Friday, June 10, 2011

The Creative Beast Interview - I Saw You Dancing

Hello Dear blog readers! I have another Creative Beast interview for you today and I hope you'll come away from it inspired. Make up a cup of coffee or tea and take some time to savor today's interview from an amazing writer...

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Interview with Kat from I Saw You Dancing

Let me tell you about the day I met Kat...actually, I'll let her tell you how we met since we share this story...and there is something else that has become a shared experience - one of her weekly prompts from her weekly Worthiness Wednesday series...

Many of you know that one of her prompts inspired me to put out a "call for help" on my blog a few weeks ago and her worthiness prompts are soul searching and very helpful, as is her writing in general. I'm so happy that I reached out to her when she began her blog. Her writing has enriched my life in ways I can not describe and her adorable daughter has inspired some successful artwork as well. I'm so happy Kat agreed to be interviewed! Welcome Kat!

Kat's self portrait...

I’d like to start by thanking Monica for this very special opportunity, and for holding such an important place in my creative story.

I started my blog I Saw You Dancing on New Year’s Day in 2010. I didn’t tell my family, friends, or colleagues and didn’t anticipate much (if any) traffic. And then, on January 5, in my fourth ever post, a comment appeared from a certain Creative Beast! It felt like my heart had exploded into a million butterflies: beautiful, unexpected, and slightly scary! I couldn’t believe that a lovely lass in California had tracked a comment I had made on another blog all the way back to my own little fledgling space to offer a word of encouragement. Monica’s powerful little votes of confidence continued, from cheering me on during moments of celebration, to encouraging others to visit my blog, to confiding similar experiences, to exploring some of the themes I’d raised in her own blog posts, to gently nudging me to share some artwork, to recommending some wonderful reading resources, to extending a lifeline in times of doubt.

It was this experience of being seen – outside my daily life as a Mum, daughter, wife, friend, employee – that gently coaxed me to step into my story as an artist and writer, and also to embrace more fully the concept of “radical self care”. Late in 2010, I was finally able to acknowledge that I’d been feeling “down” for longer than I cared to admit and that the relentless pressure I put on myself to take the blame and “fix” myself was no longer serving me. Soon after I started work with a psychologist and, perhaps not coincidentally, also started creating more consciously.

I can attest to her blossoming creativity as I am a lucky recipient of one of her beautiful canvases... 
I love this canvas and it resides on my altar in my living room...

I am very much a work-in-progress but even only six months later I can see how much more spacious my life feels, and how much more room there is for creativity. I’ve been delving more diligently into my haiku practice, and have seen my art and writing converge in this space. I’ve been submitting writing and art for various opportunities, proud to have taken the step without worrying too much about the outcome. I’ve almost finished my novel for children/young adults, have received some really positive feedback, and have been pestering an editor/publisher as politely as can be. I’ve launched the weekly Worthiness Wednesday prompt on my blog, and even though it’s only in its fledgling phase, I am trusting that it will evolve into something powerful and unique, in its own time. I’m slowing down and allowing myself to achieve less… and in the process I can see that there is so much more room for joy and mistakes and learning and mystery.

Thank you all for communing with me in this space, and I look forward to meeting you in that place where you have nothing but compassionate curiosity for the longings of your soul.

Kat, you are a marvelous writer and storyteller - thank you for sharing the story of how we met and your own blossoming as an Artist. You've got a lot to be proud of! I have no doubt that your story will encourage others to follow their own inner whisperings and to share their story.

Who first introduced you to creating? Was it a family member - a teacher? How did that person influence you?

My parents were my earliest and most profound creative influences. My Mum is very practical and inventive and can sew anything from clothes to curtains! She can crochet and knit and embroider and she made all my ballet costumes as I was growing up. She also gardens, and preserves a large range of fruit and vegetables that she grows herself. Her first impulse, on seeing something new, is to wonder how she can make it herself.

My Dad is a master wordsmith and is also very musical. He is always reading and writing and listening to music. As I was growing up, he always seemed to be humming or whistling or making up silly words and funny songs. We were practically a bilingual household when I was growing up, so the words and songs really only ever had meaning for us. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I see how special this sort of gift really is.

Recently, I recalled the wall of my Dad’s old office, which was like a huge collage wall. There were photos and pictures and cartoons and meaningful/inspiring snippets pinned all over it, literally from floor to ceiling. I could stare at it for hours, marveling at the details but also the composition and overall effect. He recently emailed me a photo of it, at my request, and somehow it seemed smaller than I remembered. But the impact on seeing it again was definitely there, and I would count this surreptitious artistic act of my Dad’s as an important creative influence.

