What’s in a Compliment

Encouragement is important to creativity. To hear constant criticism, or belittlement of our efforts, is deadly to most people’s dreams.

“Oh my! You are so talented.”

People love to hear this comment. But could it and the beliefs behind it be hurting, more than helping creativity?

I see potential danger lurking in the background.

Natural, or raw talent, is a beautiful thing. Each of us have it. Weather that talent has to do with speaking, writing, sculpting, painting, or listening to a friend. Perhaps it looks different for you, like understanding complex logical thought patterns.

Regardless, each human is gifted in something. But if we believe our ability to succeed rests solely on that natural ability, it will limit us.

What happens to a runner, who is fast from birth, but as soon as running hurts, they stop training? They will never stand on an international podium. It’s the same for creatives who refuse to do the hard work.

For a writer, hard work is research, editing, and lots of words that will never be in a book.

What is your talent? What is hard work and growth for you?

Can working at something you are not naturally talented at be worth it? Should you give up?

NO!

If you work hard, you will improve.
Sure, maybe you won’t be world famous. But I am confident you will reach a higher level of ability if you persevere. Hard work trumps talent alone, every time.

“Your hard work is paying off.”

“Look at you grow!”

“I love your perspective.”

These three compliments are powerful and satisfying to my soul. They acknowledge things that have happened behind the senses while still praising.

Next time we give a compliment, let’s think about what it’s really communicating and ask ourselves, could we give more than a nod to talent?

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef


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Six Word Story (34)

The word ‘art’ usually invokes images of paintings, drawings, or maybe woven tapestries from a different time. Or maybe the word ‘art’ brings a favorite story to mind, or a famous poem, or sculpture. But art is so much more than those things, and lives in so many places.

The hands of come in all shades, sizes, and from all places. They stir cooking pots, pull stitches through fabric, and yes, weld iron beams into place.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Picture sourced from unsplash.com


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The Truth and Lies of Poetry

There is power in poetic verse. Words roll off the tongue like music and lose us in the sway of emotions that flood each word. But what about the messages hidden within poetry?

There are many ways to hide truths and or lies behind emotions. Often poetry takes us on a path we don’t control and we discover answers to questions along the way. But not always. If the engine that drives a piece is emotion, it’s inevitable that the author will sometimes get it wrong. After all, we need many more things than love to survive this world, and those that love should definitely still use the phrase, “I’m sorry.” Still, poetry has at one time taught us these things as truth.

How do we sift through the half-formed thoughts, fragmented ideas, and coloured emotions of poetry? Is it worth it? It is, especially when the poet speaks to us of their own personal story, with words that journey to understanding.

I say, you will never find gold if you are not first willing to sift the rivers for it. Maybe that is what a poet is. A prospector, braving the cold river of emotion, the pan of language in hand, searching the sediment of life for nuggets of truth. Will we find gold? Or pyrite? Or nothing but unwanted rocks?

You will never know until you are willing to jump in that river or start a poetic journey. The key is to understand it’s a journey, and a fragment of a journey, not a whole.

I thank God every day for the gift of the written word, and the gems I have found in the gift of poetry. But I also know, not every word I write is truth. They are expressions of emotion. I am also aware that the things I believe in this moment will change, as it should. Life is continually teaching us. A person who stays the same is a person who never grows.

I pray I can grow with open eyes and mind, ready for the truth, but also aware of the lies. For searching for both is necessary for growth.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef


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The Worth of Early Works

We store away our children’s scrap paper drawings as if they were masterpieces. Maybe not all of them, but the few that hold sentimental meaning. But with our own art, whether written word, the stroke of a paintbrush, or a photograph of a first cake decorating session, we push them to the back cupboard, or even throw them away.

Making room for a new and better isn’t wrong, but maybe we should hang on to one or two of those learning pieces. Treasuring them like we do the scribbles and hand paintings of childhood.

Why?

Undoubtedly your first works hold mistakes, just as mine do. So why keep any of them? Why show any of them to anyone?

They are beautiful examples of growth.

How often do you get discouraged in your creative life, and need a reminder of just how far you have come? How many times do you need help to keep your feet on the ground? Or encouragement to not give up? Keeping, and even displaying the art made while in the first stages of learning can be these powerful reminders.

Above is a picture of my first 4 foot by 2 foot painting. I wanted to stretch myself and see how different it was to paint a larger piece. The water was FAR from what I was going for…

So when I finished, what did I do with it? I hung it in on my kitchen wall, and every time I looked up at it, I thought about what I would do differently next time. (Now it’s hanging in my sister’s cabin because she is crazy and loves it.) I learned so much from just looking at it every day for over a year.

