Secret Message Society - Being Behind vs. [Re]Discovery. How to Own An Artist's Challenge.

There are, however, societies of a very few - little cliques which form by sympathy and which believe in and sustain the independence of their members, and which live by the variety of individualities expressed.
- Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

I've done it a million-kazillion times - taking on someone else's project and calling it mine. It's normal. It's all part of learning and developing our own artistic voice. It is also why I was hesitant to devote this year to encouraging YOU to make your own zine. Because I really do want it to be YOURS.

The good and the bad of artists sharing their projects as "come along adventures" is that their project had its beginnings from a very personal place. There were natural transitions that led them to the conclusion that project "Wanna-Maka-Something" should be launched in the first place. There were reasons those goals made sense to them. There were passions that fueled the fiery determination to see it through. And naturally they wanna express that passion and make it accessible to others. 

So when you join an artist in their "Wanna-Maka-Something" venture, you are, at least initially, riding on their fumes. In a sense the inspiration lives externally rather than internally, and so you have to keep returning to their vision in order to give it another go. They are your gasoline. They are your oxygen.

Unless. Unless you can get to the bottom of how YOUR take on the project is going to be unique to you. You have to set up your own perimeters. 

Here's some things to think about when joining an artist's challenge:

Why am I doing this?

A. I want to replace them as the next artist who does what they do. 

B. I have always wanted to learn or explore that art medium.

C. I want to learn what I have to say in this format.

D. I want to share space with and observe the artist and the world they create. 

E. Everyone else is doing it.

F. I should probably be doing something artistic and this is as good as anything. 

G.  I want to get noticed. 

H. It looks fun. I want to have fun.

How long am I going to participate? 

A. As long as the artist does it.

B. I will set an end goal.

C. I want this to be a consistent life practice.

D. I'll just feel my way through it.

E. Until I get bored.

F. Until another artist offers something better. 

G. As long as I can still hear my own voice through the creating process.

H. Until I out grow it. 

How do I intend to make it my own?

A. I will go at my own pace.

B. I will give myself periods of space away from the artist's voice, so I can hear my own.

C. I am the one making it. Isn't that enough?

D. I will find things in my own life to inspire creative content. 

E. I will deviate from the plan as curiosity strikes.

F. Uh-oh. My own? I am paralyzed without step-by-step instructions.   

G. I will devote particular, set-aside time to it. 

H. I will study the artist's creative process and apply it to my own craft. 

There are no wrong answers. It just helps to take an assessment of where you are, so you don't have to needlessly beat yourself up later over not doing the challenge "right." 

Sara Mock, a Secret Message Society Member who I am so fortunate to have gotten to meet in person as well, shared some of her thoughts on this recently on Instagram. She speaks to returning to her zine some four months after our year of zines began, and how she is owning her pace of it by calling it [re]discovery rather than being behind.

She is perfecting her practice of owning her creations by capitalizing on the fact that she is in this for HER, not for ME. She isn't a product of a regimented program, she is a member of a society of individuals who do what they want when they want because no one can tell them how or when or why to do their art. Only they can know that. 

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. When you read you begin with a b c. When you zine you begin with . . . @mandy.steward ‘s Secret Message Society Issue no. 34.
Finally allowing myself to explore this area of art/magic making in my life. It feels good not worrying about how “behind” I am, and just falling gently into the [re]discovery of it all.
— Sara Mock

She goes onto say in the comments:

One of my favorite messages that came with the zines was the one that says, ‘I trust the pace by which I move.’ I hung onto that one for a while, wanting so desperately to believe it. I would chant it to myself whenever I felt the pang of ‘failing’, hoping its truth would seep in. It wasn’t until I felt the need to pass it along to my daughter to help her through a tough time that I felt it. All of that to say, this is one of the results of integrating that lesson. We’re never behind!!
— Sara Mock

Isn't it fascinating and refreshing to see Sara wrestling with herSELF on the pages of her zine? She is asking herSELF questions. She is asking her own throat if it cares to be recognized as the creative gift it is. She is (and now we are) witnessing an internal dialogue fueled from an internal source that I, as "the artist" championing this Secret Message Society and our year of Let's Be Artists zines, can't for one minute claim as my own. Sara has dug deep in her own living and found what this particular zine must mean to her based on what she needs to find and create at this time in her life, and she has done so by choosing to trust her own pace in the matter. This is stellar. Her art shines.