Module five: Why do you bloom?

Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith
— Margaret Shepard
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After you’ve spent time delving into your fears, creative or personal, are you ready to unfurl a little more….

Do you know that you work is valid and vital and important. Your creative work, your passionate artistic outlet is IMPORTANT. Did you know that?

Once you’ve finally found what you like doing, and think you might be ‘just a little bit ok at it’, the hard part can be putting yourself out there in the world. Sharing your work, and not over-thinking all the reasons why you’re not good enough.

From what I’ve read pretty much every artist at every level goes through this. So you’re not alone. (You might find this read interesting*). In fact, I think maybe the more you’re immersed in your work and feeling connected and closer to your real raw creative voice, the harder it is to separate those internal discussions of not being good enough with the little part inside your brain that says – this is actually quite very good indeed, and could even be amazing.

How do you turn off the negative voices and tune in to the positive words? How do you stop comparing yourself to everyone else out there, to the popular Instagram accounts or the artist you admire who just got another magazine shoot, or that artist (who you consider only so-so in talent) who is having sold out shows.

 

Here’s some ways I do this, which you might like to try.

Firstly and most importantly… I just get back to work. It’s the easiest yet the hardest thing to do sometimes. Turning every single external influence or obstacle off, and reconnecting with myself and why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I schedule time for my arts practice (which for me is most often my loom weaving, but not limited to that). I turn off my phone – leave it in another room – and I like working with no music, talking or sounds apart from the forest outside. But you might not have a forest, so music might be good for you. But basically, I ignore anything except for my own heart and head.

To do this most honourably, allowing my voice to speak, means that I need to have focused time and really immerse myself into my work. All the quiet internal head thinking (often at the back of my brain while I’m reading stories to my son), combined with the quietness that comes over me when I sit at my loom. By delving into this time of a conversation with myself I find I give myself space to say my true voice.

So… this is my number one tip on ignoring the internal voices or over-thinking the external influences.

 Just do the work. Immerse yourself deep into your creative artistic practice. Be that for an hour or a day or a week… whatever and however long you can. The longer you’re focused in your practice, the more chance of the other voices being pushed to the side and your raw real true “you” voice can communicate.

Being in the flow is vital to owning, viewing and understanding your creative voice. You may already do this, but if not I think you’ll find it very powerful.


And then, think about why you’re jealous about other creatives 'winning' when you’re not.

When I get all anxious about why other people are getting all the things I think I want, and why not me, and it’s not fair… I’m as good as them! (Stomps foot and has a little mini cry); what I’m learning / learnt / still remembering is to question why I’m jealous. What is it about what that person has that I really want?

The truth is that I don’t want their life, so what do I want. And most importantly why don’t I have it yet? Do you actually really want what they have / are getting.... or do you just think you want that?

Often it comes, when I’m being truly honest to myself, all back to me. I don’t have that sold out art show… because well I still don’t have a full body of work to have an art show. I’m wanting the things without having done the work. I don’t have that magazine shoot because my website isn’t yet finished and I don’t have all my work photographed to show off in it’s best light. Or maybe because I simply haven’t contacted the magazine editor yet to let them know who I am.

And Instagram? Well, I’ve learnt from lots of deep thinking about this one… it’s basically a popularity contest combined with a strange algorithm that only works if you’re a certain type of person, promoting yourself in a certain way. And, when I’m really honest with myself I don’t want to do that – the promotion, the heavily curatedness of myself, my life, my creative practice. When I realise that someone else getting all the likes and hundreds of thousands of followers doesn’t mean their work is any better than mine, all it means is they’re playing an online game that they’re winning at. And it’s a game I don’t want to play.

My vital piece of advice for this or any social media platforms, is to know that your likes & followers are never at all a representation of who you are or how valid you are. Never. Please just believe me on this. I read a quote once "Being popular on Instagram is like being rich in Monopoly".


So, let’s delve into why you think you’re not good enough….