Wow! I can see the origins of each style of work you create Kat, from crochet to collage to writing. You have some very creative parents that seem to have bestowed a wonderful legacy of creativity on to you!

What were your first creative actions that you remember?

If family legend is true, then I wrote my first “thesis” at the age of three. I also decorated the wall of a tutorial room next to my Dad’s office at the university where he worked… with permanent markers. So the power of art to escape and disrupt was clearly imprinted on me from an early age! But in terms of what I remember, I started ballet classes at the age of four and the things I learnt about music and self-expression but also commitment and responsibility have carried me through much of my life.

I hear you on those lessons of  commitment and responsibility coming through ballet classes. I think that studying ballet is one of the most formative experiences in discipline and diligence I've had in my life and it really carries through in most areas of my life...

Do you have a favorite medium to create in? If so, what is it?

My favourite medium (and my greatest passion) is words, written or typed, but also spoken. I think I am at my loosest, creatively, when I am scribbling in my journal with a sumptuous pen. I’m also in my element after a glass of red and some great food with my closest gal pal, talking intensely about life and love and our various passions.

I am also rediscovering my love of collage. I took my first tentative steps in a collage journal around four years ago, and it took a long time to relax and just enjoy the process. Once this came a little more readily, memories came flooding back of how I used to collage my school books and diaries and once made a huge collage poster of Jimi Hendrix for my bedroom wall. I could lose myself for hours in the detail, but also loved the feeling of harmony and completeness that came from composing all those tiny pieces into one beautiful whole. (Perhaps I am always trying to reclaim the wonder that I felt, looking at my Dad’s office wall…?)

During times that I don’t feel like writing or collaging, I read or crochet. I also love to take photos: nothing spectacular or disciplined, just witnessing the (extra)ordinary in any given day.

Isn't collage wonderful? And I love how it relates back to your father and the early memory of his own "inspiration board" in his office...I would have loved to have seen a picture of that Jimi Hendrix collage! I'm listening to some of his music as I write this...

How do you feel when you are creating in your chosen medium?

The greatest gift in finding my chosen media is the total absorption that comes from losing myself in words or paper and paint and glue. Time is suspended and I feel light and free and alone but not lonely… just completely me. 

One of Kat's photos - I love how it imparts her playful side...

What is the greatest joy you derive from creating? Accomplishment? The process? Sharing it with others? Please explain…

This is a really good question, because it nudges me to acknowledge that I don’t create for myself alone. Sharing my art and words with others (mainly through blogging) required a lot of courage and an enormous leap of faith. I was afraid of being ridiculed or diminished, but really wanted some constructive critique. What I got was so much more: support, inspiration, celebration, and connection. This has enriched my life – and my craft – in so many ways. It has enabled me to extend myself, try different things, to enroll in a few classes, take a few more risks, open up a little more. It has also been really useful in rescuing me from the comparing-myself-negatively-to-others vortex!!

I love how all three aspects have created a circle of support for you and how they keep you from that nasty vortex - it's not a fun vortex to fall into. I love the support from the blogging community, too!

Do you think a creative life comes from ideas, doing or being?

Hmmm… this is a really interesting question. I’m tempted to say a degree of all three. Ideas can come from inspiration but they also arise from the process of doing (perhaps even more so). But I also like the idea of just being, and celebrating the smallest everyday things for the creative opportunities they bring. The latter is particularly important for those of us who do not have as much time to devote to our chosen media as we’d ideally like.
How do you express your creative life? Is it integrated in your daily life or is it a separate part of your life?

I have a day job, but I work part time because I am also a Mum of an inquisitive, clever, beautiful, funny, sunny little two year old. So, I think everything I do requires a degree of creativity… even though not all of these things “feed” me in the same way that writing and art-making do. My days have to be segmented, largely due to naps, but I have always been good at doing things in “inspired bursts” so it suits me quite well. I am also blessed to have a husband who is not fussed if I don’t iron his shirts or the floors are always grotty!! It is a privilege to be able to devote some time each day to the things that nourish my soul, but it also requires perseverance, logistical juggling, and a willingness to let go of the tyrannical To Do list.

Oh yes, the never ending battle of clean home vs. making art and feeding ones soul! If only there was a way to make the housecleaning a FUN activity, I'd have a cleaner home! ;)

Can you think of a time when someone else’s creativity fed you? What was that like?

There are countless other women whose blogs I read – artists, writers, seekers – whose explorations and achievements continue to feed me. But as to “what this is like”, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there are gifts but there are also detractions. I mean, I have found the journey of particular women to be inspiring and inclusive but, in my darker moments, it has sometimes felt like I am living a creative life vicariously… which then seems to open the way for feeling inadequate and discouraged.

