Lauren McLean Iuppa Ayer

Poet | Artist | Optimist

Tag: change

Who Is This For?

It’s one of my favorite fantasies to believe that I can stay safe inside my little bubble, creating only what I want to create, when I want to create it, and that people will love all of it and and pay me great wads of money just to have a part of it in their lives, but that’s not how the world works. No artist can live in a vacuum without devolving into self-referential, repetitive work, running out of ideas, or just plain going mad. And the truth is, the act of creation, for many of us, doesn’t have a lot of meaning if it’s just about self gratification. For me, specifically, I want my creations to make a difference in people’s lives–to inspire them, to give them hope, to help them find what they need to then make a difference in the lives of others.

There is a quote by Rumi, that elegantly sums this up:

Be a lamp… Rumi

But that is only the what, not the who. Which brings us to today’s question.

#DareToExcel Challenge – 4:

Who is this for?

The innovators who thrive advance their big, new ideas in part because they love their ideas to make a difference in other people’s lives. Do some research on the people who might benefit from your challenge. Look at the online conversations, on our private forum, or – better – have real-time conversations with customers or potential audience members.

Make notes on what feels broken or not-quite-right or downright frustrating in their worlds.

How does he feel when he’s not feeling so great? What one irritation keeps tripping her up?

Then make notes on this: What does she want – a different feeling, a problem solved, one step toward a yearning – that your project might surprisingly give her?

Go back to your burning question: How will your question invite them in?

Look back at your project brief. Did you define a problem in a way that speaks to their perceived wants?

Don’t over-think it for now. We’re taking notes and keeping momentum.

I have to admit, I balk at the word audience. It reeks to me of performance, as though I am putting on my beliefs like a costume that I can remove at any time and revert to who I really am. For me, and for probably all of us undertaking this challenge (and many more beyond), the whole point of this exercise, of the work that I do, is to fully embrace and share my true self whether it nets me customers or not. I want to focus not on giving people what I think they want, but on helping them find what they truly  need. But semantics aside, Jeffrey is right. Art for art’s sake is not enough. It needs to be shared, and it’s important to know who will be best served and to share it with them.

While I do think that there are people who could be well served by my first question, and it’s associated project Hands in Motion, Mind at Rest–people who want to find ways to work their way through distractions, to make space for the big important work to flourish–I believe it is the book, 3T, that has the most to give:

  • To women who feel like the heroic stories of our past have stolen our deepest symbols and stripped us of our power and agency, and long to rediscover and reclaim them
  • To students and teachers of Medieval, Celtic, Catholic, and most particularly, their intersection in Arthurian literature, legend, and mythology, especially those with feminist-leanings
  • To anyone looking for ways to create new stories to replace those that don’t fit anymore
  • To survivors of bad relationships or trauma, those dealing with grief and loss, those who may struggle with “invisible” health problems, or others, especially women, who feel powerless and want to take their power back (perhaps even preppers)
  • To people of all genders who believe that climate change is real but that the paths we have half-heartedly travelled in our attempts to solve a problem that threatens us all are just not working

Seeing it written it all feels a bit broad, but I believe there is a great deal of overlap, and that these rough notes will begin to coalesce as I work on the book. As for the small sample set of people I’ve talked to about the book–they all said they were excited about the unique combination of history, symbolism, feminism, climate change, and memoir the work will include. What they want is a new path to healing, re-empowerment, and social/environmental change. And that is exactly what I am hoping to build.

Time to rework my #projectbrief.

 

Publish

Change is afoot.

Have you ever gone on a  trip only to return and feel like you may never catch up? That’s where I am right now, having just returned from a week in California to attend the fifth annual FOGcon spec fiction writers’ conference. The event itself only took up three of those days, but since I had to get on a plane anyway, I decided to pad my trip with a little extra time to see family and friends. Which was great, but a bit of a whirlwind. And the con? It turned out to be one of those experiences that has incited me to question everything. To review, rethink, re-imagine. And not just the specific projects, but my whole direction, my mission, what I want to achieve and how I go about achieving it.

In addition to that game changer (which I hope to post about soon, either here or on my apocalypse blog), my work schedule is about to change dramatically–evolving from something approximating 1.5 days per week plus intermittent freelance work, to 5 days per week, likely starting at the end of the month. After so many years drifting around employment, it’s going to be a serious adjustment. Then again, I have hopes that a more rigorous schedule might help me better manage my personal work time as well. But either way, a girl’s gotta pay her rent. And between now and then, I will be working hard to get my space, tasks, and time streamlined and organized, and revisiting my post about which things I need to #stop. Otherwise, I could be looking at a pretty rough transition.

Among the things that need catching up on: Quest posts.

