April 25, 2013
In this moment, I should be sending out a sales letter reminding y’all about my final, upcoming in-person workshops here in San Francisco.
But I’m feeling more philosophical.
In other words, I’m feeling more like myself these days.
Less inclined to craft a pitch…even though the Entrepreneur part of being a Creative Entrepreneur requires something of a 50/50 balance of effort to make it all really work.
Truth be told: I’m NEVER inclined to craft a pitch.
I’d rather spend three or four hours writing you a love letter.
Which is what I did just now.
Note: I can feel this is going to be a long post. I hope you’ll read it leisurely. With a beverage of choice. We’re going to have a virtual chat, the way I do with my friends around the world over skype. You can add your thoughts and comment to the convo, below.
A few weeks ago, I arrived back at home base near San Francisco, CA, after living abroad in Mexico for a year and a half.
In preparation for this weekend workshop, I’ve been culling boxes of ephemera and papers and art supplies.
Due to marching orders from my friend and Feng Shui Master / Interior Design Mistress / Soul-Retrieval Physician, Suzy Foy, I am no longer allowed to keep anything boxed up and put away.
My art supplies…and my life…are being unpacked.
This process of living unpacked…of having all of my tools and supplies and…yes…much paper in the form of sketchbooks and manuscripts in process within arms reach…
is profoundly opening doors, windows, secret passageways of my heart and soul…
I’ve never Ever before in my life lived without any moving boxes at the ready.
In case I need to move…I kept saying to Suzy. For the first half dozen times she asked me why I was storing empty boxes.
I’ve never fully unpacked and moved into my loft…which is the dream home I bought for myself (and my inner artist) eight years ago.
I’ve actually not even lived here that much. I mostly have lived elsewhere…Sydney, Australia, Los Angeles, Mexico ( a few times), long trips to Europe and Africa, too. I still keep an apartment in Mexico.
I want to see what happens when I fully inhabit my space. When I claim it all for myself. It’s been a public / private space, in the spirit of a live/work warehouse. After this weekend, I’ve decided not to host more workshops here. This is all very different and surreal to me.
In the unpacking, I want to share with you something I found.
For what reason I don’t know.
Especially when I should be writing sales emails. (Is this a bad example to set for my fellow Creative Entrepreneurs?)
If you’re at all familiar with my work, you know I am obsessed with maps, charts, globes.
These elements are constantly finding their way into my visual art and writing.
Above, Back view: My plastic envelope of Valentine ephemera. A message in a bottle filled with heart-shaped maps. And a little booklet of the heart.
Front view: the self-addressed envelope inside…inviting interaction.
The contents of the plastic envelope. (upside down)
This little package was my “valentine” contribution back in 2007, when one of my dearest friends, Carol Parks, hosted valentine exchanges.
Carol had many books inside of her. Ideas that never took form. I am speaking in past tense because few years ago she passed away suddenly in her sleep. I’ve never found a way to write about this loss publicly. Maybe I never really will. I haven’t even been able to write about it privately.
Except to say that life—and what we want to create—is here, and now, and that’s it.
Some day, maybe any moment, someone we love won’t wake up tomorrow.
That someone will eventually be us. Life being a one-way ticket and all.
No one knows how much time they have. How long we get to procrastinate. How many more years we might let fear triumph over love.
Fear being any form of resistance that shows up. Love being code for what we Really Really Really want to be creating or doing or expressing while we are still in physical form to do so.
In preparing for the upcoming for the upcoming workshops, another layer of clarity opened up about this crazy work of Creative Entrepreneurship.
Being a Creative Entrepreneur is mostly about courage.
Courage flows from the heart.
Or it doesn’t.
But then fear, in all of it’s insidious disguises, wins.
My friend CP was brave and courageous and bold. She had a strong personality that wasn’t for everyone. I was intimidated by her. A lot.
CP was generous and a true believer in my work. You can see her work throughout the pages of my book, The Creative Entrepreneur. When I was on deadline, she came up to San Francisco from LA and we rented a hotel suite, ordered room service and she supervised my final edits under the wire.
There was a rain storm so fierce the Golden Gate bridge was closed for awhile. This confined us to work. Instead of shopping and eating, then writing and painting, which is our usual art date.
