We Need the Voices of All the Artists

We Need the Voices of All the Artists

“We need the voices of all the poets,” Robert Duncan wrote. This has long been a credo of mine.

Yet, I have to remind myself of it. Especially when I’m feeling “not good enough” as a poet.

At times like those, I can start to feel “What’s the use? Who needs my poems anyway?” There are so many poets writing today and too few readers. It can feel overwhelming and hopeless.

When we are feeling this way, we have lost sight of a vital truth, a truth we may not have been told when we were young, but one that is essential to living ongoing, joyful, creative lives:

by Elena Ray on Unsplash

Your Artistic Voice Is Unique

You have something to say. Your voice, perspective and experience are unique. There has never been another you in all of time. You have unique gifts that the world needs. You have something of value to share. Or you wouldn’t be here.

You wouldn’t have an urge to write or paint or dance, if someone didn’t need what you are creating. Or if we didn’t need the self you will become through the act of creating. Because creating transforms us in powerful ways.

You Still Have to Work to Refine Your Art

Just because you are unique and needed here doesn’t mean you can be lazy about your art.

Man drawing

by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

You owe it to your art and your audience to hone your work to its finest expression. To play hard at it. To not be self-satisfied with half-measures and sloppiness. To wrestle with your art. To stretch and challenge yourself. To study and learn.

Devote yourself to the deep study of your craft, the work of other artists, the history of your art form. Work with teachers, mentors and peers to refine your technique and expression.

I believe in working devotedly at your chosen art form, if you wish to share your work with others beyond a few friends and family.

If you wish to develop as an artist, then you are choosing to serve not only yourself and your own ambitions, but a larger purpose, to serve your people, to serve Life, to serve the Divine.

You are agreeing to step beyond mere “self-expression” and your own desires into a greater realm of service, surrender, mystery.

Welcome. You have chosen a great path, or rather it has chosen you.

That path will challenge you and ask much of you. Some days it will bring you to your knees in despair, doubt or disappointment. It will also grace you with support, synchronicities and blessings.

Creative Hobbies Are Also Wonderful

Don’t get me wrong: The act of creation is meant to be divine play, not joyless, nose-to-the-grindstone work.

Allowing ourselves to have creative hobbies, for which we have no ambition, but simply allow ourselves to play, to create for the joy of creating, is an enormously healthy, wonderful gift to ourselves and our world.

Creative play makes us happier, sweeter, more alive people. It brings more fun and grace to our lives. It makes us more adaptable, responsive and imaginative. These are all great goods. Worthy in and of themselves.

So let yourself make messes, experiment and just play with art too. Let yourself dabble in art forms you don’t wish to master.

Go Forth and Create!

Whatever road you choose, to simply play and have fun (as I do with collage) or to devote yourself to an art form in service to a higher calling (as I do with poetry and writing), bless you.

We need the voices of all the artists.

To your abundant creativity,


Enchanted Seattle and the Power of the Extended Artist Date

Enchanted Seattle and the Power of the Extended Artist Date

A week ago, I spent three days in Seattle on what turned out to be an extended artist date. My husband was teaching a two-day program there, so I had the city to explore by myself for two days and then a third day to play there with him.

I was completely enchanted by the city:

  • how green and full of trees and plants it is everywhere, full of beautiful parks to stroll in,
  • full of art, public art everywhere, galleries, theaters, great bookstores, concert halls, museums, and creative happenings,
  • full of cafés, each with its own unique flavor from elegant Parisian to Seattle grunge,
  • delicious chocolatiers, fabulous restaurants of all kinds,
  • public squares with spring-green chairs to sit on and trees branching overhead,
  • beauty and vibrant life, energy, dynamism, creative, unconventional people,
  • and good public transportation.

I was in delight, wandering the city streets, exploring, discovering, following my nose wherever I wanted to go. And, Seattle rewarded me with so much beauty, inspiration, wonder, and good food. Synchronicities abounded to encourage me in my creativity:

  • 2016-10-30-13-51-20sm wonderful, inspiring books on poetry, writing, and artful living found at the Elliott Bay bookstore,
  • a beautiful, astonishingly-right-for-me poem about my name written on the spot for me by a street person, and the moment of soulful connection we shared over it,
  • a show of original art by Miro, Picasso, Chagall, Renoir and others from the Surrealist and early Abstract Expressionist days at a gallery I stumbled on and had all to myself, where I stood agape at the beauty, inspiration, expression and learned important things about my own art-making.

