Courtney McCracken is Asheville’s own visual artist, teacher, inspirer, soccer player, lover of all things purple, and now author of the book Art Nurture: The Simple Guide to Cultivating Your Creativity, due for official release on October 14th (see Release Party info below!). As her editor, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak of the book, and it is full of insight that is helpful to the whole spectrum of artists, including writers, teachers, and even those artists that don’t know that they are artists yet. Welcome, Courtney, and thank you for your guest appearance on Write of Way!
Could you start off by telling us what your book is all about?
Art Nurture: The Simple Guide to Cultivating Your Creativity follows the metaphor of the seed of creativity that we each possess and shares with us the simple ways by which we can cultivate our own unique brand of creativity in our lives. The book is about each of us living life with the soul of an artist, and living life with the soul of an artist is about how we approach the things that we do with passion, purpose, and intention.
Each person’s art is going to be completely different because it involves our unique set of skills, our desires, and how we want to express those things in the world. For some, it could be the way that they teach the children in their class, the way they operate their business, or the way they engage with their community. The book shares that many of us desire to do something in the field of fine arts, but that your art is not limited to things such as painting and music. It’s so much more than that.
How did you find the inspiration to write Art Nurture?
The concept of Art Nurture came to me out of a time when I had lost my creative spark. I’d been a visual art major in college and had graduated with high hopes of becoming a professional artist. The adult reality of becoming a bill-paying-machine began to stifle my creativity. After years of trying to figure out the art game, I realized that my creativity had become so stultified I was no longer making art work. I was embarrassed to share this with my family and friends because everyone always thought of me as super creative and “artsy girl,” and it was during this very sad time for me in my life that I decided to embark upon an experiment, and that experiment would be called Art Nurture, and I would weekly try new things to see if I could work out my creativity muscle.
I formed the experiment solely for my own purposes, wondering if I had merely allowed my creativity to atrophy and if I could get it back. At first, nobody read my blog, which was fine. But then as the experiment continued, I began to receive messages and phone calls about when I would begin to teach this class on creativity or when my book was coming out, to which I laughed. The response I was beginning to receive from people was that this was an important thing to talk about and that it wasn’t just for sad art school graduates, but that it was really for everyone. That our creative energy is really important to our health and to living a rich and fulfilling life, and it was through the backing of a kickstarter campaign last year that I began the book.
You are traditionally a visual artist. Tell us about your experience of crossing over into a different art form, writing.
The book talks about the creative process and understanding how for something to go from an idea to a product takes process to complete. That process takes place both internally, through the battles that we fight in our head and in our heart about insecurities or worthiness to be working on a certain project, like Who am I to be doing this? and Who would want to listen to what I have to say? And that process also takes place externally, collaborating with other people, doing the work, editing, revising, designing, and sharing those ideas. So transitioning into another art form is like learning a new language, and staying completely engaged in the process and open to learning that process. It definitely presents new fears and concerns, but I would say that it’s been worth it completely to face those and engage fully in this process, because I truly believe in this material and how it helps and encourages others to engage in their arts more fully. So in that sense, the passion for the project overrides the challenges presented.
You chose to self-publish Art Nurture. Could you tell us what that process has been like for you?
Self-publishing has changed the publishing world, most of us can see that. It has made printing and the marketplace so much more accessible, and I am so grateful to “The Google” for the amazing resources that I have been able to find online for self-publishers. Not only that, through this process I have talked to other artists both doing things through publishers and self-publishing, and I feel very privileged for the knowledge and resources that made this process completely possible. Self-publishing is often now a great way to start, because publishers almost want to see that you’ve done something before they publish you, but it’s also just a legitimate form of publishing in and of itself now. Probably the biggest hurdle is marketing, which is often one of the things that writers think about the least.
How have you been confronting the marketing hurdle?
I would say a huge chunk of that has been over the past year since the kickstarter campaign, connecting with a variety of communities online and in person, and just asking people to share it if they like it. Not being afraid to share it is the biggest thing. Since the kickstarter campaign last year, I’ve also worked on my website and taken on classes to improve those efforts. It is important to stay open to listening and learning from others who want to share with you. When people get passionate about the subject matter that you’re passionate about, if you’re open to learning things, then people want to share with you.
It sounds like a lot of work. What have you gained from all this?
I get an opportunity to share with people that they possess the seed of creativity and I get to encourage them. My number one goal in life has always been to make art, enjoy life, and help people, so I’m very grateful to have had that opportunity.
Your book offers so much wisdom on finding your art and making space in your life for it. What advice does it offer to readers who already consider themselves full-time artists or writers?
The biggest thing is to consider being stuck or “writer’s block” an essential part of the process and getting rid of the feeling of isolation that comes along with it by encouraging creative community. It’s what you do with it. Do you let it take you down, or do you keep growing? There are times when we go through seasons. You could be working quite hard, and there’s nothing on the surface that you can see for all the work you’re doing. Keep working through the winter.
Some negative or self-conscious self talk is also normal and part of the process, and there are some techniques that I talk about in the book for how to refrain from doing that.
If you had to choose one thing, what would you say is the biggest take-away from Art Nurture?
Trust the process.
You can order your copy of Art Nurture: The Simple Guide to Cultivating Your Creativity, as well as follow Courtney’s blog or sign up for art classes and one-on-one creativity cultivation sessions at artnurture.com.
Come meet Courtney in person (and celebrate her 30th birthday!) at the Art Nurture Book Release Party at Biscuit Head in West Asheville on Monday, Oct. 14. I hope to see you there!