The Mirror that Reflects Your Beauty and Gifts
She said to me one evening after a marathon talk in front of her fireplace: I tell you things I’ve never told anyone. You bring out a part of me that I don’t show anyone. You help me see my gifts and my beauty.
I took that in. And then I told her: You know…so many people have said that to me. I wonder why that is so?
I’ve learned that that’s what my work is about. Perhaps disguised as business strategy or web design or a marketing plan that works. But it’s really about holding up a mirror and showing you your gifts and your beauty.
Creative Entrepreneurship begins and ends with love. Money is a nice by-product of getting certain tweaks of the dial right. That all happens in the middle, like the filling of a sandwich. Love would be the bread that holds it together.
The main thing when it comes to my form of Creative Entrepreneurship concerns what happens in our hearts.
How do we open to the Great Work, that love of our project or idea that wants to take form?
And where to we turn away, or shut it down because of fear? Feeling overwhelmed or too busy? Or not talented or special enough? Or because we are missing just a few bits of helpful information that would set our ideas and passions free?
Carol curated a dozen artists every year to send in valentines. We each make one for all the participating artists, and then a bunch of extras. Carol then boxed up and sent beautiful boxes of valentines to people who were shut in, alone, ill, or had experience a really hard year.
Following is the email I sent Carol to go with my contribution to her Valentine’s Day swap.
It’s a long-ass email. Be warned that there are some choice curse words, which is how she and I talked with each other. There are machinations about my love life and strong words regarding Valentine’s Day. But it goes with the story. It’s how I can share about my relationship with Carol (CP) without writing any more.
Have you ever read collected letters, published by writers and artists? I love correspondence between friends…those people who see us for who we are. Go gently…this is so personal to share. 🙂
On Feb 10, 2007, at 12:09 AM, Lisa Sonora Beam wrote:
There is so much that goes on in the creation of something new.
Probably it’s observing what goes on in my head as I work that is the most interesting thing to me about making art. For the longest time, I never thought of what I was making as art, but that’s another story for another time.
Lately, I’ve been making what I call “liner notes” to go with my work. I think the stories behind the work are as important as the work.
Anyway, my head is clogged with another cold and I’m not so articulate right now, so these liner notes will be somewhat raw.
First of all, I hate valentines day. I hate most holidays. Holidays as a kid always put a glaring spotlight on how abnormal my life felt compared to the rest of the “normal” people outside of my family.
Holidays as an adult have this weird vacuum of disconnection from place, belonging, the rhythm of history. Disappointment of fantasy compared to reality.
I agreed to participate in your valentine exchange because: a) who can say no to Carol Parks? and b) you made me feel like I belonged in this circle of artists you admire. So. Auk. I found myself saying yes.
And then saying, No! I can’t do it! My life is too busy and fucking crazy. And I hate valentines day. I hate hearts and boxed chocolates and doilies and slinky lingerie and red satin and not to mention roses (Am I the only person who hates red roses?) and all the crap that spells romance for those special enough to have a special someone (who is romantic enough to make the overture).
You’d think I was some bitter single woman ranting on, but I have (or maybe had, we’ll see) a boyfriend who is pretty romantic, but for some reason I just haven’t been able to let go and let this guy love me. It’s weird. There is something missing that I want to experience and haven’t yet. But how would I know it’s missing if I haven’t experienced it?
Even though there is kindness…there is this lack of…something. Something missing that I cannot name.
I have often felt there is something missing in me (a.k.a. a heart) that allows normal people to form bonds and not be terrified of good things like love turning into the inevitable other shoe dropping. A few weeks ago we separated and since then, I’ve had this aching pain in my heart. Not because I miss him, per se. But because I miss whatever is missing. The missing part of my heart?
It’s the same kind of pain I started having last spring, when I actually thought I was having a heart attack. Turns out that’s what an anxiety attack feels like, and so that’s what this last month has been. Anxiety and stress a part of my “successful” business that seems to encroach on my life 16 hours a day seven days a week.
Let me try and get to the valentines and the liner notes. I spent the weekend with artist Gail Reike. Finding a kindred spirit in journaling and travel. It seemed humanly impossible to take the whole weekend off, but I did. Was so bleary from all the work and no play. I felt clogged and uncreative.
