Don’t Follow Me…. I’m Lost.

So fellow travelers, in a group as prolific as the CGBF,  there are bound to be common themes.  Repetition is more common when a specific challenge is posted, such as the recent Winter Color Initiative, a call to brighten up the dreary winter with color infused posts. At times there are rebound or spin off posts, pieces inspired by the work of another member. Often they are a simple exchange of a shared interest. When one of us posted experiments with Zentangles® ( a trademarked doodling technique using repetitive abstract patterns to create intricate designs) it started a flow of zentangle art. Wow!  I had been playing around with those for several months since I learned the technique in an art class I was assigned to with one of my special needs students, so I posted some of my own creations.

Dreaming of Spring


It can also be a form of active meditation; the process of focusing on the repetitive patterns can be quite relaxing.  So, zentangling is something I do during my break time at work to relax and grant myself a sense of creative accomplishment.  This sense of ongoing creative accomplishment has become increasingly important to me.  My work week affords minimal time for creative pursuits. Weekends disappear during Band performance seasons (right now we are in the midst of Indoor Drumline Competitions).  I usually have several written pieces or photographic essays in edit mode.  During school vacations (like next week’s Winter Break which we have just been blessed to start a day early) I can complete a project within a day or two.  When in full time work mode, it can take me over a week to get something posted. Often by that time the piece feels stale and I dump it.

It’s frustrating, yet I know I am only a few years away from being able to devote more time to my creative interests. I want to hit that ground running.  I continue to draw inspiration and encouragement from the Bedlam Farm Group.  I see photos which encourage me to get out and try something different, even when all I have on hand is my not-an-I-phone camera.



( Sunrise from my android phone cam, tweaked and edited in Photoshop)

I read wonderful poems which push me to extend beyond my 5-7-5 safe zone.  A heartfelt blog post will spark an idea to fill the void left by a dumped stale entry. They are grace in writing since the experiences I write most fluidly about in my journal I cannot post because I am bound by professional confidentiality. I keep those notes as investments in a creative future and find openings for expression where I can.

Which is why a recent post from our mentor on the creative page struck a chord of fear in my heart. It questioned whether too many of us were “following” one another and not posting enough original creative material.  In the early days of  becoming a member of the group I constantly questioned whether I belonged with award winning writers, bloggers with well established followings and professional photographers. Initially I limited my contributions to commentary often in the form of clever haikus but it did not take long for the encouragement to sink in.  I started this blog, took classes to challenge my photo skills, adjusted my volunteer schedule at the dog rescue and committed to posting regularly.  I am learning what works, what I feel strongest about and what feels “authentic.”

But, I suddenly questioned whether I was being “just” a follower, whether my offerings were original “enough.”

The post hit me harder than usual, showing up after a particularly tough day at work.

I panicked .  Right now the group fans the embers of my creative drive into frequent fires of creative production.



(Icicles by my good friend and fellow CGBF member Beth Heffern)

An amazing shot of icicles, gets me fired up enough to throw on some layers and brave the cold to see what I can capture with my camera before the battery gives in to single digit temps. But wait, would the photos then be just followup?


(Sketch from Kathy Cary.  Kathy often graces our words by writing them in her beautiful calligraphy. )

Inspired by some watercolor sketches and paintings posted by several artists, I recently picked up a batch of watercolor pencils, planning to try my hand at a medium which previously frustrated me into submission.  My doubts wont keep me from playing around with them but will I feel daring enough to share the results?

Feeling paralyed, I message a friend in the group, who immediately responds “What are you doing? Are you having a crisis?…. You are a valuable member of the group.”  Tears of relief burst from my heart, spilling out of “sweaty” eyes and down my cheeks. Wait DAMMIT, what AM I doing?  Where is my head that one content guiding question makes me burrow under the sands of self doubt?

Why is it so hard for us to BELIEVE in the creative spark we carry? I realized it comes down to understanding why it is so hard for us to believe in ourselves.  And we have to believe in ourselves because if we don’t, who will?

I am here to expand my horizons.  If I do not step out of my comfort zone I will never grow as a writer or visual interpreter. If I start judging my process by comparing myself to anyone but myself I will never take the necessary risks to develop my “voice” and “vision.”  So I will risk following my inspiration until it brings me to the true source of my original creative spark.

Milkweed Fairy  one of my favorite photo captures from a Jeff Anderson photo workshop last year.


Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Deborah H Rahalski


  1. Love the name of your blog. And we have many things in common–the way you are inspired and moved by art and photos, the fact that you teach (I’m on winter break now too, but as a sub). I’m sure at 63 I’m a wee bit older than you. And I love to hike. Esp in the Adirondacks.
    Regarding the fear of “following” others in a group: As with “writer’s block,” I
    don’t let that worry me. I once heard a poet at his reading remind us that all poets are
    thieves (we model, imitate, and unwittingly collide into the same subjects) and liars (after
    all, he noted, what is a metaphor but a lie? 🙂 and I love that. It was as if he gave us all
    permission to steal and lie. “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” A cliche, perhaps,
    but all too true.And a great learning tool. Why else do we see student artists sitting on the floor at the Met. Museum of Art, sketching away like crazy?
    Another poet I once knew would tell me about a poem or line he was
    thinking about and then say, “but don’t you use that.” Yikes! I had no intention to, in the
    first place. It struck me as so odd, so territorial. Had that been me, I’d of said, “go for it.” The number of ways of writing our truths/visions/thoughts/dreams is endless. That poet and I never would have come up with the same poem.
    Another time I was browsing in my favorite used bookstore in Denton, TX, where the poet
    in residence at Un of No. TX was a favorite of mine. I had written a poem about a Cardinal, and my poem was about the way she threw herself at my patio door. It was during a period
    of great despair for me, and she reflected my mood–at least in my poem. I found a book
    by Bruce Bond (the prof poet) and one of the poems in the table of contents was
    “Cardinal”. I was taken aback at first, tore through to find his poem, and found it different than
    (but honesty, better than) mine. But his was a male bird, and his poem told a different tale.
    I was going to take a class with him and was so worried that’s he’d think I was trying to
    copy him that I did not sign up. How stupid was that?????Shame on me.
    One thing I do is read poems. Daily. And tons of them. And I am humbled, inspired, brought to tears, and encouraged to keep writing. So, it took me a long time (as I said, I’m 63) but now I
    accept that however small my voice, it has a place out in the world. So I keep writing. And you too. Keep writing. Don’t let anything, or thought stop you. Amen (Sorry, I tend to get
    on a soap box–it’s a wonder my poems tend to be short when my prose is so long-winded).
    All this is to say, if a group has periods of “thematic” similarity, so be it. It’s probably the most natural thing to come of a group of writers, but it’s worse to write alone, in a vacuum. I know. I can’t find a group of writers up here where I live to converse with. So “not to worry.” And your poems, as far as I’ve read them, are unique and interesting enough to keep me reading, and wanting to read more.
    Oh, and I love modest simplicity of your “profile” too. No braggadocio there. I’ll be following you!

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