Monday, March 15, 2010


A Brilliant Artist Who Prefers To Remain Anonymous
wrote this account of standstill, perseverance
and breakthrough to right action:

The other night, in the studio,
I looked at this painting I'd been preserving
--it had been a beautiful, almost flawless start--
with some pesky mistakes that brought it down.

I worked to cover the mistakes,
but it just looked like paint covering a mistake.

The situation became clear: I was hedging
and the show wasn't going to come off.
It felt utterly wretched.

I asked myself, "are you serious about painting?
or is this just about you finishing a show?
Are you going to risk, for the sake of painting, or not?"

And reader, I threw down the disintegrating mixture
that breaks the surface of water,
laid some BLACK paint all over the thing,
and it looked awful and contrived, but I kept working
--desperately fighting for it, honestly critical, not settling--

and if it dries well, I think I got what I wanted,
the Miami Beach shoreline at night underneath a teeming sky.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


How To Generate Overwhelm:

In your head, make a big pile of vitally important stuff to do.

Identify with the belief that it must be done,
sooner than possible.

Put all your attention into imagining the scary future.

Focus on what you don't yet know how to do,
keeping in mind that it is essential to know
what you don't know.

A longtime client deep into revisions of her first novel gave permission to share this.

Hey Jude,

As you know, every time I hit a big place in my book
where major re-writes are needed, I start to feel overwhelmed,
like it is too big a task for me and that my book is shallow.
I get very muddled in the head and can't think clearly.
I am not giving in to this old voice as much as I used to,
but I would really appreciate a word or 2 of encouragement
from you as I contemplate how to change and deepen these chapters I am on.
Thanks very much!

Marilyn Wolf
Greensboro, NC

Dear Marilyn,

More than a word or 2, here's a whole blah-blah-blah.
I hope some encouragement turns up in the mix.

Seeing Through Your Trickster

How wonderful that you recognize
the habitual and illusory nature
of the Voice of Overwhelm.

What a key to freeing yourself from it!

However often it shows up,
repetition doesn't make it true.

Distracting Yourself From Distraction

The notion of your book being shallow makes for a potent distraction.

Sometimes I've been able to cut through this kind of fearful story
with the following magic question: So What?

Even if everyone who reads your book pronounces it no deeper than a puddle
(impossible because I've been reading it and don't think that at all)
what would that have to do with you, with who you really are?
It's up to them what they think, how deeply they experience what you've written.

As Martha Graham famously observed,
it is not our job to decide whether our work is even good or not.
Our business is keeping the channel open.

Or, Pay Attention to the Distraction

What really distracts from the work at hand
is not just an evaluation like my-book-is-shallow,
but our resistance to it, our effort to push it away.

Allowing it to be here, since it is,
and even exploring it with sincerity,
may offer rich learning.

What if you opened to listening
to the dread criticism as if it were a friend?

What might you find yourself writing
if you had zero fear of its being shallow,
if you fully accepted that possibility?

Maybe more shallowness, a lightening up,
is actually just what your book needs at this juncture.

Or, Just Stop

Your stamina and perseverance are only some
of your amazing gifts in this process.

But it is also good to give yourself a rest sometimes,
to let things rearrange within you
without shining a flashlight on them all the while.

Then a deepening seems to happen of itself,
without efforting or willpower.

The Comfort of Familiarity

As you said, this is a familiar place.
Maybe it's innocently offering you a point of reference,
an old structure to cling to before you jump off into
the unknown and uncharted of what's next.

You wrote about it another time:

"I feel completely daunted and weighed down
by the idea of trying to deepen these chapters.
I think it is because I feel like
That old feeling of "who in the hell did I think I was
to believe I could write a novel" has crept back over me..."

I wrote back:

and I wonder if you've heard you.
Big letters seem like shouting.
I think I usually shout at myself when I'm not listening.

Of course you don't know how to do it!
Honestly, every time I get that myself,
it turns out to be such a relief.

We don't do it. It comes through us, or not.
It's a surprise, and we're not in charge of it.
All our efforts to get what comes or doesn't
to reflect well or badly on our poor little egos
just amount to nothing.

Who did you think you are
to believe you could write your novel?
Who did you think you are
to believe you could breathe, for that matter?
(It's happening, whoever you are!)