My stress began to unravel during the weekend. My heart stopped hurting. I felt this genuine love and acceptance for my boyfriend, whatever form our relationship takes.
I fell in love with a dog I met on the street. I could feel my longing for permanent bond, like the kind you would have if you had a dog. Or a kid. These thoughts were scary, but I just felt the dog love and left it at that.
I could see the innocence in the alcoholics I met going in to the Dogpatch Saloon, coming from some kind of meeting (an AA meeting, no doubt) where they had to wear HELLO name tags.
One man had a St. Jude medal hanging around his neck. They let me photograph them in the street in front of the saloon. I explained that I was on a photo safari. That I am documenting the beautiful and teeming moments of life. That I take pictures trying to capture the aliveness I see.
It’s so ephemeral, life. But I see the beauty everywhere. In these men, going to drink at noon. Probably still hung over from yesterday. After a morning attempt at sobriety. Like the fathers in my life. I can see inside them. Somewhere, sometime, before they decided to sucuumb to self destruct, they were innocent and uncumbered. And this is the beauty that I see.
I could see that these men, at some point, did not feel love or let love in. And thus turned elsewhere for comfort.
There before the grace of God go I. Right? At least I know that nothing outside can fill the empty void of love. Not that I haven’t tried. I know you get it.
Something happened in those moments of loving what is, the world, the mistakes we humans make, our vulnerabilities and brokenness. There was a sort of earthquake then in my own open (not empty, but open) heart space…and then I knew what was missing that I couldn’t name before.
A feeling of real connection. When you have it, it’s there. When you don’t…the void is gaping and uncrossable. And the lack of connection is what makes me feel so lonely while in the presence of another.
The grizzled men outside the Dogpatch Saloon stood smiling, smoothing out wrinkled jackets and flyaway hair for my photos.
I wasn’t afraid to tell them: I see your beauty. Their eyes sparkled back. One smiled through watery held-back tears. My heart was wide open now. Another gave me his name tag for my sketchbook. I told them my real purpose behing all of the documenting with camera and in sketchbooks: I do art so I don’t totally self-destruct.
Maybe that makes me a kind of cliche, but whatever. It’s the honest truth. Have I gotten to the fucking valentine liner notes yet?
Gail Reike’s Valentine-a-Thon
So Gail has a valentine-a-thon every year at the San Francisco Center For The Book. It happens the Monday after her weekend class. Sitting there Sunday, hearing about it for the first time, my rebel self, said: I’m going to play hooky from work tomorrow and come back. Just to be around Gail’s energy some more. Well, and, I guess I should try and fulfill my valentine commitment for your swap. But I didn’t expect to really produce anything.
On Monday at noon, I arrived at SFCB with a cup of tea and a tuna sandwich from Starbuck’s. By lunchtime, I had already put in a day’s work and took off from the studio not having eaten a thing. But I got there. The valentine making was in full swing. I was proud of myself for showing up.
Gail had boxes of valentine making supplies and other stuff to pick from. There were the usual doilies, hearts, pink, red, vintage naked ladies, ho hum. I sifted through stuff. Took out my bag of papers, ate my sandwich, wandered around, admired Gail, drank my tea.
Nothing was really happening for me. Everyone else was diligently creating with a purpose. Lots of valentines had vintage papers. It’s not a look that resonates. If you see it once, that’s enough. But there are whole ‘zines filled with this stuff. Absolutely do not like vintage music paper. Why does it have to be central to collage these days?
These slightly crabby thoughts abounded as I wandered the room, waiting for lightning, or even just Cupid himself, to strike me with the same crafty fervor of the other valentine makers.
Flipping through a box of books Gail brought for us to cut up, suddenly a graphic caught my eye. It was an illustration in a sailing instruction book. I seized on it, full of amazing graphics, and started cutting out hearts. This kept me occupied for the afternoon.
Having all the hearts made up of weird illustrations in a big pile on the table was more dramatic than seeing them individually. Wish I would have photographed that before I placed the hearts inside sealed envelopes for the swap.
Some lucky person has a heart-shaped map that shows a drawing of a pile of red dynamite under a guy’s ass. Whatever that signifies. Too bad I didn’t keep that one. It probably is just going to be offensive to whatever gentle, doily-loving soul opens up that valentine from the box you send out.
