09 April 2014

Well, doesn't that just look like crap?

How many times have you said something like that to yourself?  How often do you spend at least some portion of your creative time hearing that (or something similar) whispered in your head?  Oh, those whispers of self doubt.  Those voices that can take a whole lot of joy out of creating.  Those voices that are so freaking ingrained... sometimes they are hard to get out aren't they?

Does everyone hear them?  Where did they originate?  I can remember all the way back to kindergarten when my teachers insisted that trees simply cannot be purple, and cows were most definitely not red and pink thank you very much.  I also seemed to give them fits because I often forgot to draw things on people... I  left off eyebrows and arms, unless the arms were doing something.  To be honest, even to this day I have to remind myself to draw in eyebrows.  But, let's be real...

These are my eyes... you see any eyebrows there?  (And no one sees any wrinkles... got it?)  You have to look darn close, right there, just above my eyes.  My eyebrows are a very light strawberry blonde... I have never plucked them, never waxed them, never shaped them...they are just thin.  Very thin.  And almost invisible.  When I look in the mirror I really don't notice eyebrows, so I forget to draw them.  (And thank goodness for mascara, my eyelashes are just as pale.)  

Yet, in spite of those negative naysayers that told me I wasn't doing something right, and the voices they left inside my head, I persist in my creative endeavors.  How interesting is that?  Why do you suppose that is?

My theory is that humans (at least some of us) were born meant to create beautiful things.  Or, maybe to phrase it more accurately, I think we are meant to create things we think are beautiful, in spite of what others may think of them.  I wonder how many more beautiful things would be created if we didn't suffer from this horrible thing called self doubt?  What would happen if we didn't "measure" ourselves by some self inflicted, and unattainable, idea of what being talented is?  What would we do if we could get those voices of self doubt to just shut up?

Every time I create something those little voices of self doubt chatter inside my lead.  And at some point during the creation process those voices get very loud and I just do not like what I am making.  Each and every piece.  Each and every time, every single time.  I have a box full of things that I put aside because those voices got very loud.  And you know what is interesting?  When I go back and look at what is in that box, there's really nothing wrong with the pieces that are in there.  I very often wonder why I didn't finish them. 

When that self doubt creeps in, it nags at us, tells us we are not talented, we cannot create art, heck, some days we can't even create dinner.  It takes our joy away.  We allow that doubt to win far more often than we should.

If you read the other blog you've often read that I do not do realism well.  (That applies sometimes both figuratively and literally.) Reality is that I will never create beautiful portraits that look exactly like the person I tried to portray.  I will never do a realistic still life.  I will never paint a perfect landscape.  But, I will always admire those folks who can do that sort of art.

As a matter of fact, I admire them so much that I used to believe that the only "real" artists were artists who could do that.  That idea came from my first art professor in college.  He's also the reason I changed my major.  But my real truth is, I don't want to do those things.  I want to create MY art, not someone else's art.  Every so often I will give them a try, just because I can, but I will never meet the standard of perfection I have set for myself in regard to them.  My little nay-saying voices are likely to have a field day.

On the other hand though, I may do some very fun and funky portraits, that might be amazingly colorful and "different".  And I may do some really interesting still life... but it most likely won't look real, but it might be labeled as "unique".  And, right now I am working on a landscape that I see every single day as I drive across campus... it doesn't look "real", but it is becoming interesting.  I'm not looking for "perfection", whatever that is, and suddenly I am doing better work than I have ever done.  I see "me" in my creations now, not me trying to do what someone else does... but me, who I am authentically.  That feels pretty good.

So, how do you quiet those negative little voices in your head that can steal the joy from creating and cause you to doubt yourself?  It's not easy, they are pretty ingrained.  It probably works differently for everyone, but I can share with you how I tamed mine.

A couple of years ago now I was working on something and the little voices were really tearing it up.  Every tiny thing I did was wrong.  The more I doubted what I was doing, the worse the project looked to me.  The worse it looked to me, the more I doubted myself.  It's a terrible cycle that just sucks.  As I was close to tossing the project when something stopped me.  I realized how unkind those voices of self doubt are.  How hurtful, how destructive.  How terribly unfair.

I realized that I would never say such destructive things to another person, so why do I allow myself to say things like that to me?  It was a monumental moment.  The realization that I had the power to stop that negativity.  If I would never say things like that to another, why in the world would I allow myself to have this mean and hurtful ongoing conversation with myself?  Woah.  This was big. Huge even... bordering on life altering.

