It’s another beautiful day in Florida, and this is the first leisurely morning I’ve had in over a week. Being here isn’t synonymous with being on vacation. I work harder here than I do in Kansas! While I dearly love my work, it’s time for me to relax and once again, connect with my thoughts in writing.
I’ve been writing this blog for almost two months now, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see how many people are actually following it. To know that I’m offering words that people want to read is such a wonderful feeling. That’s why a writer writes, after all.
This has been a good testing ground for me. I mentioned previously that I’m branching out a bit, and am currently writing a motivational book. It’s completely out of my comfort zone. I’ve been creating the art-related books for so long that this feels like a whole new world looming out there in front of me. I have no intentions whatsoever of discontinuing my art career, so those of you who have expressed a bit of edginess in that regard, you can just relax! Art is such an important part of me that to stop drawing and teaching would be like discontinuing breathing! I would simply perish. Sometimes in life you get called by your inner voice to investigate other things. You can either stay put, in the comfort of “what already is,” or venture out into the great unknown. Thankfully, due to my publishers and this blog, I can take you along on the journey.
As a published author, everything I do is played out in public. It’s a bit risky if you’re a creative, oversensitive person such as myself. When you do great things, you hear about it. If you flounder, you probably hear about that, too. People are very eager to share their opinions, especially in this day of social media. It’s a slippery slope, and you can’t have the fame without the criticism. The fear of failure in the public eye can be terrifying. By dipping my toes into the world of motivational writing and speaking, I’m well aware that I’ll open the door to both the good and bad comments. The more you put yourself out there, the more there is for people to take exception with. As daunting as it may be, it is a risk I’m willing to take.
I love hearing from people. For instance, the amount of love and concern that was directed my way when I wrote about losing my dog Penny, was simply beautiful. Thank you to all of you who showed your support. Some of the stories you shared were heartbreaking, yet so comforting. This is the reason write my feelings publicly, because we’re all interconnected. I know that many others feel the same way I do, and it’s an affirmation that I’m doing the right thing with my life. But, I’m aware that it won’t come without a price, because I’m inviting the opinions of others.
So, how does an author or teacher maintain the balance? How does a writer connect with their audience, yet not become overly involved? How do you offer words of advice to people, and then not be available for everyone, to offer further explanation? That’s something I’ve battled over the years and, like many writers/teachers, I have yet to find a perfect solution. We simply can’t offer the answer for every question, or be everything to everyone on demand.
For example, I receive more e-mails than I can even mention. Because of the popularity of my books and artistic techniques, I’ve become a mentor to many and people feel as if they know me personally. While this is a good thing, it’s a difficult arena to manage.
I try to answer everyone who contacts me. I think that’s important, for it’s the readers who make my career. But, it’s a huge undertaking, and it’s impossible for me to answer each message in depth. For those of you who’ve written to me, maybe this will offer a bit of insight.
For instance, every week I receive many e-mails from people who are learning to draw from my books. That’s a very good thing, and it makes me feel wonderful. That’s why I write the books! But some readers attach examples of their work, asking that I critique the drawings and tell them what else they need to do. While that may seem like a simple request, (after all, I AM a teacher), those are the e-mails I can’t fully answer. Let me explain why. As a teacher, I’m in the studio teaching “one-on-one” almost every day. That’s how I guide them, by actually showing them what I do and how I do it. My books, on the other hand, are how I guide everyone else. I write every day, to make sure that my books are as complete and easy to read as possible. Any guidance I could then offer in an e-mail critique, I’ve already written down in a book. It becomes repetitious. There’s also the time investment to consider. If I teach every day, and I work on writing books every day as well, there’s very little time remaining. Critiques take a lot of time, if done correctly. (I would never offer one that isn’t complete.) I would need to spend at least 30 minutes per drawing, to fully explain my thoughts and offer clear suggestions for a reader. If I receive two to three drawings per e-mail, and get four or five e-mails like that per day, well … do the math. Can you see the dilemma? E-mail critiques just aren’t something I can physically do. I simply must place my teaching efforts into the students who are attending my classes in person.
I also receive many heartfelt e-mails about personal things, which I enjoy. I’ve made no attempts at hiding the fact that I battle MS, and have personal issues because of it. I fully appreciate everyone’s care and concern. Many identify with my problems, and share similar stories with me. (We’re all battling something!) I wish I could get to know each individual on a more personal level, but it’s impossible to do so–there are just too many. That’s why I’m writing the motivational book. It will be a way of reaching out to people on a large scale.
But personally, I’ve decided NOT to talk about MS a lot. I believe that the more you speak about something, the larger it becomes. I’ve chosen not to be a spokesperson for MS, for it then starts to define me. MS is not who I am. When I was first diagnosed, I was naturally very scared, and I belonged to every chat room and support group I could find just to feel like I wasn’t alone. But as years went on, I became sicker and sicker. I had become “an MS patient that sometimes did art.” I didn’t like that feeling, so I disconnected from that world and started dealing with it personally and quietly. By placing my and my audience’s focus back on my art, I returned to being “an artist who has MS.” I no longer gave it top billing in my life. As I did that, my health improved, and so did my outlook on life. So, if I tend to glaze over the topic, that’s why. I’m not in denial, I’m just being deliberate with my attention.
I’ve met so many interesting people from all over the world due to e-mails and social media. Thank you to each and every one who has written. I love getting the e-mails and messages from other countries so I can get a glimpse of a world other than my own. I’ve had wonderful conversations about other lifestyles and cultures. But, as fun as it is, due to the sheer numbers, it’s impossible to then become a pen pal to everyone. My wonderful editors have jumped in, and have tried to field some of the questions that people have for me, which I truly appreciate. But, I know that people want the personal connection. So, I have an idea that you can all help me with.
Let’s use this blog as a way for me to answer your questions. I’ll try to make it as personal yet informational as I can. Each week, I cover a different topic, and it’s based on the types of questions I’ve recently received. Think of this as an e-mail I’m writing to all of you. If you have a question, I AM listening! I’m sure that others have the same question too, so feel free to ask it! But rather than a single e-mail from me, look in my blogs for the answer, so I may include many others with my response. I want to connect with you, and by doing it this way, I can.
This opportunity will then allow me more time to do what I do best: teaching, and writing more books for you! I do care, more than you will ever know. So please, don’t confuse the lack of a personal response with lack of caring.
Always remember: There are many of you out there trying to connect with me, but there is only one me, trying to connect with you…
Until next week!
Lee Hammond has been called the Queen of Drawing. That may not be fair these days, since in addition to providing the best drawing lessons, she has also created fantastic books and videos filled with the same easy to follow acrylic painting techniques, colored pencil techniques and more. Click here to see all of the instructional books and DVDs that Lee Hammond has to offer!
• Free download! Easy Acrylic Painting Techniques by Lee Hammond