Plans, Changes – and a Discussion with My Inner Gremlin

Yucca - Boyce Thompson State Arboretum

Yucca Tree © 2013 Bo Mackison

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. ~ Lao Tzu

Recently I’ve been working with change.

This season is already a bit too hectic for a hardcore introvert, with the approaching holidays and much anticipated visits from relatives traveling to the Midwest from “sea to shining sea.” After the holidays, there will be whirlwind packing, cross-country travel, and then a transition from snowy Wisconsin to sunny Arizona. (Yes, though I am looking forward to Arizona, it is still change, and even a much wanted change requires time for adaptation.)

And if this wasn’t enough for a busy December, I also chose to take big steps in my business. I launched my new website, one that feels in sync with who I am, and what I want to offer. I announced my intentions for the coming year – Focus Sessions, workshops, and a Desert Wisdom Retreat.

And then I heard my inner gremlin say, “Just what the heck do you think you are doing?”

It was a perfectly understandable question from my gremlin. (Her name is Miss Patsy, by the way, and she is a re-incarnation of my third grade teacher who had very high standards, never to be met in this world or the next.)  Yes, this was a typical response to lots of changes, to stepping up my game, but it caught me off guard and threw me far off-balance. I felt as if I were staggering everywhere I walked.

Eventually I stopped and took a great many deep breaths. Then I invited my inner gremlin to join me at a local coffee shop, pen and paper in hand, and I began to free write, letting Miss Patsy take turns when she had something to say. While Miss Patsy kept flinging words at the paper, like “imposter” and “too big for your britches”, I explored my present, where I have been, and where I want to go. And finally, my inner gremlin quieted. And so did I.

I re-affirmed that I am on the right path. This is indeed my journey. I will journey on my own timetable, but I will journey.

And as I squirmed in my seat and got myself comfortable, I settled into the changes. It felt just right.

I discovered new energy and creative determination, and yes, a lot of excitement and grand anticipation, as I take my next steps, one baby step at a time. Hope you will be joining me!

Sticking Points – Facing Challenges in the Face of Fear

Sticking Points

Sticking Points © 2011 Bo Mackison

There are sticking points in life. Places where you can’t see the beauty of the cactus plant because you are focused on the thorny spines. Places where it becomes hard to focus on the whole because there is a part that is strange and unknown. I am at a sticking point.

I achieved a huge goal in my “art show plan” this past week. And, as is sometimes true in life, achieving a big goal added new challenges to my life. It also brought the gremlins out in full force. The gremlins are showing up as fear. FEAR — in giant, capital letters.

Last year–my first year doing an entire year of art fairs–I did smaller shows, regional shows. When it came time to send in the applications last autumn, I made the decision to apply to big shows, to the nationally ranked shows that drew artists from all over the country. Five months ago, it seemed like a great idea.

When the notifications began showing up in my email box, there were quite a few rejections. There were some wonderful acceptances, too, for really good shows in the Midwest. I was thrilled. There were also several shows where I was wait-listed – my art was good enough to meet the show’s requirements, but there was not space available. Yet.

Last week I got a phone call from the Tempe Festival of the Arts, one of my wait listed shows. There was a space available. Did I want it? Yes, of course I wanted it. I made some arrangements for an assistant, and I accepted the space at Tempe. And all was good for a few days. And then…the inner critic started blathering.

Yep. The inner critic focused on FEAR.

One of the biggest life challenges I am working to overcome is my fear of the unknown. It is one of the reasons I came to Tucson. I had visited Tucson several times and I was deeply attracted to the region, but I had no connections. When I made the choice to live in Tucson for a couple of months — alone — I knew I would be living in a place whose daily special was a serving of the unknown. I also knew that I would have to come up with the resources to deal with all the fears that ride piggy-back on those unknowns.

When I agreed to do the show in Tempe, I achieved one of my art goals – doing a nationally ranked show. Coupled with that acceptance was  taking on one of my huge fears — doing a show in a city that I had never visited before, and well outside my comfort zone. I also chose to  face my fears, meet them head on, continue to move forward.

Then suddenly, I saw only the thorns in the cactus, not the whole plant. I let fear speak. And I began to listen.

Global Pattern

Global Pattern © 2011 Bo Mackison

It took me a few days to realize that if I listened to my fears, it would interfere with a big life goal – showing up as the artist I want to be. I gradually realized that it was okay to have fears, but that I did not want to allow fear to govern my decisions and my life.

I really am pleased to be in the Tempe show, and I am stepping up to the challenge. I am choosing to be the artist I want to be.  I am choosing to be a person who does not let fear get in the way of her dreams.

Living in the desert offers many life lessons. I choose to see the cactus, aware of its thorns, but focused on the beauty of it as a whole. That cactus has a lot of similarities to living a full, meaningful life.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.  She is living in Tucson for two months – exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo”.  She will be exhibiting her photography at the Tempe Festival of the Arts in Tempe, Arizona, March 25-27, 2011.

The Making of an Artist: Part I – Talking to the Inner Critic

Shadow Tree

Shadow Tree © 2011 Bo Mackison

A lot can happen in a year. A whole lot!

Exactly a year ago, Sherpa and I went to the Tubac Festival of Art with a couple we knew from Phoenix. The woman had been an artist on the art fair circuit for 15+ years, and we asked them if they would come with us to the art fair. I wanted to walk the show, ask questions, learn the ins and outs of being an art show artist from an experienced show artist, from a pro.

I was at the earliest of stages of considering whether or not I might exhibit my photography at outside art fairs. I remember how overwhelmed I’d felt after walking the art fair for several hours. My friend had provided informal lessons on topics such as tent and canopy quality, and on weighting tents for the worst kinds of weather. I’d taken snapshots of canopies and attached awnings for sun or rain protection, of staking systems that held a tent firmly in place. I’d learned about different ways of showing my art — panel systems, grid systems, mesh systems.

I also remember looking at the many kinds of art that were at the festival. I kept looking…and looking…and looking.

Finally I gave myself permission to allow the tiniest thought to spring to life. It said: “I think I can do that!”

It didn’t take long before all the gremlins in my head joined forces and started spitting out their thoughts on the subject: “Ha, ha, ha! YOU aren’t an artist!” “You can’t make art that someone would pay REAL money for.” “You’re an introvert–you could never be a show artist. Why, you would have to TALK to people. Ha ha ha!”

“You can’t…”  “You aren’t…” You don’t…” Oh, those crazy voices in my head were so loud, so persistent.

I did want to share my art. I did want to see if I could sell my photography on more than just an occasional basis. But I had so many concerns, questions, fears, uncertainties. So many questions flooded my head!

Was my art good enough? Did I have what it takes to work the art show circuit? How would I manage the traveling, the overnights away from home, the packing and unpacking, the physical stamina required to set up and take down a booth, and work in the booth for two, three, even five day shows?

The last questions I asked were the hardest. Did I have what it takes to be an artist? Did I have any talent? Could I really be successful?

I returned to Wisconsin knowing I needed to give these questions some soul-searching thought. It would take me several months before I began to answer any of them.

Part 2: The Making of An Artist: Start Up


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for the next eight weeks, exhibiting her photography in art fairs, taking photographs in deserts and desert gardens, and blogging about learning to live on her own. Her mantra is “Bo goes solo!”