Sometimes the anger and hatred that comes up on the internet in response to Zentangle® discussions just takes my breath away! I have to mentally back away and try to find some distance. It can feel very personal to those of us who are passionate about Zentangle and even more so to those of us who are connected by name. I think what makes me feel most... resentful... is that I have to feel like I must defend it at all. Seems like people could just make a choice - do they care or not. Not? Fine, move on.

A few days ago I saw a great article on Michael Hyatt's blog written by Jon Acuff, called 3 People You Need to Ignore Online.  Jon talks about the Spectator, the Hater, and the Complainer.
I had heard the saying "Haters Gonna Hate" but I didn't really understand what that... meant. I had learned, the hard way, of course, not to respond to mean reviews on Amazon. And I am learning that there is a difference between someone asking a question because they actually want an answer, and someone asking a question because they just want to be mean!

In the blog post, Jon Acuff says:

"Haters only get loud when you do things that matter.
People who don’t stand up never get rocks thrown at them.
The average and ordinary don’t get bothered by haters."

The second two points make me want to be ordinary! But the first point - that makes me realize that - hey, maybe I'm actually doing something that matters - if I'm pissing someone off! ;-)

I've written about it before, but I am still trying to find the balance between when to speak up and when to keep my views to myself. There are so many things that I would love to write about here on this blog that I feel need to be said aloud, but I am still really afraid of the backlash. A few years ago, I wrote about my thoughts and experiences concerning suicide. I received a bunch of very grateful private emails that assured me I had done the right thing. But I also lost a really good friend who misinterpreted my intent. Instead of an explanation of my thoughts and decisions, a baring of my soul, he saw it as a criticism of his own situation! But if I could back in time and do it again, I would still write the post because it made a positive difference to someone. And if another person is already angry about their own life, and doesn't want what I am offering - my posting - or not posting - won't affect them.
I guess it's just the law of the universe or something...

(Also in the blog post) Jon Acuff describes his theory of the “Critic’s Math,” which is
1 insult + 1,000 compliments = 1 insult.

Why do we do this?!

Last week, I had a series of incredibly disturbing emails (from one person) who I realized too late, I should never have responded too... I felt like I was bleeding from my eyeballs.

And, last week, I had TONS of fabulous emails and gorgeous tangle entries for my contest. At one point, I saw one email message that called me, basically, a demon, and the one right below it, said I was an angel! I know what you are thinking - I shouldn't spend so much time on my email! ;-) At this point I created a filter to just delete the other person's messages for the future. If only life were so simple.

So, back to Zentangle. I see messages all the time now - on Facebook, blogs, Yahoo - where I think "Should I say something?" or "Should I defend this person?" Will it make any difference? Sometimes people actually enjoy arguing! Weird.

Just today someone posted a comment on a blog post I wrote almost FOUR years ago (!?). When I went to the post to reply, I actually re-read it and realized - I still feel this way. It seemed timely. This is what I believe:

Just make art. (Whatever you call it).
Share it. Feel good.
Make more art.
Repeat. I'm going to reprint it here. The only thing that needs editing is the fact that, today, when I googled "Zentangle" there were 316,000 entries and a whole mess of books recommended for sale. :-) (I'm grateful that I am still on the first page of results!)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Zentangle: Art, but not for Art's Sake

If you do a Google search for "Zentangle", 137,000 hits appear. At this moment. Try it again in an hour and there will probably be more. Some of the sites that show up are images with real Zentangles, some have zentangle-ish images, and some are blogs where artists and crafters show their zentangle-ish art but swear they thought of it long before the evil Zentangle-people coined the term and started scamming people into buying a kit to learn how to doodle. It is very hard to resist commenting on these blogs, but I don't think my opinion would make a difference to these people and there is just no point in arguing with them, so I keep my mouth shut. But I can write my opinion here, since this is MY blog gosh-darn-it!!

The most important point is that Zentangle was not designed to be a new art form, but rather a method of using art that is basic and comfortable and familiar to all of us as a way of meditation. A way that anyone, even non-artists, can enter "the zone." To relax, and yet, focus, at the same time. A TRUE Zentangle has steps that set up a ritual, just like other forms of meditation. You can't just enter that state of calm by closing your eyes and saying look at me, I'm meditating." You light a candle, put on quiet music, sit cross-legged, hum, whatever. So too with Zentangle. The creators do not claim to have invented the equipment, the patterns or the concept of meditation by drawing. What they did create were the steps, how to go about this particular process. Its like yoga. It's been around for ages and in so many different forms. Does it matter where the poses originated, or who your teacher studied with? All that ultimately matters is how the poses and the practice make you feel. And how do you learn yoga? From a book? A teacher?  A kit you bought at Borders? Make it up on your own?

As you cruise the internet looking for Zentangle art and ideas, you start to see the difference between "doodles", Zentangle-ish art and Zentangle art by people who have had some training. Doodles are easily recognized as what they are because they are random and done in a thought-less way. Usually done while doing or thinking about something else. Unrelated. Talking on the telephone or daydreaming in a class or meeting. Zentangles are unplanned, but deliberate. The patterns are built "one stroke at a time" and they build on each other. The tangler doesn't "tune out", but rather "tunes IN". You become incredibly focused on what is evolving beneath your pen. You forget your worries for the moment. It is also very easy to see the difference between Zentangle art and Zentangle-like art. One dead giveaway is the dark lines outlining the "strings". Strings are guidelines that fade into the design when used properly. The characteristics that make a piece look like Zentangle: black and white, dense patterns within shapes, some shading - are what make some artists shake their heads and say "that's nothing new." But, again, these characteristics are not what make a real Zentangle, they are just the "look" - the end result. Zentangle is not a technique like watercolor or oil painting. It's more like... sand mandalas. It is horrifying for us to watch the monks (or anyone!) destroy those elaborate, gorgeous, detailed mandalas that they have slaved over for days - laying out each grain of sand, section by section. But, for the monks, it is all about the process, not the finished piece.

That said, Zentangles do make beautiful art, but I find that they lose their meditative calming powers when I actually am forced to care how the final piece will look. So I think of these artsy pieces more as illustrations with Zentangle-like qualities. Although, quite often when I create (not including free-lance jobs, ugh) I feel a great joy, sense of contentment and ... peace. I don't know where the image is going and I don't care. I am loving the colors flowing together, the happy accidents, the image that emerges from the paint. Life is good. THIS is what the Zentangle-originators are trying to pass on to you, to me, to anyone who cares to know that amazing feeling. What you do with these skills is up to you.

Resenting Zentangle, or its creators, is like resenting an inkjet printer, or Epson. These are tools to help make your creativity a reality. Use them and be happy!

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