Posts in Category: creativity

Dealing with Uncertainty

"My Delight" 30 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas by Melynda Van Zee

“My Delight” 30 x 40 Acrylic on Canvas by Melynda Van Zee

Dear Creative Heart,



Maybe if there were bright orange blinking lights right ahead of us we would take notice, but that doesn’t usually happen with our creative work. No, we usually don’t pay close enough attention and then we fall smack dab in the middle of one of the most deadly creative pitfalls-wanting to have it all figured out RIGHT NOW! Yes, we want to know how our creative projects are going to turn out. We want to know that customers are going to purchase our work before we offer it for sale. We want to be guaranteed that other people are going to love our work before we even make the work. We want to know a new technique we long to experiment with is going to “work” before we buy the art supplies to try it. Oh, there is just so much uncertainty in this whole creative thing! 

I wish I could tell you it is all going to work out. I wish I could tell you that you will sell out the first print run of your new book or sell everything at your first art show. I wish I could guarantee you that the new technique you long to try is really going to work, but I can’t. I would hate for you not to have the practice of growing your own creative muscles. We don’t grow many muscles the first time we lift weights-it is the continual repetition that produces strength. 

One of the biggest roadblocks to developing an ongoing creative practice is that most artists give up. We have a hard time dealing with uncertainty. We don’t give ourselves time for work to develop, to learn new techniques, or to take the long view. We want it all and we think we want it NOW. But, our creativity shouldn’t be at the service of our instant gratification needs. Our creative practice is one thing that may help us to counteract our “need to have it now” mentality. It may be the thing that develops our inner fortitude to keep going when things aren’t clear-when the path isn’t known. It is a skill and a muscle we all need to have as we traverse real life. We don’t get everything we want, when we want it. Everything doesn’t always work out perfectly. Not everyone is going to like your work or “get” your work, but there are people out there who will. Sometimes starting a new technique will lead you to new directions you couldn’t have imagined before.

When the resistance builds,
when you have a set back,
when things don’t go exactly as you planned,
that is not the time to give up.

You don’t need to have it all figured out. It is a journey and there are going to be switch backs and missed turns.

Why dear creative heart would you go on an adventure if you knew everything before you ever left home?

With passion,


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Sometimes There are No Words

Sometimes There are No Words
©2010 Melynda Van Zee
40″ x 30″
Acrylic on Canvas

I finished this painting in June and I kept searching for the right title-something that could say what I was experiencing as I created the piece. The harder I searched, the more nothing would come, except sometimes there are no words. As much as I love words and on some days love to talk (just ask my friends), the lesson I’ve been learning in my art lately is that it is this is why so many of us choose to create-whether we are composing, gardening, sewing, or painting. When words aren’t going to do it, when there are no words to be found, when the words are inadequate for whatever is in the soul…that is one time when it is time for me to paint. So often people will say to me that a particular work I created has so much emotion, and I think I began to think of many of my paintings as only portraying a particular emotional place-an emotional landscape if you will. But, I recently heard the soul described as the place where emotion, intellect, belief and passion all intertwine. That is the place I want to continually paint from-not just from my emotion, not just from my intellect, not just because there is a particular image I like and I have the physical ability to reproduce it. I want to paint from the place that takes it all-the intellect, the emotion, the deep belief and allow it all to mix and mesh together and from that place, create. The difficult thing is that I can’t just will myself to paint from this place-I’m learning it is more a process of allowing myself permission to simply be right where I am, and then paint from that place of knowing-and sometimes the knowing is messy, complicated, intense and beautiful all at the same time. I wish life came to us in neat packages-easily definable with a clear path…”untie ribbon, peel off tape, remove paper” but it doesn’t seem to work that way for me-for any of us. Life is full of uncharted paths, darkness we didn’t expect, holy moments of surprise and hope often mixed with uncertainty-that is the challenge of our humanity…and such a difficult thing to capture in adequate image or word, but try we do-because we can’t not.

Detail of Sometimes There are No Words
©2010 Melynda Van Zee

Detail of Sometimes There are No Words
©2010 Melynda Van Zee

Detail of Sometimes There are No Words
©2010 Melynda Van Zee