Oh my gosh... I can be kind to myself.

I can treat myself the same respect and encouragement I give other people.  I can be encouraging rather than doubting... I can have faith in myself rather than that nagging doubt.  Wow!  WOW!

From then, each time the voices of negativity creep in and start getting loud I ask myself, "Would you say these mean things to someone else who was giving it their best try?"  The answer is always "of course not".  So the logical next question is, "Then why are you saying these things to yourself?"  and now, each time I begin to hear that negative thinking when I am creating something I remind myself that it is ok.  What I am doing may not turn out as I originally envisioned it, it may turn out even better.  And you know what, it often does.

It's taken a bit of resolve, and I've had to be pretty consistent with myself about it, but, the little negative conversation I have in my head about my work have started to lessen.  I've learned to be kind to myself, to replace the negativity with encouragement.  To stop allowing the voice of negativity to speak so darned loudly, and to let the voice of kindness step up to the plate a bit more.  Sometimes now days the negativity barely rears its ugly head... what's the point if I'm not going to listen and allow it to ruin my adventure?

And you know what?   I am having so much fun!  Fun!  To sit down with a blank canvas or sheet in front of me has turned into such an adventure.  To watch the colors splash across it, to see it take shape, to get my hands covered in paint and paper... and to NOT hear that constant line of negative thoughts streaming in my head.  Pure joy, seriously.  And I think it shows... my colors are bright and garish, and I just love them.  I've become passionate about creating, trying new processes, experimenting and coming up with what works for me.

Everyone who creates things should feel this way about what they are doing... it doesn't have to be a Rembrandt, or a Matisse... it is perfectly fine to be a June... or a Deb, or an Eileen, or a Cherie, or a Yvonna, or a Melissa, or a Mary or a Kate, or a.... you get the idea.  YOU are an ARtisT... and the work you do is lovely because of the joy you put into it... let that shine.  Let the beauty of YOUR work blossom, let it reflect who YOU are.

Sometimes it means strangling those negative voices, and it's ok to do just that.  Stop and ask yourself, "why do I allow them to keep speaking to me"?  And... if you ever need back up, email me, I'll be happy to help you strong arm them.

So, what do you do to quiet your little nagging, nasty, negative, nay-saying voices?


jinxxxygirl said...

I ignore them........ I push thru them.... and at some point i find myself getting past them and instead of yelling in my ear they are just whispers and finally they are silent... that is on good days ... bad days i lay the painting aside and there it sits for months (aka remember the hobbit door painting). I have trouble consistently keeping he voices away but i do make strides in that direction every time i pick up a brush. :) Lovely post June! Hugs! deb

Gretchen said...

Your post is so accurate...that chatter that goes on in one's head can sure knock a person down and generate havoc with their creative spirit. And sometimes they don't even realize that what's happening is that their insecurities are not only knocking at the door but storming the gate and trying to take over. I do believe we are our own best critics and unfortunately, if left unchecked, that criticism can destroy our creative spirit. Thanks for showing us another way...

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

Very interesting post. It's not funny how we allow what someone told us years ago to effect our self confidence. My mother did a job on me and I can relate back to things she said as the block I have on my own self confidence and the ability to freely try new things. I wish my left brain was more predominate and I could be a freer spirit.

Beedeebabee said...

What a GREAT post! There's lots of that negative chatter going on in my mind, and I also have a box of unfinished things. You're so right, I'd never say the things I say to myself to someone else. I'm always so encouraging to others. I think you just switched on a little light bulb inside my head! Thank you!!! :)

Melissa T. said...

Well, I still hear all those damn little voices, but I decided just to keep creating to spite them. I am so inspired by my five year old. He paints with passion. He draws with wild abandonment. If he doesn't like what he sees, he doesn't erase it a million times and he doesn't start over. He looks at me and says, "I didn't mean that line on there, Mommy, but I like it now. Doesn't it look great?" He is so proud of each and every creation and loves working right beside me when I'm doing my own art. He thinks I am teaching him, but oh, the things he's teaching me!! And the voices hate it :) ;) :)

Eileen Bergen said...

I haven't found a way to deal with that little inner voice, yet. Your suggestion, to ask myself if I would think or say that about someone's else's work is very helpful.

I almost always admire everyone else's work and wonder, why can't I be that creative.

I had a HS art teacher who came right out and told we I wasn't an artists because I never did anything original. I just copied well. It was crushing. I guess that was her idea of career guidance. lol.