Chasing Down The Muse: Why not brag a little?

These are the strangest "dog days" ever! We are only up to, what, six days of sunlight thus far? Incredible!

On one of those few sun-drenched mornings recently, I was lucky enough to have the hours off to walk on the beach at Crystal Cove. As my regular readers know, this is one of my favorite local spots to while away some time.

On that sunny day, Crystal Cove Beach echoed with sounds of rejoicing. It seemed the sun had come out once more just in time to avoid succumbing to seasonal affective disorder. (I may use the word "sun" over and over because of its rarity of late. It sounds so good.)

The birds seemed to be utilizing their bragging rights on that day even more than was usual. Certainly, on this glorious day, it was justified. A lone whimbrel sounded a long trill of joy just as I passed. Two white egrets walked with quiet stealth in the low waters at shore's edge. Ruddy turnstones and other shore birds sang out all along the beach. On the sunny bluffs above, the chaparral rang with music of our many local songbirds in chorus with the louder crows and gulls that frequent the area.

As I walked along rejoicing in the day myself, I found my mind wandering as it often does on these solo walks. The alone time is good for planning, creating space, or just mulling over myriad things and watching them form a pattern.

One such pattern had come up lately in the form of "the brag." The first instance came from student and new friend, Faith Fontan. When she spoke, she was adamant in saying that co-teacher Suzette Rosenthal and I just didn't talk up our own work enough…didn't brag. "You both are too humble," she said with vehemence.

Speaking of this later, Suzette and I had to agree that we did not brag, that we probably were humble, and that we were okay with this. Still, the signposts kept popping up. Did this mean something? When might bragging be justified for us, we wondered? How might we manage to do it and still be ourselves?

When the latest nudge came it was in the form of a weekly newsletter I receive from a woman named Alyson Stanfield who coaches art businesses. In the newsletter she caught my attention with "Brag Better About Your Art, About You." I thought, "Not again," but there it was. Knock. Knock. Knock. At what point do we answer the call?

Ms. Stanfield recommends a book by Peggy Klaus, "Brag! How to Toot Your Own Horn Without Blowing It." She goes on to elucidate some of the points made in the book. Quoting Ms. Klaus, Stanfield says that, contrary to many seem to think, brag is not a four-letter word and that "remaining quiet about your successes only leads to being underappreciated and overlooked."

All of this — and there is lots more — gives me pause. I don't think I'm quite there yet in the bragging department. I still found some discomfort when answering the provided questionnaire. Nevertheless, I have opened the door. A tentative first step might be to get the book. The idea that bragging might lead to better ways of communicating titillates me.

While uncomfortable with my own lack of solid answers, I am open to searching and researching to find some. It would not hurt to know answers to questions like "What do you and others say are five of your personality pluses?" Time spent thinking about how one became an artist and what you like about it can be good reminders. Even pondering in what ways one might be making a difference in people's lives has great personal value. The mysteries that drive me forward on the chase are here. Guess I will follow them wherever they lead.

Thanks to Faith, Alyson, and the as-yet-unvisited Ms. Klaus for opening my eyes to yet another of the mysteries. This is, after all, what chasing the muse is about.

Cherril Doty is an artist, writer and counselor always fascinated by the myriad mysteries of life. She can be reached at cherril@cherrildoty.com or by phone at (714) 745-9973. And for these summer months, she can be found most days at the Sawdust Art Festival in Booth No. 233.

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