#LiveTheQuest question 9:
What indicators of growth can you celebrate? #celebrations

Look back on your second month as well as at your reflections with prompt 5, #growth. What small indicators can you identify and celebrate that you have changed something positively in Month 2 or that you are moving the direction you need? For instance, are you acting differently? Are you thinking differently? Are you speaking about yourself as a business artist and your best work differently?

Probably the most important growth indicator has been giving up the Big Picture for Lent. I have always struggled with the project equivalent of my eyes being too big for my stomach. I load my plate with everything it can hold and then some, all the while envisioning the even more extravagant feasts I will create in my future. But the truth is, I can’t even decide which delicacy to put in my mouth first, so I try a bite here and another one there, until I’m too full and queasy to think about cooking ever again.

Having taken a step back from that vicious cycle, I’ve noticed a couple of important things. It isn’t just about how much I load onto my plate, it’s what. It’s easy to be lured by sweets, but they don’t work for the long (or in my case even the short) haul. To help counteract that, in part inspired by a recent post by Saundra Goldman, I have started focusing again on questions, the most important of which has become:

What do you most want to build?

Followed by:

Will this help you build it?

These two questions work for pretty much everything, from what I eat and how much I sleep, to which books, projects, and other activities deserve my time. Some items have easy answers. Too much sugar, bad television, and/or excess social media not only won’t help me build anything, they will pretty much unbuild everything.

The TowerBut other things aren’t so clear. And that’s because the answer to the first question hasn’t been so clear. And now that FOGcon has basically thrown a big fat Tower card onto the table, it’s even less so… except that, maybe, it’s not. Because there is nothing quite like having preconceived notions blown apart to reveal in stark relief, the inviolable things that remain standing. The foundation, of course… the west wall upon which I scribble incantations in invisible ink that only reveals itself when illuminated by a setting equinox sun… the outline of a once hidden box where years ago I buried my heart to keep it safe from harm…

Fire reveals the shape of things. What remains after we sift through the ash becomes the bones of a new beginning. Tonight the sifting begins. Soon after, I will draft a stronger plan on the foundation of the old. Which leads us to the next Quest prompt:

 #LiveTheQuest question 10:
How will you “publish” your project? #publish
Look back on your #burningquestion and #oneproject. How are you or could you get this project “out” into the hands and hearts of the people who ache for it? How will you publish it?

First, a reminder of my #burningquestion:

What if instead of having to choose, I could combine the things I love?

And then my #oneproject:

To create an object of art that incorporates:

  • Words
  • Pictures
  • Fabric
  • Inspiration from existing works of literature, poetry, and art
  • And dreaming my way through our world’s uncertain future

Because my path lies not in walking a straight or winding road, but in building a home at the place my roads converge.

A few posts later, I decided this project would take the form of a quilt. And I may still make that quilt.  But re-reading what I wrote about my questions and projects in light of #publishing, I realized that even before this quest started I had begun creating a work that incorporates all of these things, as well as a companion burning question about prepping for the best instead of the worst. This is already out there in front of the world–online, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on my business cards. It’s my Apocalypse Garden–my home at the place where the roads converge. My own little Pantano Realty building (for those of you familiar with my hometown).

As for what impact my FOGcon experience may have on my little garden, that remains to be seen–perhaps a new tagline, a new posting schedule, improved content and social media plans–but the structure appears to be sound.

And in case you wonder why I referred to it as my little garden, I’ll just leave this here:  Why “Stop Playing Small” is Bullshit

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to My Future

The thing about change is that you never know where it will go. A little over three years ago things were bad. My job was bad. My living situation was bad. My relationship was bad. My health was bad. Of course I’d been working hard to change all that. At the beginning of July, 2010 I had an offer for a new job on its way, an offer in on a beautiful house in a quiet ocean-side suburb of San Francisco, a new understanding with my boyfriend after a near breakup, and  improvements in my health due to a strict new diet that banned gluten, soy, nightshades, and all sugar, as well as many other things I had been eating every day. I had even been accepted to a graduate program called Action for a Viable Future, that would help me begin to have a more positive impact on the world.

I was sure I was on my way to a better life, until one day in the middle of the month a layoff in the company I had interviewed made them retract my pending offer, my house bid was declined for a lower offer, and the graduate program was cancelled for lack of enrollment. I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me.

A few days later I was talking to a coworker about her recent trip to Santa Fe. She told me how she had met writer Natalie Goldberg in a cafe, how Natalie was teaching writing workshops, and that we should go. A few weeks later my friend had to pull out, but I knew I needed to get away from everything, so I booked the workshop and my flights and went alone.