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


To Make An Omelet You Have To Break A Few Eggs
acrylics and pearlescent pigments on board 8x11in, 08, Jude Spacks

Hey Jude,

While painting, I was hearing some rather unhelpful comments like,
That is stupid--do you even know what you are doing?

What about Intention--you have no clue.

Quit being so incoherent!
Where are you going with this?
You think you can show that!?
(Familiar to anyone?)
I realized that I have had a name for this voice for some time, and that in fact,
I have a personification in the flesh of this voice. It is....
The Suspicious Chicken.
and here she is:

I have had this thing in my studio for at least four years--
never realized that she was the source of critical commentary,
before today!

Maybe she's been squawking more lately because
I've been risking some new directions in my work. I'm
moving from an interest in powerline imagery to a much
more abstract response to the constructed nature of the
urban environment. Here's a couple examples:

Study for Queen and Walnut by Bonnie Miller
30 x 36 in acrylic on canvas 2007

Wires by Bonnie Miller
16 x 16 inches, acrylic and mixed media on canvas 2008

Anyway, I wish everyone good luck with any Suspicious Chickens
you find.

Bonnie Miller

Dear Bonnie,

Wow, that's quite a chicken! Maybe she actually broadcasts directly
to psyches in studios all around the world.

There might be a clue here
as to the source of eggshells for
walking on when giving feedback....

Thanks for sharing your discovery and your wonderful pictures.
And thanks for the inspirational courage to follow new directions
despite squawking.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fear of Prices

bronze relief by Patrick Gracewood

Hey, Jude,

Sometimes I'm scared of my own prices.

It's easier for me to get that my big scale sculptures are worth a lot
because the expenses are so obvious (I have the steel frames fabricated,
the casting of the panels is done in a factory, and I need a crew to move
and install them).

I finally started believing in my prices recently when I realized
that I also need a forklift and a truck with a lift gate to install these
reliefs. Better late than never.....

I'm having the pleasure of rereading Jeanette Winterson's Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery. Her first essay is a powerful one about encountering real art. Have you read her? I think you'd like this book alot. Let me know.
Best to you,

Patrick Gracewood


Dear Patrick,

I love your way of putting it: 'I started believing in my prices...better late than never'.

Sounds like you're still not so convinced about your prices for smaller works, though.

In my opinion, it's your unique spirit and expression that really brings the value to any work, regardless of size, or outlay for materials. Bigger isn't always intrinsically worth more.

The costs for the roof over your head and everything else that helps you show up to channel inspired work, all that remains constant regardless of the size of the piece you're working on. When you think of the legitimacy of your prices based on expenses, do you see paying yourself as being just as crucial as the need to pay an installation crew?

Of course, it may be practical to keep prices lower for smaller works. Clients might find big prices for big pieces more understandable and less intimidating, just as you do. You might want to develop a more distinct marketing strategy for the different scales you work in, so as not to invite comparisons.

I've tried some unorthodox approaches to coming to believe in my prices, which might be too odd to work for anyone else. For instance, I just wrote a post on why I've put all my fees in multiples of nine, if you're interested....

I'm sure you'll continue to deepen your belief in the integrity of your prices as you go along. That belief makes for a much more open, connected and abundant experience for everyone in any transaction. So charge a price that is really fair to you for the small gems, too.

Thanks for writing and sending pictures. And thanks for the book recommendation--I did enjoy the Jeannette Winterson. In fact, it's overdue at the library....


Friday, June 27, 2008


Hey, Jude,

I'm doing quite well in the "creative economy" so I'm not complaining--I know many people would be thrilled to do what I do and be paid for it.

Still, I feel dissatisfied, because I never seem to have time or energy left over for my own work. I have to admit that what looks like such creative employment doesn't actually feel that creative to me.

Maybe someday I'll find a way to explore my more experimental ideas. For now, I don't want to throw away a good thing in favor of an impractical urge. But it eats at me to be always putting off my real inspiration.

If Not Now, When?

Dear Not Now,

Your non-complaint might be a mild case of a grass-is-greener gizmo, a relative of the infamous procrasto-gizmo, and an old friend of mine, too.

grass-is-greener gizmo (gig-giz): Derived from expression "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." A network of beliefs that puts your good (happiness, fufillment, creativity, etc) on the other side of some metaphorical fence you can't get over, such as into a future that never comes.