 Some journal prompts:

  • What are your inner critics telling you? What’s the worst they say?
  • What are the external critics actually saying? Are they saying anything, or is it all over-thinking on your behalf? And who are these people that are saying these terrible things about your art work? 
  • How do you feel when you’re immersed in your practice, when you’re in the depth of your creative flow?
  • Who told you that you weren’t good enough? A school teacher, a friend, an art teacher, your parents…..... yourself? Or perhaps no-one at all!
  • Write down all the bad things about your creative work. Come on – force yourself to get those words out of your head and onto your page! (Then how about burn that piece of paper with all those words).

 

When I think about the reasons I tell myself I’m not good enough – I realise I don’t have any real reasons, none that are valid enough to claim. I couldn't write a long page of all the bad things... I sometimes come up against the minor thing here or there, but in the most part... I truly actually like what I make. And I wonder, if I don't like it; then why would I be making it. I wonder the same about you too? 

One of the things I notice about me not having ‘achieved’ (I say this loosely because I’m not about achievement, but process and continuation of progress and journey) what I think I want is that it all comes down to the fact not so much that I’m scared of what people might say, but more that I’m scared of the hard work it might involve. The emotional hard work.

Once we put our hearts out for the world to view, and put a price on it, in terms of selling art. Then we’re pricing our own emotions. And that’s the hardest for me. Because a lot of people might not be ready to pay money for my emotions (ha... probably nobody wants to actually pay money for my emotions, but thankfully some do want to pay for the visual outflow of them!). So…. I think the reason I most fear putting my work “out there” is not what people will say or think or feel, but that I’ll invest all that time, energy, and money (for materials) and it won’t be returned. That my artworks will then sit around gathering dust and cobwebs.

Which brings us to the dilemma of art and money. And, am I making my art to make money. Or am I making my art because I can’t not. And that there is my answer!

Once I start thinking about my artistic voice in a monetary way I feel a block. A creative block. I can’t make art for money. It’s not me, and it’s not how I work. I have a hard time creating my weavings for commission because then I’m trying to work to someone else’s brief – and that’s not how my visual creative voice works. I can’t tell a story when it doesn’t want to me told. What about you? Are you making art for money, or art for art? Neither of those is right or wrong.... we all create our own ways and work our own ways. (And if you can make art for money then praise you!).

So then, my solution to this particular worry is to make for art’s sake. Because You can’t not make it. And also because You have a need to share yourself and your voice, that's the reason You share with the world. Not because You might make money from it, but because You feel like Your creative voice is personal yet human, because even though there are many artists / artworks in the world right now there are none that speak Your story. 


But why do we share? 

I share because it's in my nature to share. I also share because I think it's vital to say our viewpoints in this world. We are lucky to live in a time where it's easy to put ourselves out there (physically if not necessarily emotionally). Getting your work shown and in front of people is in the most part an easy enough thing to do if you have a device (camera, phone, computer, etc) and an internet connection. Which most people I know nowadays have. 

I share because I think not of who will be looking or viewing, but simply because I know - I deeply unquestioningly know - that my voice is unique and unusual and important. That even if the medium is the same world wide, my personal story, the creative conversations that I share (both written and woven) have my experiences, my understandings, my viewpoints. 

And that as a human in this world, my experiences, my journey is as vitally important as anyone else's is. Even if I'm a privileged white girl, who hasn't had many challenges in life, who has things relatively easy. That doesn't mean my artistic voice or story is less than someone with challenges, difficulties, hardships. Because in this funny world I think we need to raise up the normal, the everyday, the beautiful minute moments, the mundane. The humanness of us. We need to have stories about people just being people, about mothers in their daily moments, about a woman telling her experience of regular everyday life. We need to have this as part of our human story. *I like in this article that she says sharing these big ideas is too scary for a person, it's a job for an artist.

That's why we share!

 

I have three pondering quotes / words for you, that I'd like you to think about over the coming weeks. 

A flower does not think of competing with the next flower, it simply blooms.
A weed does not consider itself a weed, that’s our external words. It just grows, unfurls & blooms wherever it is planted.
The flower does not dream of the bee, it blossoms & the bee comes.
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