Monday, September 24, 2012

Reflections on doing my Kickstarter

It is 7:00 on a Monday morning. I am sitting here with a cup of coffee, determined to get some work done like a real, live adult. I'm downloading writing software for my iPhone so I can write stories while Maddy is asleep (her crib is in the same room as our computer). I don't know how long it's been since I've posted to this blog, but it feels like an age.

Most of my energy has been directed towards my Girl Stories project, which is SUPER SECRET. I've only been sharing my updates on that with my backers, which doesn't leave much artwork to share here. Everything else I've felt like sharing has been everyday Facebook type stuff - lots of stupid MS Paint style drawings, and videos of Maddy. There's not much left over for the blog.

The one thing I've been meaning to blog about but haven't is a wrap up on my experience with running a Kickstarter. 

One of the coolest things about doing that project was that it forced me to reach out to a lot of people. I don't just mean asking people for pledges, either. I mean that it gave me a reason to contact organizations, fellow artists, and friends to talk about the work I wanted to do. That's something I've always struggled with - putting myself out there, believing in what I'm doing enough to tell people about it. Suddenly, I find myself less intimidated by the idea of calling a gallery or the director of an organization. This project gave me a laser-light focus for my ideas, and a framework to talk about them that got people excited. I realized just how many people  I can link up with to get things done for girls and for myself; whose interests and passions line up perfectly with my own. I don't think I realized how much my shyness was holding me back, making me miss out on opportunities that would enrich my life and my work.

Doing this project made me realize that what really gets me fired up is storytelling and human connection. I've always been turned off by the elitism of the art world, and have found traditional gallery settings cold and disengaging. I am drawn to the low brow, to art that is accessible to the masses. Not that I want art dumbed down - I don't think that public art has to be unintelligent, and I think its foolish to assume that because the general public is not educated about art in a traditional sense, they are stupid and unable to enjoy it. I just want to make art that is authentic, not contrived. I want art to be placed in the hands of people who feel the least like they have a story to tell. I want to connect with those people, and figure out how best to have a conversation with them.

My friend Courtney just shared a TEDtalk with me given by Brene Brown ( about human connection and vulnerability that has really stayed with me. Suddenly, the word storyteller is popping up everywhere I look, and it lights my brain up. I feel like a kid playing punch-buggy, suddenly seeing VW beetles everywhere because I'm looking for them. I watched this TEDtalk about vulnerability and risk, and how the happiest people are the ones who live with "wholeheartedness", a willingness to make themselves vulnerable to others, to live with authenticity and take risk in personal relationships. I always thought I was a very open and unguarded person, but I'm coming to realize that I am the very definition of guarded. I have a hard time letting people in. I crave friendship, but socialization exhausts me. I fear being rejected or judged. I feel strange and alienated from the people I'd most like to build relationships with. I am afraid that if put myself out there, I will be unwanted. People will see my strangeness, and be repulsed by it. 

Fear of rejection has limited my friendships, my sense of connectedness to the community, and even my artwork. I'm beginning to take a hard look at how best to lay my guard down, how to lay myself bare, make the most authentic artwork I can make, and really open myself up to people, even if I risk the most brutal rejection. The alternative is to hole myself up with my family and my cats, playing iPhone games and surfing the internet, catching up on seasons of New Girl on Hulu. I could easily see myself falling into that trap, forever. I do, from time to time. I have to push myself to get out into the world, and I'm always happier for it when I do, but each time still feels like a colossal effort.

This blog post is ridiculously disjointed and rambling. It is in dire need of editing. But the point I am making, if there is one, is that I'm so glad I pushed myself to do a Kickstarter. I didn't really believe it would succeed, or that people would get behind me. I had no confidence in my work, but I faked it to myself, and pushed myself to do it, to believe in it, and to get excited. It really makes me wonder what else I can do. Can I talk to strangers on the street about art? (Utterly terrifying!) Can I found a non-profit organization for clay art for underprivileged girls? (Someday! Maybe soon!) Can I push my work to a level of technical and conceptual excellence that I want it to achieve? (YES! With hard work, and a lot of vulnerability! And a lot of heartache and insecurity, and more hard hard work. Yes. I can do this.)

Fall is coming now, and I'm already bracing myself for the chilly weather, and my studio concrete floors getting horribly cold. My first inclination is to curl up in a corner with a blanket and a mug of hot cocoa and hibernate away from the world. Instead, I'm going to buy a new space heater, a kettle, and some tea, and LIVE IN MY STUDIO until I can pour out every ounce of creativity and heart into my work, and my studio shelves are fit to burst with new art. I'm going to "lean into (my) discomfort," as Brene said in her talk. I'm tired of being comfortable. I want to be alive.



LOVE it!!! and I saw a Ted talk today(2 actually) by Ken Robinson on Creativity that you must check out... even bought his book on Audible!! Jenny Mendes posted it! That said, keep going for it!

Lori Leaumont said...

I am ADDICTED to TEDtalks! They are the best thing I've discovered in recent memory. I watched the entire series on Confessions on Netflix last week. Fantastic talks about storytelling and finding your authentic voice. Thanks Judy! I'll look for that one!

Danette said...

In a strange irony, I've always been inspired by your bravery in the art world. Your efforts to be a working professional artist have encouraged and pushed me to do things I didn't think I was ready or qualified to do!