aloud, but I am still really afraid of the backlash. A few years ago, I wrote about my thoughts and experiences concerning suicide. I received a bunch of very grateful private emails that assured me I had done the right thing. But I also lost a really good friend who misinterpreted my intent. Instead of an explanation of my thoughts and decisions, a baring of my soul, he saw it as a criticism of his own situation! But if I could back in time and do it again, I would still write the post because it made a positive difference to someone. And if another person is already angry about their own life, and doesn't want what I am offering - my posting - or not posting - won't affect them.
I guess it's just the law of the universe or something...

(Also in the blog post) Jon Acuff describes his theory of the “Critic’s Math,” which is
1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.

Why do we do this?!

Last week, I had a series of incredibly disturbing emails (from one person) who I realized too late, I should never have responded too... I felt like I was bleeding from my eyeballs.

And, last week, I had TONS of fabulous emails and gorgeous tangle entries for my contest. At one point, I saw one email message that called me, basically, a demon, and the one right below it, said I was an angel! I know what you are thinking - I shouldn't spend so much time on my email! ;-) At this point I created a filter to just delete the other person's messages for the future. If only life were so simple.

So, back to Zentangle. I see messages all the time now - on Facebook, blogs, Yahoo - where I think "Should I say something?" or "Should I defend this person?" Will it make any difference? Sometimes people actually enjoy arguing! Weird.

Just today someone posted a comment on a blog post I wrote almost FOUR years ago (!?). When I went to the post to reply, I actually re-read it and realized - I still feel this way. It seemed timely. This is what I believe:

Just make art. (Whatever you call it).
Share it. Feel good.
Make more art.

 I'm going to reprint it here. The only thing that needs editing is the fact that, today, when I googled "Zentangle" there were 316,000 entries and a whole mess of books recommended for sale. :-) 
(I'm grateful that I am still on the first page of results!)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zentangle: Art, but not for Art's Sake
If you do a Google search for "Zentangle", 137,000 hits appear. At this moment. Try it again in an hour and there will probably be more. Some of the sites that show up are images with real Zentangles, some have zentangle-ish images, and some are blogs where artists and crafters show their zentangle-ish art but swear they thought of it long before the evil Zentangle-people coined the term and started scamming people into buying a kit to learn how to doodle. It is very hard to resist commenting on these blogs, but I don't think my opinion would make a difference to these people and there is just no point in arguing with them, so I keep my mouth shut. But I can write my opinion here, since this is MY blog gosh-darn-it!!

The most important point is that Zentangle was not designed to be a new art form, but rather a method of using art that is basic and comfortable and familiar to all of us as a way of meditation. A way that anyone, even non-artists, can enter "the zone." To relax, and yet, focus, at the same time. A TRUE Zentangle has steps that set up a ritual, just like other forms of meditation. You can't just enter that state of calm by closing your eyes and saying look at me, I'm meditating." You light a candle, put on quiet music, sit cross-legged, hum, whatever. So too with Zentangle. The creators do not claim to have invented the equipment, the patterns or the concept of meditation by drawing. What they did create were the steps, how to go about this particular process. Its like yoga. It's been around for ages and in so many different forms. Does it matter where the poses originated, or who your teacher studied with? All that ultimately matters is how the poses and the practice make you feel. And how do you learn yoga? From a book? A teacher? A kit you bought at Borders? Make it up on your own?

As you cruise the internet looking for Zentangle art and ideas, you start to see the difference between "doodles", Zentangle-ish art and Zentangle art by people who have had some training. Doodles are easily recognized as what they are because they are random and done in a thought-less way. Usually done while doing or thinking about something else. Unrelated. Talking on the telephone or daydreaming in a class or meeting. Zentangles are unplanned, but deliberate. The patterns are built "one stroke at a time" and they build on each other. The tangler doesn't "tune out", but rather "tunes IN". You become incredibly focused on what is evolving beneath your pen. You forget your worries for the moment. It is also very easy to see the difference between Zentangle art and Zentangle-like art. One dead giveaway is the dark lines outlining the "strings". Strings are guidelines that fade into the design when used properly. The characteristics that make a piece look like Zentangle: black and white, dense patterns within shapes, some shading - are what make some artists shake their heads and say "that's nothing new." But, again, these characteristics are not what make a real Zentangle, they are just the "look" - the end result. Zentangle is not a technique like watercolor or oil painting. It's more like... sand mandalas. It is horrifying for us to watch the monks (or anyone!) destroy those elaborate, gorgeous, detailed mandalas that they have slaved over for days - laying out each grain of sand, section by section. But, for the monks, it is all about the process, not the finished piece.

