We are all life change artists, and we can continually, and successfully, reinvent ourselves. That’s the message of Kathleen Jordan and Fred Mandell in Becoming A Life Change Artist.
I wish this book had been on my shelf when my deep purple mountains set off an earthquake, in my eighth-grade art teacher and in me. I suspect for her the earthquake was nothing more than a minor tremor. Mine triggered aftershocks that threw me off kilter for a dizzyingly long time.
I had seen myself as a budding artist. She kicked me off the list. This, as Kathy and Fred point out, was a “creative dilemma”. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the tools they give. Fortunately, some inner resilience kicked in.
Still, I’m surprised to look back and see that my life has been a series of re-inventions, some prompted by successes, others by unsettling setbacks. Creating a new identity at each turn might have been easier if I’d had a copy of Becoming A Life Change Artist along with me for the ride. I have a hunch the book would have been a faithful friend, giving me a hand when I got discouraged and a kick in the bum when I dragged my feet.
Kathy and Fred have a lot of wise advice for anyone riding the waves of a major transition,. Much of it is delivered through stories of people who’ve learned to surf those waves.
One of my favorites was pointed out to me in the comments after the purple mountain piece. Japanese artist Howard Ikemoto told his seven-year-old daughter he taught people to draw. Her response was priceless: “You mean they forget?”
Some of the wave surfers they write about are famous artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Pissaro, Monet, and Rembrandt. The authors studied the skills they used to create masterpieces. Then they taught those skills to people going through life changes. The workshops led to the book, and the book is now a beacon leading those adrift on rough waters to find safe passage.
The authors remind us “we are all artists”. We exercise our creativity on a daily basis but don’t give ourselves credit when we successfully navigate the challenges each day puts before us. The book teaches us to love the eddies, monster waves and rapids instead of clinging to safe shore. Part One looks at the creative process. Part Two teaches the skills to reinvent ourselves.
That “creative dilemmas” will boot us out of safe waters is inevitable. My mother called those dilemmas the WLEs, Worthwhile Life Experiences. No one deliberately invites them. They barge into our lives anyway. If we try to ignore them and go on as usual, they nip at our heels. If we keep ignoring them, they pull us under. They can even drown us.
Becoming A Life Change Artist teaches how to embrace those WLEs. They are not ship-sinking monsters. They are opportunities. “Confronting our creative dilemma means making a decision to explore the possibility of living differently in some way.”
The creative process is never done, as the authors point out. We do not create ourselves once and be done with it. We create ourselves repeatedly, throughout our lives. And if we’re lucky, we have allies like Kathleen Jordan and Fred Mandell, to help us become successful life change artists.