“What practice builds in us is a true confidence that can’t be derived from outward signs of success – fame, money, beauty. This confidence comes from the fact that you show up over and over again. That you do what you say you are going to do. That you commit to a practice, one that is possible given your life and maybe with a few missed times, a few times you messed up, you stay in the driver’s seat. And even the times you don’t show up are part of the practice if you pay attention to them, do not get rigid, can develop a soft heart/mind and don’t punish yourself or quit altogether because of one – or two – times you didn’t sit, run, or write, or eat perfectly.”

—Natalie Goldberg,
True Secret of Writing:
Connecting Life with Language

Lauren Rutten

Snooping was a habit I enjoyed on occasion. At the top of the stairs in the bedroom to the left, tucked away on a shelf in the back of my mother’s night table, lived a tiny little book filled with dates and numbers. When I was a young girl, I’d spend hours trying to decipher its meaning. That little book of dates and numbers became the basis of a story I wrote called The Period Book and my first piece of published writing.

Given the opportunity, I enjoyed removing the contents of my father’s or mother’s wallet, laying out each item carefully, noting which photographs were tucked amongst business cards, cash, a license and the MasterCard they each carried. I am curious by nature. In a photograph, I am four years old, standing tall on a metal milk crate, paint brush in hand, apron covered in colorful bows and paint, a work of art on the easel, showing the world what I’ve made. Finger painting and drawing were my first art mediums.

Lauren in Black V BWAt 16 I fell in love for the first time with a boy and through our connection, I fell in love with photography. I would never want you to read the yearnings of my teenage years hidden within a bound blue covered art journal, that live in a storage box somewhere in the basement.

Photography has been my primary creative language since that time. It has been how I have earned a living for the past 30 years. The world of images and stories has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Turning the fragile black flaking pages of my parents’ wedding album, watching small cardboard square slides drop through the slots of a carousel appear large and bright on the white sparkled folding screen, and the stories that accompanied the pictures were savored on Sunday nights in our house.

Photographs are often my entry point into writing. I imagine myself within the image, allowing my senses to recall the people, sounds, space, smells, and the light that exists. In my writing I explore the places within my memories that it calls forth. I love writing when I am able to hold completely contradictory experiences within my awareness, bring them together side by side, leapfrog from long ago to right now in the span of a few words.

Little LaurenSmIn bearing witness to daily struggles and exploring emotional experiences, I experience transformation and healing through writing and art making. There is a letting go of my internal struggles and a laughter at my own absurdity. And sometimes even better is when I can write something and share it with another person and they say “yeah, me too. I get it.” I love that moment in my writing because it brings me into a deeper self-acceptance and compassionate connection to others. My heart grows softer, opening and vulnerable.

Frankly, I’m not very comfortable with being vulnerable. I’ve softened to the idea over many years but I still need to remind myself it’s okay to cry, to let others know when I am in a tender place. Writing and art making have been instrumental in learning to open my heart to all of me. The greatest gift I’ve discovered to cultivate my creative heart is the concept of Daily Practice.

I believe we are all innately creative beings and it is through the daily creative practices of writing and art making that we strengthen these creative muscles and express our unique voices. This is what inspires me to teach and share my love of writing and art with others. In my practice there is no bad work, no mistakes, no “this sucks.” There is simply the willingness to make a mess and practice discovering how the heart wants to express what it has to share with the world. There is resistance and there is willingness and I recognize they exist side by side. It is a matter of which one I am tending that allows me create.

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