That said, Zentangles do make beautiful art, but I find that they lose their meditative calming powers when I actually am forced to care how the final piece will look. So I think of these artsy pieces more as illustrations with Zentangle-like qualities. Although, quite often when I create (not including free-lance jobs, ugh) I feel a great joy, sense of contentment and ... peace. I don't know where the image is going and I don't care. I am loving the colors flowing together, the happy accidents, the image that emerges from the paint. Life is good. THIS is what the Zentangle-originators are trying to pass on to you, to me, to anyone who cares to know that amazing feeling. What you do with these skills is up to you.

Resenting Zentangle, or its creators, is like resenting an inkjet printer, or Epson. These are tools to help make your creativity a reality. Use them and be happy!


  1. this post is still amazing! thanks for reposting it.

    1. Thanks Laura! I've been meaning to ask if you might want one of the new Tangle card packs - and one of the contest weeks - for your blog? Let me know if yo are interested. :-)

  2. Hey Sandy.. Love it! Please remember that nobody ever erected a statue to a critic and also If what you do gives you joy and nobody is harmed while doing what you do, then carry on, it is really that simple. Also you should never be worried about voicing your opinion, if you are standing up for what you believe is right. Check out Erika Napoletano for some really outspoken blogging :-)Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi Sandy - Thanks for sharing . . . everything, your artwork, your books, your attitude, your insights, all of it! I love your point about how we magnify the hurts and minimize compliments. One of my mantras as a teacher is "Shout praise, whisper criticism." Even then I know my students magnify my whispers. Here is a youtube vid you might enjoy. Love ya Girl

  4. You have to continue to do what you do and acknowledge that some people are just going to be contrary or hateful or whatever. It all comes around in the end and you are doing good, giving people beautiful books that inspire them, encouraging them and nurturing the art of Zentangle. All is good Sandy :)

  5. Sandy, it is unfortunate that there are haters on social media. Often these are the same bullies that we deal with in day to day life. They are not going to change. But we can alter our response to them.
    we can not let them destroy our peace or our joy. I discovered that inner peace and spiritual process, when I discovered the zentangle process.I love your books and find great joy discovering new patterns and mastering them. Never look back. Our journey is forward and ever evolving.

  6. The haters will always be there. The naysayers will continue to lash out. But we continue doing what makes us happy. We cannot please the world.

    Just be yourself, do what you do best - your art. Focus on those who are positive and try to remove the negativity. Dont focus on the negatives. Learn to ignore.

    The world is full of hateful people at the same time there are also many who love you and what you do (me included).

    Keep up the good work Sandy and just think there are so many like me out there who love you and your work. HUGS Lady....We LOVE YOU...:)

  7. I was in the famous Artisans art supply store in Santa Fe this afternoon. In the book section, they now have a Zentangle shelf and one book was featured on an easel stand like it was extra special.

    And it was - it was Totally Tangled.

  8. Ok, people that post/email something just to get a rise out of you are usually referred to as 'trolls', as in trolling a fishing line. The catchphrase is "Don't feed the trolls.", as in don't give them fuel, ignore them.

    Also, the other good catchphrase to note here is "Flames cheerfully deleted." Flames are internet slang for mean (inflammatory) comments/emails/etc.

    This is one of the best blogs (to me) I've come across in 15 years of reading and writing blogs.

  9. I still belive too!You go girl <3

  10. The most generous and kind people are attracted and believe in Zentangle!

  11. never let the naysayers cause you to doubt yourself. You Rock!!!