It has taken a lot of work on my part to see that the things I envy in the journey of other women are not negative comments on me, and that I need to keep focusing on the aspects of my journey that are mine alone. The blog world can feel very crowded sometimes, and the sheer breadth and depth of other people’s talent and achievements can be quite overwhelming. I think Cathy really nailed it in her interview at Do What You Love where she talks about trusting her own journey.

I loved Cathy's take on trusting her journey in that interview too and it never fails that Cathy is usually expressing the same thoughts that I'm processing at the same time and we're over half a world apart from each other! It is SO important to learn to trust your instincts and follow your own path, but sadly it's not something that is taught in schools =-(

What is the most significant creative event in your life to date? Was it a defining moment? Was it a milestone or a lifetime goal?

You know, I’d really have to say that the most significant step I have ever made towards living the creative life was starting my blog. It’s a story that I heard over and over, back in the days when I read a billion blogs but didn’t have my own. I kept thinking: everyone else has said what I want to say; there’s no room for me; they’re all saying it a zillion times better than I ever could; and, I don’t know what my “thing” is yet. And yet, something compelled me to leap in anyway. It’s probably the most public way I’ve made such an in intensely private declaration: that I have something worth saying, even if I’m not sure what it is yet. It wasn’t exactly a lifetime goal, but it was certainly a milestone in my personal and creative development. And it has marked a real turning point in the way I view myself as a writer and artist.

How do you feel about working a ‘day job’? Do you feel your day job is in alignment with your life and your values? If not, does that matter to you?

I LOVE working a day job! And I’d recommend that anyone feeling conflicted about working a day job read Summer Pierre’s The Artist in the Office, as it is right on the money. I am very comfortable with the fact that my writing and art-making and other creative passions do not pay my mortgage or put food on my table. This may change, but for now I feel I need the safety to play and make mistakes and allow my craft to evolve at its own pace. I am not especially entrepreneurial and don’t really have the time to devote to building skills in this area. So, for now, I am committed to taking my craft seriously but I don’t want to put so much pressure on myself that it becomes counter-productive and takes all the joy out of it.

That said, I still claim the right to call myself a writer and an artist. I am very blessed in that I do like my day job and I can do it part time and it doesn’t seep into the rest of my life. I have certainly been in situations where this wasn’t the case, so if you’d asked me this question five years ago, I would have given a very different answer!! My day job mainly calls on my writing skills, and I love the way that my day job and passions are in greater alignment.

AH! That elusive ALIGNMENT! This is something I'm striving toward and I love how you address this question of working a day job - I think it's possible to be an artist and work at a day job if it's in ALIGNMENT with your values. If I take another day job in the future, I will most certainly be looking at how a day job is in ALIGNMENT with my skills and CREATIVITY. And thank you for sending me a copy of "Artist in the Office" Kat! It is a good book to have as a artist that works a day job.

One of Kat's original collage canvases. I LOVE the colors in this one AND the message! It's what I hope to achieve in the future...

Do you think it’s necessary/important to be a self-sustaining artist?

I think it’s important to be a self-recognised artist. I know quite a few people who want to be able to write or paint full time, and have their passions sustain their livelihood, and I totally respect that. I am not at that point, and I am not sure I ever will be, but I don’t think that an income is necessarily the litmus test of whether or not you are a writer or an artist. 

If you love writing, if you love art-making, then do it as often as you can. It doesn’t matter if no-one is prepared to pay for what you produce (there are other ways of getting paid for the skills that you have), but it is critical to find a small number of people who really get what you do and why you’re doing it. The latter is so important for nourishing and extending you, personally and artistically. Then all that’s left to do is keep doing the good work and good things will come… in ways you never imagined!

You've hit the nail on the head Kat - SELF RECOGNITION! I think that recognizing myself as an Artist throughout my life, even if I never admitted it to others, has been a covert source of strength for me through the years. I have many outlets of art I've worked in privately and publicly and not been paid for it. I agree that making an income from your art is not a great litmus test, but continuing to work at your chosen medium is the important part and sharing it with others who "get it" can pave the way for sharing your work with a larger audience over time, which can lead to things you never imagined, as it has done for me - you just never know where it may lead!

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Many thanks to Kat for this interview! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it! I really look forward to seeing her story continue to unfold and to watch where her writing and artwork may lead her...You can watch her story continue to unfold at her blog:

Stop by her blog, say hello and be inspired!


Kathryn Hansen said...

great interview...especially liked the last few questions, talking about having a day job and being a self-recognized artist. i'm going to go check out her blog now!!

The Creative Beast said...

I'm so glad you liked this interview Kathryn. I loved her answers on being a self recognized artist too! I hope you enjoy her blog =-)

Jani Franck said...

A lovely interview, glad I found your blog - colourful and inspiring!