Featured Artist: Elizabeth Honan Amber

This week I am pleased to introduce Elizabeth Honan Amber as the Featured Artist of the week! Elizabeth is the writer who inspired me to take more risks and write what excites me, which is where the A Wrinkle in Time series came from. She has some great things to say about art, fear, and letting go of our expectations of how things are supposed to be.

What art do you make?

I write studies, rituals, and curriculum centered around women's personal and spiritual development.

What are you working on that you’re most excited about?

Right now I am doing interviews with women about their experiences of getting married. I want to explore the common themes and differences in transitioning from being single to being married. Many of the conversations around getting married focus on the wedding and the romantic relationship, but I want to look at how women navigate learning new rhythms in marriage with changing friendships, family dynamics, sharing space, time alone, and spiritual growth. I'm hoping to put together studies and/or a devotional-type book. But if there is anything I've learned about transitioning into writing it's that I'm never quite sure how the words will take shape. But this at least is my starting point. And I'm really excited! :)

How have you been challenged by fear this year? How have you responded?

I started the year with the intention of writing a book. The fear of doing it wrong constantly hung over me. I had vague notions of how it would look for me to be a writer and write a things. The ideal included lots of solitude, being perfectly organized, and not letting anything else in my life go. I was paralyzed constantly by the reality of not being perfect, of not feeling how I thought I would feel, and the fear of failing. Under all this self-imposed pressure I was starting to understand why heavy drinking is associated with writers. I wasn't having any fun. I kept laboring under the assumption that writing was really hard and serious work and that I had to do it alone. The accuteness of feeling totally overwhelmed and isolated in a work I had never done, even though I felt called to it, was almost more than I could bear.

The only thing I knew to do was reach out for help and encouragement. I read about other writers and their struggles, and I went to counseling, I confided my fears to my close friends, and tried to see myself through their eyes. Everyday I got up and tried something a little different. I kept adjusting my course and by the end of the year I started to feel the freedom to be a writer and artist on my own terms. I finally started to admit that I don't work well in complete solitude; I need to feel connected. And I began to accept that I won't be perfectly organized, ever. I have to embrace my limitations. If I want to work on projects or develop ideas then I have to be willing to let other things in my life go, or at least to not get done perfectly. What is the saying?..."Don't let the perfect become the enemy of good." That is my motto right now.

 Photo by Elizabeth Honan Amber. Used by permission.

Photo by Elizabeth Honan Amber. Used by permission.

Describe the season you’re in:

This season has been one of learning to let go. I have always worried and believed that I don't have what I need so I just keep everything. But I have more than enough. I have had to let go of the excess, the things I don't use. I also have been learning to let go of my expectations of how I thought things are supposed to be and what I think it looks like to be ready.

How has God provided for you this year?

I realized early on this year I needed to find specific support for learning to be a writer and to actually write things. As soon as I started looking I found The Storytellers, (formerly known as Story Sessions). It's an amazing group of women who are writing, creating, struggling, and learning together. They speak my language and are motivated in a lot of the same ways as myself. They have been a Godsend.

How are you struggling with identity?

I mostly struggle with how to tell people what I do. I feel like I’m posing or making something up half the time. Everything I’m evolving into and becoming is new and something I never imagined.

What are the lies you have to push away when you sit down to create?

The biggest lie (that I keep hoping is a lie), is that I’m not ready. I constantly feel I’m missing something or not doing it right.

 Photo by Elizabeth Honan Amber. Used by permission.

Photo by Elizabeth Honan Amber. Used by permission.

Who is currently an influential artist for you?

Maria Popova. She is the curator and creator of the website Brain Pickings. I love that she has this niche that plays to her strengths but is so unlike what anyone else is doing. Plus I’ve been encouraged by so many of her essays that I not only think her work beautifully breaks the mold, but I love what she produces.

Do you have any favorite scheduling tips that have worked for you?

My biggest tip is to be kind to myself. My second is to not underestimate the power of setting a timer. It's amazing what I can get done in 20 minutes.

Favorite beverage:

Black tea with cream and sugar.

How do you recharge?

It depends on what I need, but usually a good memoir, or a book on feminist theory or history will get my brain kickstarted back into a lovely hum of thoughts and ideas. I also like binge watching Gilmore Girls, New Girl and British murder mysteries.

What encouragement do you have for other artists?

Be honest about what you personally need to stay stimulated and feel encouraged in your work.

What are you reading?

Women’s Growth in Connection: Writing from the Stone Center - It’s a book of essays written by a number of different scholars on woman's value systems and how women derive meaning in relational contexts. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Favorite outdoor activity:

I love just walking around town or in a park. It makes it better if I bring my camera.

Where can we find your work?