What’s the point?

By Laura M.

Here’s the thing about creative pursuits: not everyone is gonna care about them. You can record an album, write a book, or make a sculpture. But there may not be anyone on the other end who wants it. This is all well and good if you’re really only interested in the journey or don’t require external validation. If that describes you: God bless. You are so lucky.
For the rest of us, it can feel a little like we’re hollering into a black hole.

Rather discouraging, to say the least, when you get no response. But no response is not an indication of a lack of an interesting topic or dearth of talent. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of influence.

Take, for instance, the class that Ellen and I designed last summer. There’s a local community education program that allows anyone (and I mean anyone) to teach a subject to adults over a series of weeks at local community centers. We decided it would be fun to lead a class on how to tap into your best creative self. We met every week for 6 weeks to discuss the curriculum. We talked about the big idea (that everyone is inherently creative, it’s just a matter of tapping into it), researched the science behind it, and talked about different activities we could do that would inspire students. We arranged for guest speakers and made inventory lists of items we would need to supply during class. We mapped out a schedule of what would be ‘taught’ in each class and even factored in when ‘assignments’ would be due, what we’d ask students to provide on their own and what to do if students didn’t have access to the technology required. We participated in an open house where we dutifully sat at a booth with our materials and handouts and talked with potential students about our class. You get the picture here, right? You understand that we devoted a lot of time to this?

We told our friends, we posted on Facebook and Twitter. Registration opened and (did you see this coming?) NO ONE signed up. Personne (that’s French for no one.) NOBODY!

So get this: two weeks after our class was cancelled due to lack of enrollment, Elizabeth Gilbert came out with her book “Big Magic.” It’s a book about, wait for it…finding your inner creativity. In case you don’t know, Gilbert sold a gazillion copies of her book Eat, Pray, Love. It was even made into a major motion picture with Julia Roberts. So she’s kinda a big deal. This new book of hers (out last September 2015) has sold a lot of copies. I can’t find the exact figure but trust me – it’s a lot. She’s doing an online course in creativity, in conjunction with the book. Guess how many people signed up? 4,228 students.

So clearly we had a good idea but not the influence or exposure to recruit students. Lest you think I’m complaining, you need to understand that this very blog you’re reading came about because of the ‘failure’ of our course. We knew we had some good ideas and we felt like there was an audience out there comprised of people we don’t know.

Of course, this blog comes with its own set of hopes and disappointments.We’ve had some lovely responses from fellow bloggers and friends alike. But many posts are published to…crickets.

 

Where am I going with this? Well, I’m not soliciting SEO advice or suggestions on how to draw a bigger audience. I share my (our) experience because I think it’s what the majority of creators experience. It’s my belief that when you’re in this situation you have to figure out a way to be ok with it. And in the words of Martina McBride (and Brett and Brad Warren, her co-writers), “Do it anyway.”

So my query to fellow bloggers and creators: how do you get comfortable with creating something that potentially has no reward or audience?

P.S. I’ll admit that video makes me teary-eyed.

UPDATE

I shared this post via FB and I got these thoughtful responses:

from Bobby, a songwriter and poet: I just finished listening to the audio book attached here. The author talks about “creating for the sake of creating, how that has diminished in our society, and how important it is for many reasons.” His comments about “flow” and “creativity” helped me to see that much of the creative experience is just about getting into “flow”–a space where the soul is nourished, a space where the mind and the psyche can play. Many of these things I have known, but thought I was alone in my feelings. This book is like a license to be a creative person who does not have to answer to those who do not get it. Create. The opposite of that is “die.” https://www.amazon.com/Creativity…/dp/B000TG1X9C…From my experience: There are writers who thrive on being in the creative process; there are writers who live to have written. I’m the first kind. : )

from Darla, a potter and Zentangle instructor (who has her own WP blog site here): It is so hard to separate your identity from your creative endeavors. I can spend weeks developing a class, order supplies and no one signs up, then I’ll have an awesome group come in for a class and it’s amazing and makes it worth it. I guess we hang in there for the Sparks of shared experience that we are sometimes rewarded with.

from Brent Baxter, a songwriter (who also has a blog here): it always has a reward. The process itself and the joy of completion. Writing a song is fun. Yeah, I’d rather millions of people hear them than just a few, but every time I write a good song I get a good feeling

Denise, a writer, commented here on WP (see below.) Her awesome blog is here.

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Creative Inspiration

by Laura M.

Like many cities, Nashville is host to a multitude of creative offerings. Beautiful gardens, live music everywhere, visual art, dance, bookreadings, etc. But what’s even better is the number of opportunities to explore your own creativity. And I bet your city is like that, too (or at least I hope so!)

There are many entities that offer classes, whether they be one-offs or series. One of them, the University School of Nashville, offers one-off classes taught by alumni or parents of children who attend their school. The money you pay for the class goes towards scholarships for USN students. Now that’s a win-win!

This past Winter I signed up for 3 classes (I wanted to take 6, but was on a budget!) My favorite was a book-making class I took from these two lovely ladies, Emily Holt and Leslie Patterson-Marx at Platetone:

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You can actually thank Emily for pushing me down my creativity path. She taught a book arts class for adults for a few years that was offered by Sarratt Art. That was the first time, as an adult, that I created something that I never thought I could and was proud of it. It encouraged me to try other new things I never thought I’d be good at.

At this particular class we made a simple small book:

 

I keep it in my purse for when I need to take notes. Super cute, huh?

The class had people of all ages and craftiness levels. Everyone was friendly and eager to make something cool. We were all so thrilled to walk away with something so easy to make, looked nifty and is practical.

I really encourage you to seek out classes like these. If you’re not in Nashville, check your local library, arts museum, JCC, university and art stores.

Here are some great places in Nashville at which you can take classes:

Gordon Jewish Community Center – I took a paper cutting class there from Kim Phillips. Such intricacy! I gave my creation to a dear friend of mine who hangs it proudly in her home.

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Owl’s Hill Sanctuary – Ellen and I have taken both a painting class and a book making class there. It’s especially nice when the weather is temperate and you can sit outside under their pavilion.

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Sarratt Art Studio Classes – this is the venue through which I took my first book making class with Emily. Look at all these treasures! I learned so many different binding types and was able to give many as gifts over the years.

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USN Evening Classes – they offer so many kinds of classes! I’ve taken creative writing, a ‘leftovers’ cooking class, and mixed media art class. This is from the paper collage class with Beth Grubb.

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Cheekwood – Probably one of my all-time favorite classes I’ve ever taken was a 6 week mixed media class taught by Cindy Birdsong at Cheekwood. Talk about creative! She has ideas and ways of making art that are so inventive and unique. Especially helpful if you’re on a budget. One of her brilliant ideas is to use spackle (yes, spackle!) to ‘build’ density, texture and dimension. I highly recommend Cindy’s classes. I made this piece as an homage to my dear friend Kelly.

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Plaza Arts – I’ve taken a paper-making class here from Courtney Adair Johnson, a wonderful local artist who works with found objects and advocates for re-purposing to create art. The purple paper you see in the above painting is from the class I took with her. I took another class by Cindy at Plaza Arts. She taught us a form of art called Encaustic (see below image) where you work with wax to create an image.

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There really are so many things you can learn from so many talented folks here in our fair town. What about you? What are your favorite places to take classes from? Please share your leads with us!

Update on 4/10/2016: reader Charlotte recommends art classes from Deby Dearman, some of which are held in Westhaven Resident’s Club in Franklin, TN. Thanks for the recommendation, Charlotte!