Beth Meadows

mental health

Not Now, While I'm Lying Here, Wide Awake

Beth MeadowsComment

I'm terrible at quoting books and movies, but I'll butcher it anyway to get the gist across...

I think it was in Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She is talking about the creative process. And she's telling the story of a writer who would get inspired at the most inopportune moments. She'd be outside, working in the garden, and the creative inspiration would roll in like a mighty wind, and she'd have to run inside to catch it all on paper.

I don't remember who she was talking about, but I love and hate this story.

I think it was also Tom Waits who would get inspired while his hands were on the wheel, and he'd grunt, "Not while I'm driving!"

I've been waking up at 2, 3, 4am. For years. I don't want to do anything at this hour. Nuuuuu-thiiiiing. 

But I'll lie in bed and think about writing, or about a painting that hasn't been born yet. Or let fantastical anxieties dance through my mind.

I've gotten up the past two days. Yesterday at 4am. Today at 2:45am. It's 4:14am right now. I wrote yesterday, and developed the idea for a new painting, one that I have asked to patiently wait for its turn. it told me it's not going to wait.

I all ready drew this morning, something I started last night. And now I'm writing, which is something I daydream about constantly but never do.

There is something deep within me that won't let me rest. Sometimes I believe it's God. Or God's hand on me, the person he made me to be- full of pesky inspiration. Whatever it is, it won't let me rest. There is something it wants from me that I've been neglecting, at my own expense. It's hard to want to go deeper, into pain, or grief, or ideas. I believe it won't let me rest until I've processed it through my hands, to process the beauty, too. 

You'd think it would be easy to recognize this deep prodding and follow it, but it's not. I'm sleepy right now, and I may be sleepy the rest of the day while at work. And I hate feeling sleepy. I also don't want to - no, I do want, but- it's hard to make this work that I have asked to wait. I don't feel ready for what it's going to take. And I'm fearful of making work that isn't readily available to share and show. It could take years to create. 

Or not.

I think this is why I moved my studio home. I knew my brushes needed to be closer to my bed. Getting to them by car at 2am would never work. 


Beth MeadowsComment

Last year, I began to let go. I managed a small gallery at Magpies Bakery, I was participating in First Friday shows in Knoxville at least every other month, and I was the Director 17th Street Studios.

I let go of all of these things.

It's August, eight months since, and I've been thinking about all of the other things I'd like to stop.

  • Twitter
  • Etsy
  • Showing in Knoxville every month
  • Pinterest
  • Possibly- multiple Instagram accounts
  • Snapchat

Oh yeah, I let go of Facebook last year, too.

I don't miss any of the things of which I've let go. However, there are little voices telling me I need to manage content on all social media platforms, especially if I want to represent myself as an artist. But I don't love social media. And I don't even use most of the outlets I listed above, except for Instagram.

I've thought about getting off of Instagram many times. When things get really dark, which happens on a consistent basis. But I inevitably feel better and my interest in Instagram is renewed. I'm grateful for how it gives me the ability to share.

I want to let go of all the superfluous stuff so that I can focus on a few things and do them well. So this project of streamlining continues.

There's so much clutter in our world digitally.  There's so much clutter physically. I am constantly getting rid of things. 

By the end of 2018, I'd like to be done with this process. I'm trying to get to the point where I can tackle organizing my computer files and photos, and to finally create inventory lists of all my artwork. There's a website called ArtworkArchive I want to check out. 

I'm sorting through my childhood boxes, brought up from my parent's home. This is hard. This little box of erasers that I've spent my whole life looking at, that meant something to me when I was little- how do I let go of that? (I have a way- in case you're curious.)

If I'm overwhelmed, I am paralyzed. I multitask a lot, but there's too much piling up right now. Not only the digital and the physical, but ideas, and things I want to do. Goals. 

So I've created spreadsheets to organize my ideas. There are three: One for my personal life, one for art, and one for my Home Organizing business. I have tabs where I put everything I can wait for, so that I know I've written it down, but I don't have to think about it right now. 

There's a lot of organizing that I'm doing, to cope with the influx of stuff. I get motivated often these days, to sort through the clutter. I get rid of as much as I can. I try to let go of ideas, too. Life it too short for this constant organizing of stuff that's just in the way.

There is all the piles of emotional stuff I'm working through, too. The lifetime of journals, the notes on scraps of paper, the books, the podcasts, the things I want to process, the phone calls I need to make.

With art, I'm not certain what I'm supposed to focus on. I think that a lot of times, I make certain artwork that is a distraction from the work I'm really supposed to make. I make work that feels easy to me and worry that it's keeping me form making the work that could be damaging if it was not accepted. The work that has been sitting in my brain, waiting for me to sit down and make it. 

I have to get rid of all the piles- the physical, the digital, the emotional- so I can get to the ideas. So I can make the most of my time. I am 34, and I hope to paint for the next 50 years at least. And there are at least ten bodies of work I'd like to start making right now. What if I only have 20 years. What if I only have 5, or 1. 