That retreat was September, 2010. In January I asked for a leave of absence to spend the next year in Santa Fe studying with Natalie. They gave me six months. When that six months was over, I quit, found a more permanent address, and stayed, thinking I would finally finish that novel and become the writer I’d always known I could be.

Things don’t always work out how you expect. I did study with Natalie that year and into the next. I published some poems in local journals and papers. I even finished the first draft of that novel I’d been working on. But what I really discovered was that more than anything, what made me feel most at peace, what brought me the most joy, was returning to something I’d learned to do when I was ten–making quilts. And not just making quilts, the promise of how quilts can help make this world a better place, by comforting those who need comfort, by helping people heal from trauma and feel they are loved, by representing and commenting on injustice or pain in the world, by inviting people to become creative forces for good.

That is why I created this site and blog, this idea that by doing something I love in a way that has meaning I could make a difference not just for others but for myself. Being broken makes it harder to heal others. Heal yourself first and not only do you have more to give, you have a story you can share. A story of hope. A story of change. A story of finding joy.

I am still writing my story. I have found my passion, but having given up my high-tech salary, I now work three jobs (more when I can get freelance work) to make ends meet. I find myself stuck in a kinder, gentler version of the same trap, with little time or energy to create. Living a life that still doesn’t feel like the life I’ve longed for, the dream that moved me 1,200 miles from my family, friends, boyfriend, and home town.

And so, my life continues to evolve. In November I will have my first solo quilt show and teach my first class. It’s a good start, but I want to do more. I want to look more closely at the materials I use and the businesses I support. I want to look more closely at where and how I live. I want to look more closely at the footprint I leave. And, most importantly, I want to look more closely at the good I can do, not just for myself or the people I love, but for the people I have never met and the planet we share. And yes, I do have an idea of where this might go and what forms it may take, but if I’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that the path of change is seldom straight, and the glittering light in the distance might lead you away from the deeper joy of a warm hearth and encircling arms right in front of you.

Making a Difference

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this site, this blog, this quilting life. I obviously had intentions when I named my previous website Quilts of Change. Something about making the world a better place. But it can be easy to get overwhelmed by that kind of pressure. The world’s problems feel so big, and what really can a quilter do? It’s so easy to feel like it’s all just a drop in the ocean, of little or no account. And then something happens…

That something was learning that a friend and neighbor has been diagnosed with cancer–late stage and hard to fight. She sent us a note saying she doesn’t need anything. She has a plan. She has a loving family. She has a good dog. Which is wonderful, but I have to do something. Anything so I don’t feel so incredibly helpless.

And so I quilt. And I ask myself: Will this crazy, stripy mess with its random scrawled words really make a difference? Will it really change anything? Sure, it will keep her warm when she is cold. It may remind how much she is valued and love. And there may come a time where it can lend her the extra strength she needs to make it through. It’s a lot to ask of a few scraps of colored cloth, but then again, that’s what this cloth was made for. And thank God, because suddenly, fabric in hand, I don’t feel nearly as helpless anymore. Change is a two way street. It has to start with ourselves.

Winter Comes Early

This morning when I woke up the rain was pounding heavy on the rooftops. Rain we desperately need after the long, dry summer. I listened to it for a long time, letting my mind wander from water, to transforming my new studio casita into a comfortable home, to the words I need to write for this years Nanowrimo novel. By the time my mind returned to the rain, the room had hushed and I was surrounded by a silence I hadn’t known since my few childhood winters in Rochester, New York. A silence I could wrap myself up in like the most comfortable quilt I’ve ever known — the corduroy one my mother made that still sits on the couch in my parent’s family room. I looked out the window to see what it was.

Fat snowflakes floated slowly down in bunches, coating the still-green apple leaves and newly mulched ground in a dusting of white. I have known snowy winters before. I have seen blizzards and light snow. I have experienced the “joys” of sleet and wintery mix. But this was special — my first real snow in my first real home in this strange new place. It is worth every centipede and every cold nose.

New Beginnings

It’s finally spring and time for a new start, in the garden and in this blog, both of which have been fallow for too long.

When I started this blog almost a year ago, I had all kind of dreams of what I wanted it to become. I wanted to use it as a place to share my love of gardening with my family, friends and other gardeners. I wanted to help people like me who want to garden, and especially grow their own food, but don’t always have the space, time, energy or knowledge to make that happen. We lead busy lives. We have other commitments. Life often gets in the way of dreams. But just as often it can bring you right back to them, too. So, on to our new beginning:

Hello, my name is Lauren (aka gardenlore).

 

Gardening is my passion. It brings me joy and peace, a meditative practice, challenges and heartaches, and a tangible way to help make a difference in the world. But since you can’t really change the world all at once, I am going to start with my own backyard.

I’ll post my journey along the way and with any luck, my journey will help inspire you to do the same.