I marveled at these complex and detailed instructions for navigating a vessel on water.
What about our hearts? Our lovers? Relationships?
Where are the instructions? The guidance? The coded diagrams that orient us according to weather, storms, compass points, optical illusions, problems of perception?
What if we had an operations manual of the heart? Wouldn’t that be a handy valentine?
Could I learn how to love the way a person could learn to steer a boat and not crash it or sink it? Cutting out the heart-shaped maps with their hieroglyphic patterns and language of deep waters and high winds made me feel optimistic about such potentialities.
I thought about love and fear and how they’re pretty much exactly the same thing for me. And remembered the Mary Oliver poem about rowing for your life toward that love/fear that, years ago, inspired an entire visual journal.
I made it as an extended love letter (uh, oh, maybe it’s a valentine?) or series of stories to this man I keep dreaming about. Real, night dreams, I don’t mean day dreams. We talk in my dreams, and then I write down stuff we talked about. If I ever meet him, he’s going to get the book. I can’t believe I just told you about that. It’s pretty weird, right?
The negative space the cut out hearts was even more beautiful to me. They needed to be covered in mylar, which I found in the scrap box.
That’s as far as I got Monday at Gail’s workshop. On Tuesday, I kind of worked, but mostly art-directed my assistant designer and then rushed over to my kitchen counter to cut and paste my little poem books with the mylar heart cut-outs together.
These turned out to be kind of elementary school looking and anti-climactic. A paradox of my granola eating, eco-conscious, (not birkenstock wearing) green marketing life, is the simple fact that I have a thing for plastic envelopes. I like mylar. I like plastic covered fabric, like the stuff on the diaper bag you gave me.
Plastic. I like being able to see through, to see inside. I like to make beautiful, intriguing little packages for people to open. I’ve been obsessed with making collage ephemera packs. I like to gather the pieces of things discarded. The edges. The scraps. The discards. The parts. Together, they fit and belong in their little plastic universe. Becomming a part of the whole, a potential waiting to be made new, to become something that has not yet existed.
It’s my message in a bottle. It’s a gift of my seeing to those who can see the beauty that exists in all the seeming random pieces. They are not random. It just seems that way.
Actually, making these bags of goodies is like making a journal page or collage painting, without the glue. I think the ultimate gift (in presents or in art) is to give something to the recipient that inspires them to create something of their own.
So that’s my valentine.
Heart-shaped maps to help you navigate the paths of fear and love. A booklet made of a transparent heart (the metaphor emerged after the fact, not before) containing Mary Oliver’s poem. A mixed plastic envelope of things to create with, and then share again.
My way of “signing” the piece was to include a self-addressed stamped envelope, making it virtually impossible (I hope) for someone to resist sending me something (anything) in the real mail that is not a bill.
The fact that I coaxed my printer into spitting out the envelopes without jamming is a miracle of nature in itself. ok. I’m tempted to re-read and edit this. But I won’t. I’m too tired and clogged and also striving for imperfection. These are my imperfect liner notes that I hope illuminate something of my very first valentine swap process.
This is the Mary Oliver poem:
West Wind #2
You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.
Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and
your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to
me. There is life without love. It is not worth a bent
penny, or a scuffed shoe. It is not worth the body of a
dead dog nine days unburied. When you hear, a mile
away and still out of sight, the churn of the water
as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the
sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable
pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth
and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls
plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life
~ Mary Oliver ~
p.s. Forgive me, CP, but the line about the dead dog was disturbing, so I didn’t put that in the booklet. I think it takes away from the momentum of the piece. If I were editing Mary Oliver, I would have crossed it out in red ink and told her that.
Brava! I am printing this out to take to the tea! I love you, Lisa Sonora. I really do. If I were a man, you would be mine but I am not so I will just have to remain your big old chartreuse muse! Hug, CP
I wish Carol’s book about her lifelong valentine journey would have been written, so we all could be inspired by it.
What I wish for you is that you have the courage to work on whatever is pulling at you right now.
Especially if its a love letter.
If you are in need of help finding or shaping your vision, reach out here, or somewhere. Ask for help. Seek out answers. Commit to taking the next step.
Cut up or draw a heart-shaped map.
Write a message on it.
Dare to send it out into the world.
We all need more courage, love, connection, daring.
I know that I do.