  12. Sandy, You have such a positive impact on thousands and thousands of tanglers around the world who have found Zentangle and your books. YFTB and TT are Zentangle bibles to many. I don't think you can even imagine just how much you mean to so many people. I even have a couple of students who are buying new ones, because theirs have become so tattered and torn from over use. Whoever those "haters" are, we have to feel very sorry for them. Their need for attention is never ending and their goal is to get a reaction out of you to enable them to feel better about themselves. Please ignore them and continue concentrating your energies on writing and illustrating amazing books and art and just click "DELETE" when you see these negative thoughts. Eighteen months ago, when I found Zentangle and I could not find a CZT within a six hour drive, I was so thankful to finally get a call that YFTB was finally in at our local Chapters. Your book and Zentangle helped me navigate through a total sea of despair while I waited for my sister to die meanwhile mourning several other family and friend members who had just passed on. Finally getting to meet you in person at Tangle U was a year long dream and taking one of your classes was an awesome experience. You are an amazing person.

  13. Sandy, what a wonderful post! And I love the re-post as well!! Your sentiments "then" are just as positive today as they were then. I am new to Zentangle, but can't tell you the impact it has made on me as well as the wonderful Zentangle artists (YES....artists), that I have come across online since embarking on this wonderful journey. Beauty has ALWAYS been in the eye of the beholder. That, in itself, makes it beautiful, credible, valid, positive, and worthy! I think that one of the best revelations in life is realizing who you are and what you do does matter on some level, somewhere to somebody. We ALL have a corner on that market! Zentangle as a tool, helps you get past all the muckity muck, one step at a time, to realize the creativity we ALL have inside of us (in spite of what we may think, or others) and allow it to come out on paper. The end result is a little piece of you and me that, whether another admires it or not, still shines and is worthy! Shine on Sandy!! I love your blog as I know others do and you just continue to inspire us with your creativity that we may glean, laugh and continue on our own journey from it, and make a difference for another!

  14. very nicely said. I like your analogy of the monks with the sand mandalas. Process not product. That is the key I think.

  15. I'm with you all the way.

  16. I didn't know you when you wrote the first post, but thank you for sharing it. You have such a great way for saying what we all feel but can't find the words to say it. Thank you for all that you do. I appreciate you.

  17. Sandy, a lesson I learned early as an elementary teacher was that there were ALWAYS those who hide in the bushes and come out swinging when they feel threatened. While in the beginning I was hurt by them, I soon realized that the teacher down the hall who NEVER did a thing beyond the lowest level, was totally ignored and left alone by the "wolves" in the bushes. I had to decide to be good at what I did, what I did for children and education or sit comfortably in my classroom and avoid being seen.
    You, my dear, stand tall, give constantly to the world of yourself! That alone will get the attention of the "wolves!" You constantly touch deeply so many, many of us! There are THOUSANDS of us and we have your back! "Wolves" will slink back into the bushes if you just leave them alone! Can't wait until you new card sets are one their way to me!!!!!! For years, folks have mindlessly doodled on the edges of class notes for meeting papers. NO ONE ever looked at my doodles and declared, "That incredible! How did you do that? " Zentangle is not some mindless way to pass time when bored! It is a world-wide movement that touches the lives of so many in positive ways! So stand tall and know that YOU MATTER in the world! BE A THREAT! Love you!

  18. Amen, Sandy, amen. Yes, oh, yes, you are doing something that matters. It matters so much that the sky turns and the birds call because of that same impelling reason. You are an inspiration to us all and I thank you for it.

  19. I've learned more (and am still learning) about design, ornamentation, and drawing depth through Zentangle teachings than from any other source of information.

    I use Zentangle-suggested designs together with items I draw from nature which has lead me to more deeply understand sources of inspiration that were previously unobtainable to my by just browsing through books, museums, fabric stores, jewelry shops, and wallpaper (to name a few things).

    If everything were perfect, I'd love to see the topic of Zentangle broadened.

