Wednesday, July 28, 2010
note from the editor: halfway
I really should have written this post July 1st, which is the literal half way mark for the year, but it is the 209th day of the year. Whoop! Yippee! Yahoo! Why not celebrate?
That is 209 days of art, poetry, craft, music and creative miscellany. We have so far had 71 different grieving artists and poets representing eight countries from as young as four years old up to who knows (We are too polite to ask ages.) I have received work from mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. I have interviewed six different artists about creativity, grieving and their individual work. I have received submissions from women and men who have suffered losses two weeks ago and some who are moving into their second decades. As a community, we have written seven different community poems, round-ups of a few grief prompts (check out the new link on top for different creative prompts working with grief), and seven mid-month challenges. We have created two traveling art journals that are circulating around the world and back again.
Whew, that is a whole lot of awesome.
When I conceived of this project, I didn't really know what I was doing. I just knew this: connecting with other grieving poets and artists made me feel whole and sane. I felt normal again when I talked art. I felt normal when I created art. I felt connected to my daughter when I painted and wrote and so I kept painting and writing. And I envisioned a daily project for 2010--a challenge to commit myself to viewing or creating art about babyloss and sharing that with anyone else who was interested.
That was all I had. I didn't have any rules, really, or preconceived ideas about what I wanted to do here except to have still life 365 be a kind of creative phoenix rising from the ashes of babyloss.
When I put it like that, it sounds kind of lofty. To be honest with you, I really didn't think many people would come to still life 365, let alone share. We have recently surpassed 20,000 visitors to this site in 209 days. That is incredible. Honestly, I had this sinking feeling that I would be publishing my own silly work for a week and then the place would dry up. But almost immediately, I felt the power of this sacred space. It was extraordinary. I mean, it is extraordinary. People are drawn, like me, to all these different ways of telling the story, "My child died." And that is when I realized: I am collecting different kinds of stories about grief and loss. I also realized, within the first week of receiving submissions, that I needed some guidelines. What was this space going to be? Who was going to use it? What kind of work was I going to publish? Was I going to accept or reject work?
One thing I decided early on in the project was that I simply was not interested in any way, shape or form in rejecting or accepting people's submissions. The art here isn't about being "good" or "bad". It isn't about being perfect artists. It is about channeling grief into something else. It is about touching a moment of peace. It is about destroying something out of rage and figuring out something creative to do with the shards. It is about telling your story without pages of words. Part of what I felt was Lucia's gift to me was liberating me from self-criticism and the confines of thinking I couldn't do art because I wasn't good enough. I think everyone is good enough to do art. I think everyone can think creatively and laterally. I may not be a fine artist, but I can create. And so can you. I can take a snapshot of my grief, or paint a moment of calm. I can smash a plate and glue it into a new shape. I can reflect on my daughter in a felted object, or reinvent a hard conversation in a haiku.
I also decided the only types of work I wouldn't really accept were essays and birth stories. It breaks my heart not to publish them when someone hasn't read the guidelines and submits them. Birth stories and essays are an incredibly important part of this community and our grief, I just wanted to narrow the focus on still life 365 to different kinds of stories than the ones individual blogs and other sites were already telling. Some other websites collect them, like Faces of Loss, and they are doing an amazing job at that.
If I had to define this space, I would say that I am trying to encourage people to express their grief, rage, sadness, loss, heartbreak and happiness through art, music, poetry, craft and photography. I want this space to inspire creativity. I want this space to be accessible. I want this space to be supportive and loving. I want this place to feel like a cafe you come to visit for the art and conversation about your world of grief and babyloss. It isn't a place you have to spend all day in, but maybe just a cup of coffee. I do the community poems, because I believe in conversation, and I also believe there is something universal that we share about babyloss grief. And the mid-month challenge builds off of the community poem for a more individual take on the larger community poem theme.
And so, as I go into day 210, what I can say of this space is simply that it is more than a space for grief, or art, but it is a community of amazing, creative, truly extraordinary people creating so much out of their grief. It is humbling to behold. It is humbling to be a part of this community. And you are part of this community if you are just a lurker, or if you are a frequent contributor.
still life 365 began as a year long project. As I round the corner into the second half of the year, I wonder what this space should be in 2011. I am still defining and redefining still life 365 in 2010--narrowing my focus in certain areas, and widening it in others. I love this space, but I just don't know what it should be. I scramble every few weeks for submissions. And the pressure of everyday can be exhausting, as much as it is exhilarating. Yet that is also what I truly love about this space--sitting with a new way to look at grief--Every. Single. Day. There is no shortage of ways to express this grief. There is no shortage of ways to express the word 'love'.
And so, now I throw this back to this extraordinary community of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends grieving and creating, what do you want to see change for still life 365? Do you think that perhaps we should think about publishing twice a week, rather than seven days? What do you like about this community and this space? Do you think that narrowing the focus to not include essays and birth stories ignores the full story of art created out of grief? Do you think we should be more discerning, or less, in what we publish? What parts of still life 365 do you like? What parts do you not like? How do you use this space? Do you feel this is an inclusive space? What do you think of the regular features--community poem, mid-month challenge, artist to artist chats, live chats, traveling journal, creative prompts, etc.?
Thank you to all of you for sharing your work. Thank you for your comments. Thank you for your creative fire. And please feel free to ask any questions of this space here too.