Never Broken

The Mindfulness and Meditation summit was such a treat. I had a great time tuning in at my own time and at my own pace. At first glance, I didn’t know whether it was worth listening to singer/songwriter Jewel.

Man, I’m so glad I took a leap of faith and did.

All I remember about her in the 90s is that I loved listening to my aunt’s CD of hers and that it always made me feel emotional. Her songs were not bubblegum pop in any way or form, which was what I was heavily into those days. But I truly liked it. Her hauntingly tragic and sweet songs made me contemplate life more deeply. And now, listening to Jewel discuss mindfulness and meditation is another happy surprise. I never knew how committed she was to mindful living, and this discovery alone is such a gift. Here is Jewel in an interview with entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vee:

In Jewel’s memoir, Never Broken, her discussion about life and how she got through so much pain, trauma, and suffering has made me see her and her work in such a new light. I appreciate her recounting what she wanted out of her new-found fame when she first broke into the music industry. What are my values? It’s refreshing to hear a celebrity with her star power reveal how connected and rooted she is to her true self. She happily declined certain opportunities for amassing unspeakable luxuries and immediate rewards and opted to wait for the lasting, deeper, and more intentional blessings that she trusted would eventually find her. Jewel’s inner compass was her art and her art-making, and it never led her astray from her path.

There was a short clip from her interview with Tami Simon when she said something that stood out to me. That she found solace in the Alaskan outdoors. And that she wanted to be one with nature, just like the hard woods. Because “hard wood grows slowly.” And looking into her book, here’s an excerpt what she meant:

To this day, I calibrate my inner life to what I have observed in nature, and one of the most significant lessons it has taught me is that hard wood grows slowly. I know, not the flashiest phrase, but a profound one. I watched soft wooded trees shoot up in the spring and rot only a few years later. The harder woods became friends of mine …

Great survivors have the ability to yield, adapt, give. This stopped me in my tracks. My life was not teaching me to yield, it was teaching me to cover up, protect, harden. I felt a panic. Hardening was the opposite of yielding. I walked home deep in thought and wrote in my book, things that don’t bend break. …

Slow growth meant thoughtful growth. Thoughtful growth meant conscious choices. It was a ladder of thought that pulled me up over the years until I arrived at one of the mottos I try to live by: hard wood grows slowly. …

If I wanted to grow strong and last, and not be brittle or broken easily, I had a duty to make decisions that were not just good in the moment but good for long-term growth.

-Jewel

I loved every bit of her writing. Reading it felt like listening to a close friend talk about how they’ve been doing for the past X number of years and how they’ve learned to overcome so much. I particularly enjoyed learning more about her songwriting inspirations and what life stories influenced them. For instance, I didn’t know that the song “Foolish Games” was about her bittersweet and tumultuous relationship with her mother. As I re-listen to her songs, I can’t help but feel like I have learned so much more about the multiple layers that people usually have.

How she survived abuse, neglect, homelessness, and not become another “statistic,” I’ll never truly know. But Jewel’s story proves that resilience and grit are inherent qualities in the human spirit that propel us towards healing and equilibrium. Our bodies and minds seek balance and harmony, and even when we don’t consciously understand why we feel anxious, mad, or sad, our bodies and minds want to protect us from harm’s way. That is why we sometimes forget, we disconnect, and sometimes become numb. These are not flaws of the human body, its adaptive nature is to protect us from hurt and pain. Only that sometimes, they get too intense and become troublesome when they take the forms of symptoms and clinical disorders.

Here’s a beautiful bit from her book on pain and suffering:

I loved to observe people. I watched love and life play out in a million ways, but one of the best things I learned was this: You don’t outrun pain. I saw men and women in those bar rooms all trying to outrun something, some pain in their life…

I saw that no one outran their suffering; they only piled new pain upon their original pain. I saw the pain pile up into insurmountable mountains, and I saw the price people paid who buried all that pain, and along with it their hope, joy, and chance at happiness. All because they were trying to outrun the pain rather than walk through it and heal.

Jewel

You know it’s a good book when you begin to have moments of self-reflection.

Reading through this book and talking with dear friends has made me look back and assess how far I’ve come from the years that have gone by. Almost four years ago when my dad passed away, it then seemed like I was never going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I found myself wondering why I was such a magnet for all pitiful and hopeless situations imaginable. I remember thinking to myself… really?? how unfair it was that others probably never had it so difficult. That what I had experienced in a matter of a few months was like a lifetime of horrible events balled up to one that could be shared among a handful of individuals. And yet here I was, with the terrible windfall of luck to win it all B I G. I remember being deeply unhappy and spiteful of happy families. Of happy people and their simple and uneventful lives. Why is this my path? Why am I alone in this grief and sadness? And how come everyone seems to have moved on without me?

It took me so long to get to where I am today. And honestly, sometimes I do still feel like I don’t deserve to be. Things got better when I decided to be my own best advocate. My own protector and caretaker. That grief and loss was not going to stop me from living. That I had lots of dreams and goals that were waiting for me to get started. That I was deserving. And I am grateful for the people who have stuck by me. Who have gone with me through hell and back, and have continued to be my solid ground.

Jewel Never Broken

Jewel’s book was such a heart-warming read. Her life stories have reminded me to come back to where it all started for me, too. To practice gratitude, to learn to be a better friend, to accept and know that pain is temporary, and to never forget that I must yield to life when the storm comes.

-Danessa


Artists Supporting New Artists!
Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure.
If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.

You can get Jewel’s Memoir Never Broken: Songs are Only Half the Story here

Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Oh. My. God. I stumbled across this book accidentally while waiting for my Lyft ride at a FedEx in San Diego, California. It’s called Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. The title was very catchy and it definitely caught my attention. I didn’t end up getting it on loan at the library until a few months later but it was definitely worth the wait.