Despite its built-in frustration, this mental habit can bring on a touching, even a heroic sense of longing. It belts out To Dream the Impossible Dream with full orchestra accompanyment. A gig-giz is a tragic drama in which nothing can ever happen.

The gig-giz loves stories that start with "If only..." Yours says, "If only I could explore my experimental ideas, then I'd really feel creative". This is identical (in form, not content) to what you imagine those people are thinking who would gladly trade places with you. Their gig goes: "If only I could do something creative like that and be paid for it..."

Sometimes a gig-giz runs on out-and-out envy (if only I had that one's talent or that one's trust fund). Envy is one of the seven deadlies--and it is deadly: it kills gratitude and presence.

Have you ever believed the content of an "if only..." and discovered when you got it that it didn't actually bring what you were sure it would? But the gig-giz pattern is unfazed when its prediction is proven wrong. It just comes up with new content.

The grass really might be greener on that other side; the gig-giz could be right this time. But you won't know until you get there (if then). And in the meantime, you're hosting a parasite on your happiness. Of course it eats at you to be always putting off your real inspiration. That's what a gig-giz does: it puts off your real life. Inspiration, peace and freedom always happen now, in the present, in the current circumstances, on this side of the fence.

I hear that your present circumstances include this dissatisfaction. What if you let dissatisfaction be here, since it already is here? It won't help to think, "If only I didn't have this if only story going on, then I'd be present and happy...." What if you even welcomed this gig-giz as part of the mix, just for now, without believing it or trying to solve it?

Supposing you took just one step towards exploring those inspiring experimental ideas. One modest, little, attainable step: the first one. What could you start, right here in real life, in an hour? How about in 10 minutes? You might remember what you love about those ideas, and the urge you had to get to know them. Or maybe not--and that could be helpful to find out. You might get a completely new idea of what to do next, and simply follow it for its own sake.You might or might not feel creative, whatever that means to you. But you would already be being creative; it's simple.

Does the mental pattern rush in to say, "Oh, no that won't work, it's not nearly enough, I'd have to take off full-time for months to really get into it." Just notice. Hear the swell of the orchestra signaling what a Really Big Impossible Deal this is. Turning down the volume on the Big Deal, see if you agree with the content. If so, what small, realistic step might you take to get full-time-for-months off? (Go on line and look up grants? Open a new savings account and tithe 10% of your income towards a sabbatical?)

If you didn't believe the smoke and mirrors of gizmo-world, where your good appears out of reach, you might see that the grass right here is vividly green. Maybe there are fresh possibilities in your current employment that you hadn't noticed while you were gazing over your fence. And you might be more likely to take actual, inspired steps on your "own work" if you weren't convinced that you have to wait for a mythic future when your time and energy will be freed up. Without gizmos eating at you, you could be very suprised how much energy becomes available.

The Source that creativity flows from is unconditional--it doesn't require more time or energy or money or anything. When your mind gives up calculating and dictating the terms of your fufillment, there might be a break in the clouds where happiness bursts through, not later, but now. You can't predict it or own it. It's untamed and unknown, this grace. There are no fences here, where you can't help but create because it's your nature.

Thanks for writing.



PS You're in good company. Shakespeare had similar trouble.
His solution? Remember Love.

Sonnet 29

When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon my self and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least,
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate,
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

William Shakespeare

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Hey, Jude,

I read in your last newsletter that you have room for 2 new coaching clients. I immediately thought, "I would love to coach with someone involved in direct inquiry!"

And then my thought of lack came banging in right behind that. "I can't have that if I don't have the resources.....this is a business for her."

So how do you move forward when it appears you need financial resources to do so? Have you worked with someone in this seeming paradox before?

I end up just coming to the conclusion that I am not supposed to have access to these kinds of things at this time. However, it feels like this is the time they would be extremely helpful.

Do you have any thoughts or suggestions?


Lacking $


Dear L. $,

A longtime client who considers her work with me "the best investment I've made in my entire life" mentioned, "When I tell friends they should try this coaching, they always say right off that they can't afford it; I say if I can come up with the money, which has been a miracle in itself, they could too, but they aren't open to it yet."