It's vital to me to find space, order, focus, and discipline, so that I can make the work I was made to make, for however long I'm granted life on this wonderful and cluttery earth.

Let's Begin

Beth MeadowsComment

My work isn't directly about it, but it may be because of it. And in spite of it.

There is a strong connection between pursuing, or not pursuing, a creative life and mental health. 

If you pursue it, it can make you crazy. It most likely will.

If you don't pursue it, it will also make you crazy. I think a lot of people don't know why they feel shut down, depressed. I think one reason is because, a long time ago, they gave up on a creative life. They work and drink to fill that void.

When I say creative life, I don't necessarily mean a professional one. I mean one spent cooking at home, taking a dance class, stringing together beads. It could also mean professionally, but more and more, that makes no difference to me in terms of the necessity of the pursuit of it. I love to see people try. Of course, I love to see someone become good at what they do, but I know they will never become good without starting. So I love to see a person begin.

In my life, I have pursued creativity as a profession, and there have been many stages of darkness involved in this process (I know. Dramatic). I'm happy to know that the initial stage is dead and gone- the one where I spun my wheels almost to death, the one where I almost forgot the reason why I create.

I made it over the wall. It's not a question of will I be creative in my life, but in what capacity.

Today... I am feeling stuck. It feels like a struggle between what I want- to create from deep within my soul (blerg)- or to create professionally. I don't know if they can be the same. That question is plaguing me. 

And there is a great risk of creating from that place within. It's vulnerable and scary. If it doesn't work out, what else is there? (I realize that is a loaded and personal question. Maybe I will unpack that one later...)

Left to my own devices, what I create isn't that good (You should see my sketchbook). It is creating for others that pushes me toward refinement. I feel like I need that give and take. I can't just make art and hide it away. That is not fair to my work. If it needs others to become better, I need to share it.

But in this process of creating for others, I make things really hard for myself. I squash the ideas and methods that come easy to me. I have subconsciously operated under the notion that if it comes naturally, it must not be good. Where did that even come from? It's such a dadgum sad thought.

I've had to admit it recently. I am the stereotype. I am an artist that struggles internally- deeply. Recently there is a steady voice that keeps whispering to make things easier on myself. But pursuing what comes naturally to me feels scarier than not. At least to take that first step. It's going to be a war all the way. And for me, a lot of hours. Hours and hours of work.

This blog post is obviously a step toward it, so there's that. (please, no applause)

Here is what I am thinking through:

What do I want to do?

How will I find the resources to do it?

What is in my heart to share? Am I willing to share it?

To whom will I share it with?

To what extent does it matter what other people want? Can I make artwork and be content if it never sells? If it never sells, in what capacity will I share it? What does that even look like?

Fearing Good

Beth MeadowsComment

I'm trying to get to the good stuff, but why's it being so elusive?

I guess we are always in varying degrees of transition often, but last year felt especially like that. So 2018 is about putting my feet on solid ground. And putting my money where my mouth is. 

I am working to let go of a few things and tie up loose ends because I feel like I can't move forward until those things are off my plate. I do see progress, it's just really damn slow.

One current thing that is sticking for longer than I planned is leaving my position as Director of 17th Street Studios. The plan was to be done at the end of 2017, but there are still things to do, so the new deadline is the end of this month. 

There is actually a LOT to do, so while I am ready to start some new projects, I can't get to them, and it's been frustrating. 

My work schedule is about to get a whole lot more structured beginning this next week, and I am really looking forward to that. Did you know I have four-ish jobs? And I am leaving one today to start a new one this week. I'd like to write about that, too: Leaving places and people on a good note as opposed to hanging on out of... fill in the blank all the reasons anyone sticks with anything too long. I have a lot of experience in the latter.

So I'm trying to be patient right now, and still, slowly like a snail, chip away at some projects that I'm hoping to dive into as soon as possible. 

I worry that my life will always be like this, though. Having too much going on to get to the good stuff. There are so many things out of our control, we could never know what we have to take on from day to day. I don't know how people do it with kids and their unpredictability. How?

Maybe part of it is accepting that this is all a part of life, and to make sure we are taking care of ourselves as much as possible (eat well, sleep well) so that in all the tiny moments I have, I can chip away at the ideas that are nagging at me.

This requires so much discipline, planning, and forethought. I like the idea of this, but I also like spontaneity. And I'm the person that sticks around at the party til everyone is leaving- no matter how much I told myself I'd only stay for an hour or two. I think living this way is also important, because people are the most important. It's such a struggle to find that balance of a solitary creative life and one that is enriched by engagement with others, not just superficial encounters. 

I do feel like this is more so how it will go for a bit... until I have three jobs or less maybe. What would my life be like if I could spend the better part of the day making art? I'm not sure I'd know what to do with myself. The thought it terrifying... which is maybe the cause of all this slow moving of letting go. 

Fear. There you are, you ole Grizzly Bear.