From the moment the audiobook started playing in the introduction section, it made me shiver with delight and excitement. I wanted to learn more about what Jeff Goins had to say. His initial story about Michelangelo and debunking the myth of the romanticized view of the starving artist had my full attention. I was only listening to a few paragraphs of the introduction and then had the itching desire to just BUY the book and keep it in my arsenal of business and art marketing tools. Yep, the hook was that good.

While I don’t want to give it all away, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights that made me keen on reading this entire book. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins discussed the 12 Rules of the New Rennaissance, which is what ultimately got me to listen in a little closer than other books I have come across on how to make it as an artist in our contemporary world. And yes, I am ecstatic to go through some of my favorites with you today! Here’s a preview of the list:

rads-ig-12rules-new-ren-infographic-660

1. The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you must become one.

I must admit that I have fallen into the trap of the former mindset. This idea we have about gifts or talents can be initially comforting, but at the same time, a very common pitfall. Too often, I’ve thought, well, art is in my blood and DNA, maybe that’s why I’m good? Most days, that is enough, but when there are times when I struggle with self-doubt and criticism with my artwork, I become crippled and stuck. Practice makes us better, and it ultimately leads to our self-discovery and new ideas. Now, I don’t wait for inspiration to strike me before creating a painting. Instead, I now just pick up a brush as scheduled on my daily calendar and paint away.

2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.

I remember an art instructor in college telling me and my classmates that in art, everything has already been done and nothing is completely new. Everything. I was completely mortified! How was I going to stand apart from my peers, and better yet, my predecessors in the art world? Do you actually mean to say that ideas I have about painting with only one brushstroke and calling it art have already been done??? (*edit: I looked this up and yes, it has. See James Nares) Hearing this statement by Goins was thought-provoking and also very freeing. I don’t have to feel pressured to create something entirely unheard of to be recognized as an esteemed artist worthy of attention. I can turn to my inspirations and influences to create something multi-faceted, intriguing, and meaningful. I love this!

10. The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns his work.

Yes, yes, a thousand times Y – E – S! Reading this statement gave me so much validation on my stance about selling my original paintings. Friends and patrons have constantly asked me if I am selling my original artworks, and yes, to a certain degree I am. However, I tend to keep most of my originals (at this time) because I am creating a body of work that will be important to make a collection. I’m not simply hoarding my works to myself because I can’t let go of them. I am preparing for a future endeavor that will be greater than my wildest dreams imaginable. When I set goals, I go big, but with the SMART acronym in mind–specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And looking back at my track record and notebooks filled with yearly goals since 2013, I’ve been pretty good at keeping myself in check and following through! And finding the right patron who appreciates my work and my background as an artist/doctor has always been worth the wait.

11. The Starving Artist masters one craft. The Thriving Artist masters many.

So much this–this is me in a nutshell! I don’t believe I have ADHD, but sometimes, I do wonder whenever my creative brain just wants to do all the things all at once. Then I realize, nope, it’s just my anxiety. 😛 All that aside, I do enjoy learning for life and that goes along with art-making as well. I love picking up new art materials from the art store and figuring out how to incorporate them into my current art process. For instance, I recently learned woodburning, making digital illustrations, and creating custom templates/webpages/business cards as a freelance artist! I not only enjoy learning about how to do them, but also make an effort to learn how to do them well. Thanks to my endless blogging, tinkering on-and-off with websites and Adobe Creative Suite addiction, I can easily explore these other paths of art-making and creative processes and relate them back to my work.

12. The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make art.

Alright, as a recovering starving graduate student in the past 6 years, I have been programmed to scrimp and save for tomorrow like I’ll always be in student debt or there’s not gonna be any jobs forever. Since I became a part of the real world and working class, my idea of money has somewhat stayed the same. But you know what? Goins has a darn good point and his view on how money fits into the thriving artist’s life has changed my views on this dramatically. So much so that I have decided that this is my new mantra for 2018 and on–make money to make more art. I am fortunate to be employed and receiving a steady income while I fulfill my artistic goals on the side. This allows me the stability and ease of mind to freely make artwork without the nagging pressure of selling or producing work in order to eat, afford gas for my car, or pay my mortgage. I now see the value in seeing money, not as an endgame and ultimate reason to make art, but as a tool or resource that allows me to keep making art. By thinking about money as a means to create more art, it not only fuels your work but allows you to think bigger and better each time around. Money is ephemeral, much as we’d like it not to be so, and since it comes and goes, we should stop chasing it like those waterfalls. Instead, chase ideas, new techniques, color palettes, learn from new influences and let the creativity flow. Humans are social beings by nature, and the more you exude a deep, sincere interest in your art-making and share it with the world, the more you gain others’ interest (and also hopefully their greenbacks).

 

Overall, I appreciated all the examples of contemporary artists/entrepreneurs Goins provided throughout the book, such as Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, and so on. The material was very approachable and an easy read. Each chapter was more motivating than the last, and I found myself taking notes and asking myself some questions about how each thought applied to my art-making and business plan. So, if you are at all interested in Goins’ book Real Artists Don’t Starve and his take on how to make it as a thriving artist in today’s world, this is definitely the book for you!

 


Artists Supporting New Artists!

Enjoyed this post or my art? Click below to support me and my art-making adventure. 

If you are an artist or an artist-in-the-making, it truly helps me when you use any of my links to get your art materials and other goodies. I’ve personally selected my favorite places to shop for the best quality & affordable art materials and want to share them with you. That’s why I always shop at Blick Art Materials and Amazon for my art supply needs.