I was lit up.

Even the weird parts—wandering the deserted downtown on Saturday night to get from the light rail to the market to try to find a restaurant that wasn’t full, wandering the surreal back side of the market, up and down steep flights of stairs, oddly void of people except sleeping forms on the street, through the closed-up shops of the market, a landscape straight out of my dream life—where is everybody?—until at last we came upon a little French restaurant tucked away, that Don recognized from earlier visits, and miraculously found a table waiting for us and a scrumptious meal in the crowded, loud, tiny restaurant overlooking the water.


Curious George, my mascot, has sipping chocolate

All of it served to fill me with new images, sensations, impressions, ideas, to open up my five senses so that everything began to look beautiful and vibrant: my backpack on the seat of the train next to me, the reflection in puddles in the gutters, one dried leaf on the brick sidewalk.

The Extended Artist Date

It was one long, extended Artist Date, a date with my artist self in which I let her lead the way. The Artist Date is a concept from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a date you take with yourself alone to do something to inspire, nourish, fill your artistic self. The Artist Date reinvigorates our creativity and ensures that we keep our well filled, so that we have inspiration to draw from when we return to the studio to make our art.

The extended Artist Date, whether it is a day-long excursion, a week in a cabin in the mountains, or a month in a foreign country, is a chance to drop deeply into that artistic self, that creative way of seeing the world and interacting with it, and to listen deeply to what our creative self needs for its nourishment. The extended Artist Date allows us to replenish the depleted storehouses within and reconnect with what truly delights, inspires, intrigues, informs us. The extended Artist Date helps us reawaken, become more alive, and remember or discover who we are, what matters to us, what calls to us.

Chihuly Glass Museum, a must see

Chihuly Glass Museum, a must see

The extended Artist Date also gives us a chance to open to surprise and synchronicity—very important in an ongoing artistic life. Whereas in a shorter Artist Date, we may plan to go to a concert or take a walk in the woods near our house, in an extended Artist Date we are able to explore, discover, follow our whims, not know what all we are going to do, see and experience, but rather open ourselves up to the unknown, the unplanned, to the world in all its wonder, difficulty and grace. And be rewarded by our Muse and the muses of the world.

I encourage you to plan (and take!) an extended Artist Date sometime in the coming month or two. You will need to actually put it in your calendar ahead of time, otherwise other things will tend to always get in the way. Give yourself a full day (or more if you can) to go somewhere that calls to you—the ocean, a city or particular part of the city you want to explore, for a long drive in the mountains.

Pioneer Square, SeattleIt doesn’t have to be expensive. I once had a wonderful Artist Date, spending the day in Sacramento, going to the used record store and bookstore, wandering around window-shopping, writing in my journal in a café, going into galleries and just enjoying the life on the street.

But go alone—it is only when we are alone that we can really deeply tune into ourselves, our own impulses and desires, follow our own rhythms and needs, and listen to the still, small voice within. Let yourself be fully immersed in your environment and follow your inclinations where they want to lead you. Open up your senses and let yourself be nourished by what calls to you. Don’t overthink it. Just follow your heart.

Take out your calendar now and plan it!

To your artistic replenishment,


P.S. To see some more of my photos of Seattle, visit our Facebook page:


Come see me dance!

This Saturday, November 12 at 7 pm, I will be performing a new dance-theater piece, called Boundaries and Borders (and Baggage), which I co-created with two friends, Juliet Lin and Amber Cone. We are performing at the Harvest Moon Dance concert at the Odd Fellows Hall in Nevada City, CA.

Organized by the Nevada County Dance Collective, the evening will feature the work of many choreographers and dancers in a variety of styles. $12. Come join us! For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/157139304730314/

In my next post, I’ll share a bit about the process of creating the piece we are performing.


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