Of course, they (and you) may be right, objectively, that they simply don't have the resources to hire a coach now. Or they may just not want to rearrange priorities--perhaps a wise choice, certainly a valid one. But I wonder if the thought of lack that you saw banging in so quickly might also be a defensive slamming of the mental brakes, a reflex to ward off change.

With or without a coach, questioning who you really are beyond the habit of identification with thought can bring radical transformation; self-inquiry erodes the illusory dictatorship of the fear based ego-self. Focusing instead on what's lacking can give us a sense of (negative) control, a familiar reference, a shore of known identity to cling to. Sometimes "not enough" works as a secretly comforting excuse, a limit, a holding back from the boundless fullness of life beyond all conditions and circumstances.


Yes, I have worked with many people (starting with myself) suffering from binds made of thoughts of lack...which dissolved before their eyes when they saw their "problem" differently.

Once I felt strongly inspired to work with a coach who charged more per hour than I was scraping together for rent. I asked if she'd consider a trade. She gave me some wonderful coaching for free--by modeling an open-hearted 'no' based on her clarity about what she needed to charge; her honest limit didn't close down our beginning connection, but actually deepened it.
The grace of that experience came with immediately realizing that I was being supported rather than refused. In reality, I got exactly what I wanted (brilliant coaching from her), but only in the moment, not according to my plan for the future.

Before doing
The Work of Byron Katie, I probably would have seen that perspective as pasting on a happy-face to deny my disappointment. And I might have spun myself some righteous resentment about her fees for good measure. Instead, over time, without my even noticing, steady self-inquiry had brought me into unforced gratitude; it took me out of denial about the abundance that was really available in reality.

(If you'd like help with investigating your beliefs using The Work of Byron Katie, there are amazing, experienced facilitators available at The Institute For The Work Hotline, for free.)


Later, I actually did wind up trading with that coach, for some very helpful sessions. It came about in an unexpected way better than either of us could ever have dreamed up, with silent chortles from a friendly trickster universe in the background.

The original no and the bonus yes of that situation were equally supportive, generous gifts. Gifts are more fun when they are surprises. Sometimes they come wrapped in a convincing disguise, so at first they don't look like a gift at all.

Or sometimes there may be a deeper treasure hidden inside what looks like the obvious gift.

I received a hidden gift like that after a period of low funds and tightening financial worry which brought up more and more of my scarcity thoughts to question. I kept discovering that I really had all I needed, and more--but again, only in the present--until the next thought of lack would come.

Then I found some money I had completely forgotten about. The pressure was off, life looked bright and full of possibility. It appeared that a cash infusion had neatly solved my worry problem. But this seemed to contradict everything I'd been learning through inquiry--that it was not the actual lack of resources which caused my stress, but only my thoughts about that perceived lack and what it meant.

Next, the gift of a liberating insight arrived, right on time. I felt better because I had stopped looking for a solution outside myself, not because I had gotten what I believed made further seeking unnecessary. The relief was in the stopping, not the getting.
It really was the same relief I'd felt every time I had inquired into a belief of not-enough and found it untrue. I could enjoy the money that showed up without wondering if my freedom from fear depended on it.

(Have you encountered
Gangaji, author of The Diamond In Your Pocket? She speaks eloquently about this kind of stopping, and the realization it allows of the unconditional love, peace and abundance available within.)

Double Portrait of Gangaji '08

You already have the gift of being able to witness your thought of lack zooming in without wholly believing it. You wrote, "it appears" that you'd need more resources to get the help you'd like, and recognize this as a "seeming" paradox, so clearly you already question the reality of these concepts.

To go further, you might ask yourself, how is it actually necessary to moving forward that your resources be exactly as they are? Think of tangible, genuine reasons and evidence for the truth of this possibility.

You could also question, "I need to move forward"--is that really true? Would you rather have progress, or fully arrive here and now to discover there's nothing to improve?

Who would you be without that familiar song I Don't Have The Resources playing in your head? Who would you be if you couldn't believe it?