Everyone was once a beginner. No one has yet ‘arrived’ at perfection. So cherish those sloppy first strokes and overused words. Let them shine a light on your future creative path.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef


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Ink Spots

bravery in pen work
truth of staining spots
tell the story of a heart
stocked by fear
but still uncaught

every stoke
a slash at past
seeks to sever
cords
that grasp

the only sword that has a choice
to further peace
through language voiced

still leaving stains
on those who wield
the heavy tool in open field

not blood
but ink is what it weeps
into fingerprints
it seeps

brave
to name this sword a friend
knowing well it will offend
yet again

and mark the poet at its end

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Grandpa’s Bee/Art Highlight

Today I would like to share with you all an early painting of mine.

Grandpa’s Bee was painted in memory of my grandfather, John Miller. He was a carpenter, farmer, and beekeeper.

I decided to upload this little guy at the request of some of my family members. I love how I am able to share him with all of them, though my art shop.

Flowers continue to be something I struggle with in my paintings, as as this is an earlier piece, it’s not my best. But that is okay. I am not about perfection, especially when there is meaning behind a work of art.

Grandpa’s Bee, the original, was painted on canvas paper, in acrylic paint.

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Six Word Stories (27)

I have always loved the simple things in life. A nice sharp crayon. A heavily weighted paper.

Yet the latter never belonged wrapped around the other, even in my child mind. I would unwrap each individual crayon so that the whole could be used for making my pictures.

As an adult, I am learning how to unwrap my own label and use all of me.

I would also look for the darkest part of the driveway, or church parking lot to scribble out my creations in calk. They just never looked as good on the light gray of normal cement slabs.

Contrast is still important. It helps us see details we would otherwise miss.

The way you look at things makes all the difference. It’s not about changing truths, but seeing what God really intents for each of us. If I believe he has had a plan for me since the dawn of time, then every mark, stain, and wrinkle has been accounted for. He WILL use all of them.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Cherishing People While Creating

It’s thrilling, letting yourself get swept away in the moment of creation… Then someone interrupts you. A child tugs on your sleeve, or the phone rings. A spouse calls from down the hall, “Are you done yet?”

Do you shake off that tug on your arm, mute the phone, and ignore the calling? Can you? Should you?

Creativity is precious, we should cultivate and protect it. Having a space for this is ideal, having a time when distractions and interruptions are at a minimum is important. But there are people in our lives that can’t, and shouldn’t be ignored. It’s a balancing act.

The people in our lives are important. They support our creativity in ways we often take for granted. We shouldn’t ignore them. Not only shouldn’t we ignore them, but they are a pivotal part of our creation process.

In many cases they are directly, or indirectly, our inspiration. We get many of our ideas from watching them, talking with them, living with them, and all the ups and downs that go with that.

As a mother and wife, I sacrifice my creative life to care for and nurture my family. I have obligations, expectations and jobs I can NOT ignore. Families need attention, children need nurturing. But is it ever okay to say, “No, not right now, I need this time?”

Yes. Sometimes it’s healthy, and even important, to set boundaries around our creative endeavors. They are a part of us. When humans walk in their creative abilities, positivity flows out into the world. Finding the right place and time for that pulling away is the hard part, and the key to a thriving creative life amid people.

When I first became a mother, my kids became my entire world. But I let go of something that I never should have lost. My creativity. I stopped drawing, except doodles for the kids to color. I stopped learning and pushing myself artistically. I even stop writing, only picking it up once or twice a year when a fleeting spark touched my life. Because I let this part of me go, my soul suffered.

I didn’t know how to balance my creativity around the people important to me. But now that I have found my creative spark again, it’s a learning process. Like learning to juggle. But it’s one of the most important lessons of my life.

Do not lessen your light in this world by letting God given trats or abilities die. Instead, seek to learn how to incorporate new people, places, and responsibilities into your creativity.

Who are the people in your daily life that inspire you? Who are the ones that test you? Who adds flavor to your hours?

Cherish them, friends, family, and prickly people alike. I look forward to seeing them represented in your creative works.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

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Six Word Stories (23)

It’s the little things that decide weakness or strength. It’s the unguarded places that erosion starts. Mountains are raised by pressure and flattened with quakes, while water and ice brake walls.

Humans crack under pressure, our pieces scattered.

I am learning not to fear the brake so much. Because I have seen the art in mending.

The laws of science are the laws of God. He is the Author of their workings. He wrote the plans and mixed the elements.

He poured His spirit in to my chemistry. Now watch me change.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photos sourced from Pixabay.com

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Six Word Stories (20)

The presence of light has such power. It can illuminate or bind us.

Darkness shreds in the presence of even a single flame.

It sets a mood and tells a story.

It’s an element that shouts volumes, with just a whispered presence.

Light is energy. Without it, growth is impossible.

Nature has a way of reclaiming what man uses and then forgets.

It doesn’t see our castoffs as no longer needed, it knows that it’s all still a part of the matter making up this world.

We can’t separate it out.

As nature reclaims its own pieces from the aftermath of us, it has its own stories to tell us.

Will we take the time to read them?

Stones remember, even when understanding is lost and history is forgotten.

Stones remember.

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef

Photos sourced from unsplash.com

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