A few days ago, a frantic email appeared in my inbox. Did I have a waiting list for Sunday’s mini-retreat? Not that she wanted to get in, she was hoping for an excuse to bow out. She had work in the annual East Austin Studio Tour, known affectionately here as EAST, and she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to focus, that her mind would still be on the tour. I didn’t keep a waiting list, but offered to put out feelers to folks who expressed interest, but didn’t sign up.
“But I think you should come,” I wrote. “EAST will be mostly over and it will be a good chance to step back and transition to life post-EAST.” She agreed.
At the end of the busy fall season, the best gift you can give yourself is some space let go, to transition from heavy production mode to the quiet months of winter when new ideas incubate.
In my first Creative Mix interview, Jennifer Chenoweth talked at length about working with the seasons, pushing herself during the intense periods of spring and fall, and letting go over winter break and summer to spend time with her kids. Every November, Jen hosts a group show in her home that is one of the highlights of EAST. In addition to creating new work and organizing the other artists, she cleans the house top to bottom and whips up homemade posole to feed the masses that come through her house.
“East Austin Studio Tour has become my annual fall Thanksgiving closer,” she told me, “where I show the work, I celebrate with my community, there’s eating, there’s talking. I document the new work. And it’s followed by December, which is for rest and holiday and family.”
If Thanksgiving is a traditional harvest holiday celebrating the fruits of agrarian labor, how can we translate that for our creative work?
I have a few suggestions:
1) Acknowledge the effort you’ve made this season. It’s good to take stock of what you accomplished, but also give yourself credit for simply showing up and making effort.
2) Acknowledge your support structure — friends, teachers, employees. But also the rooms where you work, your energy on a good day, the food you eat, etc. It’s good remember the many ways we are supported and sometimes take for granted.
3) Acknowledge your service to the greater good. You don’t have to volunteer for charity to benefit this world. Have you created work that inspired someone? Have you shown up to meditate and thus brought some measure of peace to this world? Give yourself credit.
A lot of people are busy planning 2016. But before moving forward, it’s good to make peace with the past year. I often give my students and clients the following questions to sort out the narrative in their stories or to figure out where they are headed in their lives. The questions also work for coming to the end of the calendar year. Use writing practice to get at them.
1) What did I want?
2) How did I go about getting it?
3) What got in my way?
4) What was I afraid of?
5) What did I really want or need?
If the answer to #5 differs significantly from #1, you know where you want to focus in 2016. I’d love to hear where these questions get you, by the way. Please feel free to let me know in the comments section below.
And while we’re at it, thank you for your support this past year, and for showing up for your work and sharing here and on Facebook with me. I care that your work gets made and out into the world. I hope you’ll continue to let me be your champion.