The point of this kind of exploration is not to start seeing a half-empty glass as half-full, though that might be a side effect. It's about meeting the place inside where the cup truly runneth over no matter what, and relying on it. From that awareness, the sigh of grudging resignation ("Oh, well, it just must not be meant to be") gives way to delighted curiosity about where the life-dancer will waltz you around to next.


Acceptance of things as they are can look like passivity. If we realize that all is well in the present, where's the motivation to make changes? How do we deal with the fact that we still have wants that aren't being met yet, if we see that attachment to fulfilling them distracts from noticing the grace of the Now?

Byron Katie observes, "Love moves." Unobstructed by stressful beliefs, our true nature of love takes clear, efficient, effective action; (she adds, "Don't take my word for it, test it for yourself
.") Acceptance is the ground beneath our feet, the place love can move from.

If you really want something, accept that you want it, to start with. With your willing, honest, most open mind, deeply question anything that seems to stand in the way. Question for the sake of peace in the present, expecting nothing. You may find yourself moving rapidly and decisively along the zig-zag path towards your truest desire, or something even better, as many who do The Work have reported.


Lack thoughts seem to have a life of their own, disregarding actual bank balances. People with access to enormous wealth can experience the very same fears and frustrations of perceived lack as people with much less; people in great poverty can experience the peace of enough. Lack is really only a thought, a thought that can change, a thought that passes without your investment of belief in it. This goes for resources of energy, health, attention, time, or talent, also, not just money. Inquire and test it for yourself.

The challenges and limitations we inevitably meet can be welcomed as doorways to a deeper dimension. Or not! I find I don't always fall in love at first sight with things apparently not going my way, and full acceptance of that aspect of humanity is a fine place to rest, to stop or to start.

Anyway, that's enough from me on your
wonderful topic--and enough is enough!

Thanks so much for your honesty,


P.S. Here's a video of Katie doing The Work with a crowd on the thought "I need more money."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Going Professional

Earning a Living Creatively

Hey, Jude,

I feel I'm ready to start earning a living from my artwork. I have saved enough to carry me for a year if I'm careful, but I don't want to waste time on false starts. Any suggestions?

Going Professional

Dear Pro,

I earned a living exclusively from selling my artwork for some years. My approach was a mixed metaphor: reinvent the wheel using the seat of the pants to put out fires with, while careening along the edge of the cliff, anxiously affirming the abundant universe all the way.

I thought if I gave my all into creating inspired artwork, recognition and money would somehow naturally follow. And a trickle did. Luckily I had a lot of fabric scraps available to patch the seats of my pants with, and I'm still here, so I never dove off the cliff altogether....but I believe there are more effective and less stressful ways to go.

If I were starting over, first of all, I would recognize and accept that although I am my laborer, main supplier and artistic director, I am also, perhaps more importantly, the entire sales force and the CEO of marketing: an all-round entrepreneur. I would not only wear the hat of the artiste. I could pick business hats that suit me, but I would not be reluctant to put them on or to learn how to make them fit.

I would take the marketplace less personally. I would give more attention to creating sustainable business structures, practices and relationships. I would look forward to meeting my beliefs, hopes and fears about what being a professional artist means to me. I'd keep using The Work or other methods to inquire into those thoughts, knowing that deeper levels of identity, freedom and connection could be found beneath them, which would only enrich my artwork as well. I'd (still) trust the abundant universe to show me the way.

And I would still make it up as I went along. When you start a creative project in a new medium, it's good to give yourself some room to make mistakes and learn from them, to explore how the materials respond, to get a feel for what you can and want to express through them. Embarking on the many faceted creative project of earning a living from your artwork deserves the same kind of space for feeling your way. It's wonderful that you have given yourself some financial leeway to support that space. Allowing yourself to willingly spend some time on "false starts"--on exploring without perfectionistic expectations of results--might be another realistic kindness to yourself.

My suggestion would be to get support with business and marketing skills, if you're not confident and experienced in those areas, and even if you are. Molly Gordon of Shaboom, Inc and Mark Silver of Heart of Business are my two favorite small business gurus. They are both amazingly generous with the valuable information and guidance they give away on their sites and through well written newsletters. Both offer excellent coaching products for people who want to create a business from an authentic, spiritually centered place.

Here's hoping you thrive in every way,


Jude Wearing Bizness Hat