    With respect to the now assumed trend on the internet to include unrestricted comments, I believe it flies in the face of teacher-learner. By that I mean, off-topic comments and free-form thought are not considered helpful in a classroom. Likewise, in an "instructive" setting where we read the ideas and opinions of producers (books, blogs, etc.), it is really not required that those entries be followed by random information. I pay with my time to read information from people I respect, not to read a bunch'a random thoughts from people I do not know.

    Obviously, there are exceptions (I love BEEZ, for example), but a halt really needs to take place. Example, with reviews, I'd like to see them split between "I agree/support", "eh", and "I disagree/dislike" comments. In that way, readers could select the comments that would be most helpful to them.

  20. Thank you, Sandy. You are one of the reasons I love to meditate with Zentangle. You bring the joy of tangling to life. Keep on doing what you do, and sharing it. There will always be 'nay-sayers' or 'haters' in this world. Treat them as rain off a ducks' back. You inspire a lot of people. Don't stop unless YOU want to stop.

  21. Sandy - the previous comments have said, more eloquently than I could, what I want to say to you! Please keep doing what you do, say what you say - I love reading your posts! Unfortunately there are some people who cannot, or will not, open their minds to new ideas. There are many, many more of us who welcome the opportunity to consider new and different ideas - often this process makes us grow, but we don't trumpet this - we just go on with our lives, just a little more enriched by your ideas, your creativity and an understanding that there is another person out there who is grappling with the human condition!
    I have received, literally, a load of sh*t for making my feelings known in a letter to the editor (supporting gifted children over a salmon - who knew) - it did make me stop for a while but then I realized that I must continue to make my thoughts known. It is, without a doubt, daunting in many ways, to be on the receiving end of the vitriol of closed-minded people, but do not give up. Your voice is important to so many of us out here. You continue to give us a gift, your thoughts and creativity. I hope it never becomes, for you, an odious obligation - just being yourself is more than enough!
    Thank you Sandy!

  22. I must be out of the loop or missing something, but I'm afraid I don't understand the crux of this issue. Sandy referred to "anger and hatred" and I'm confused on this. Hoping that my written words do not sound sarcastic or flippant, would someone please explain to me what the correlation is between Zentangle and "anger and hatred." In my most sincere voice, I do not understand what you all are talking about. Thank you.

    1. I am actually happy for you that you don't know what I am talking about. ;-) I mean that sincerely too. I was referring to a bunch of different things including some "yuck" that comes up on various social sites and even among the CZTs from time to time. And reviews on Amazon.... anyway - it can really hurt. And I don't just mean comments aimed at me. Any hurtful comments about any of us or ZT in general - hurt us all. I'm glad you asked for clarification. :-)

    2. There's very little conversation in real life anymore. People have lost the art of dialog, give and take in a discussion. You go first, I listen to what you say, I comment, you listen, you comment, and so on. The internet has allowed people to blow up their egos by talking non stop about themselves and narrowing every "discussion" to only what they approve of. It does seem to me, more often than not these days, that people have no manners. Kindergarten 101- if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all. But also, some of these people have WAY too much time on their hands, that they can hang around on web sites commenting on stuff they don't even like. If you don't LIKE it, what are you doing there? Don't you have anything else more productive to do? Don't be hurt by people like that. It's a persona, a mask, they aren't even real.

  23. Thank you everyone for your comments - and words of wisdom! I wish I could bring you all into the studio for some tea and chocolate. I am sure that between us we could solve a lot of the world's problems!! And polish off a lot of chocolate too. I read everything you write and take it to heart (that may be part of my problem, but I also learn so much from you). It is very reassuring. And it is nice to know that I have an sympathetic audience - after I "vented" last night, I actually felt so much lighter and was able to start laying out my ideas for my book.

    So thank you all for that! ;-)

  24. There are people in this world that get enjoyment by hurting someone else. Putting it simply getting their rocks off. They don't have anything good in their life they love to make others miserable. They are always to negative. My mother was one of them. I hated her. She went through life hating everyone in it and including me. You had to do things her way and she thought she was always right or it was war.
    I'm so glad that I saw this trait in her and choose not to follow in her footsteps. They are sad people trolls in deed and should keep their mouth shut. I have been a artist all my life. in the art world I have seen a lot of great stuff, good, not so good and I have see a lot of trash art (things to put in the garbage). So I would like to ask them who died and left them the official art god. Sounds like a book burner to me, closed minded people.

