I’ve been home from Squam for 5 days now and the re-entering into “reality” has been tough going. The shift from such a tranquil and creative space filled with open arms and care for the soul, to a space consumed with deadlines, publishing pressure, and meetings has been quite a jolt to my system. I find myself distracted and pulled in various directions. I want to get down to the business of working on the manuscripts and book chapters that I have in the proverbial cue, yet I want to check out all my new friends’ blogs to read their reflections on Squam, I want to share my experiences and update my blog, I want to go buy new art supplies to continue working on what I learned, I want to stock up on Polaroid film…I am VERY distracted. And although I’m feeling like I have ADHD, this is what I wanted from setting out on a creative journey. I wanted to explore other sides of me that weren’t focused on academia and work. I wanted to explore my artistic longings. I wanted to dive in, and so struggling with the balance of these desires is part of the process.
So what did I do at Squam? I took the amazing Susannah Conway’s photography workshop on the first full day. This class was in my comfort zone as I’ve been exploring photography for some time as my primary creative outlet. I felt a bit relaxed and settled internally, with less imposter demons speaking in my ears.
Susannah is a lovely in person, just how she seems and comes across in her online presence. It was such a treat to learn from her, talk Polaroids with her, and generally hang out shooting photographs all day together.
On the second day, I took Sarah Ahearn’s mixed media workshop. I have been an admirer of Sarah’s work for a few years, loving the way she uses paint, stencils, pastels, pencils, and all types of collage materials from maps to photos to dictionary definitions. But as someone who hasn’t touched a paintbrush since I was about 7 or 8 years old (other than to paint the rooms in our house), I was kinda freaked out. If you can imagine a line that cordoned off my comfort zone, I was about a mile past that.
Sarah proved to be a fabulous instructor. She had us create a piece in the quickest process ever using a “game” where we had 2 minutes to follow a certain instruction (e.g., use a stencil, paint with a color you love, use a piece of map), and then we had to stop and move on to the next instruction for 2 minutes, etc. Nerve-racking, but the process got me out of my over-thinking head and allowed me to just play. In the afternoon, we had the rest of the class period to create a second piece of our choice. I had certain ideas about what I wanted to paint/collage, but those images in my brain somehow didn’t translate to the gesso board. “Hello, imposter demons! You came back so quickly. I didn’t think I invited you here.” UGH. Sarah was kind and gentle, I think noticing I was struggling, and came to offer suggestions. I don’t love what I created in the class, but I am reminding myself it was my first time doing anything like this. I am trying to give myself the caring affirmations I would offer to a friend (gosh, wouldn’t life feel differently if we could be as kind to ourselves as we are to others?). Best of all, this workshop has encouraged me to buy some supplies and keep practicing and playing in mixed media.
And then there was lyrics writing with the ridiculously talented Jonatha Brooke. I have been lucky to have seen Jonatha in concert three times–she’s an awesome performer and fabulous storyteller–and I was just beside myself that she was teaching at Squam. I’m not a musician by any stretch, but I thought it would be super-fun to interact with Jonatha (which it was!) and learn a bit about writing lyrics. My hope was that there might be some gems that I could take and apply to my creative and blog writing. I was pretty intimidated to be in the class as most people were musicians and were working on their craft. But Jonatha was so welcoming and truly made the class accessible for all of us.
And so that was my Squam. I should say my first Squam. Because I’m heading back.