    So for the closed minded people F____ off and die. that is my opinion. That may be harsh but they are doing the same to us. they remind me of heartless bullies in school. Grow up!!!!

    Sandy you are great and Zentangles are the best way to teach others how to draw by way of constant lines. Training your hand and mind. I love to see people trying new things and it is amazing to see their eyes light up when they see that they can Zentangle. They may not be very good at it, but every drawing, sketch, painting, watercolor,pastels, 3D-art and mixed media starts with a single line. and may turn in to something they could be proud of or published even sold.

    I'll tell everyone to do art that gives you peace, happiness or joy. just remember their are trolls out there, lets keep them under the bridge. The only way is to talk and tell them how we feel when they are being bullies.
    Thank you for letting me speak my mind.

    1. Sometimes, when I'm flipping through a magazine, I'll see something published and be stopped cold by how absurd that this person was published with this bit of "art". I used to get angry, because I would judge the failure of the "artist" to create something that lived up to the nature of art itself. Sticking a flower in the corner of a card for instance, just to fill up space. But then I began to realize that for some people, that's the best they could do, and for them, that made art accessible. It was difficult for me to step away from what I thought about the "art". On the other hand, I would never on my worst day ever let on that I thought the item was ridiculous. That's so RUDE.

    2. "Digital People" - just little glowing bits on the internet... that's like picturing people in their underwear when giving a live speech. :-)

  25. Sandy, when I was MUCH younger, I doodled incessantly! It made me happy and let me express myself. But, as time went on I drew/doodled less and less. Life happened. I got 'busy'. Since I have discovered your blog and these wonderful things called Zentangles I have felt that spark again. The wanting to create something out of my scribbling/doodling. I LOVE this art form!! It has brought me so much happiness!

    I love reading your blog and as the above poster so appropriately noted, "...remember there are trolls out there, let's keep them under the bridge."

    If you, as one person, can positively affect another then I'd call it good. My very favorite movie of all time is "It's a Wonderful Life". How does that relate? Well, it's about the effect of one person on those around them. He went about doing what he did best and positively affected so many others. Yes, he had his own troll as well. Life isn't without trolls.

    Just keep doing what you do best dear. I, for one, have been positively impacted and I wouldn't have it any other way.

  26. Zentangles make me happy, you make me happy! Carry on - head held high. Never let anyone steal your joy.

  27. Ooooo! chocolate! New book? Wonderful!

  28. I spend my days in the public in a customer service role. 99% of my customers are great folks. Most are just ordinary, there a few that go out of their way to make my day good. And then there are "THOSE" people who you cannot make happy no matter what you do. They seem to think that you are (a) purposely hiding that one item they want from them, (b)racist, (c)rude, (d)incapable of doing your job .... the list goes on. I have learned not to engage these folks even though you want to defend yourself or the company. It does no good. I feel bad that they live with such anger inside them and feel thankful that I don't have that mess inside me. When I do encounter one that really gets under my skin, I take a break and go tangle. It really is yoga for the mind and helps to re-focus my mind on good things. When I can draw smooth, long flowing lines in a relaxed way instead of short, cramped, tightly held pen lines then I know I am able to go back to work and not take the bad karma with me.

    Keep up the great work! I take inspiration from each and every picture posted in social network groups and on blogs. Don't let the haters get under your skin. Tangle & breathe...tangle & breathe....tangle & breathe....ahh that's better...

  29. It's not easy to just ignore the haters, but life is short. We shouldn't give them any more of our time than they deserve. Thanks for the great post!

  30. Thanks everyone. My mission in life... as it is evolving... is to "shine a light". I've always seen that as a way of positively supporting and lighting up other people. I am also learning that the brighter my light shines... the more moths it attracts! :-) Thank GOD and the Universe that I have a really good sense of humor, eh?


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