I received a couple of emails in response to my last post from people who felt I was being derisive and that I've lost the "joie de vivre" that my blog and articles used to have.
Perhaps its true.
Or perhaps I've grown up and out of the innocent first entry into the art world where everything seems possible and nothing is unattainable.
Am I cranky? Sure. Stressed? Sure. So are all of you.
Let me explain my intent in my last post for those who believe that I am abandoning the "Everything is possible if you put a little bit of effort into it every day School of Creativity".
Every mother of her first newborn takes a deep breath when handed this warm, soft, sweet bundle, looks deep into the baby's innocent eyes and says softly, "I will be the best mother in the world. I will never lose my temper. You will never cry; never go hungry; and never eat sugar. You will never be bullied, bully others, watch TV, or play with video games, Barbies, or toy weapons of any kind.
And then one day at breakfast, your adorable, red-cheeked home-schooled 3-year old, looks up from his or her homemade Quinoa and organic blueberries sprinkled with Chia seeds, in a household that makes a Friends School look like the Tet Offensive, and as he takes a big bite out of his rectangle of gluten free toast, holds the long side up and points the short side at you and says, "Look, Mommy, I made a gun. Bang! Bang! You're dead."
Welcome to the world of real life. (And that was a true story.)
No matter how much love you give it, and despite your best intentions, your best education and qualifications, and your unlimited time and energy, you cannot raise a baby in a bubble. Some of us come to this realization after the first child; for some of us it takes multiple births of adorable children who end up with a mind of their own, exhausted parents, and the realization that all you really want is to sleep in one morning and you leave a box of Chocula on the kitchen table and tell the kid to make his own breakfast.
This is the point I am on in my creative journey.
I have counselled others, written articles, and given talks with the subject that you will never get anything creative accomplished if you think that every project will be a masterpiece and lead to anything other than a learning experience. Process and the journey should be your focus, not the end result, nor certainly any benefits that might result due to the end result.
You are all nodding your head in agreement with this. You fully understand this.
But do you?
Cause I certainly didn't.
I thought I understood. Hell, I founded an identity on it. I made it a brand for this blog and for my articles.
But subconsciously, I did not think it applied to me.
Consciously, I understood, embraced, and passed on the message. But when I sat down to work, all I saw were dozens of recalcitrant children pointing toast guns at me. There is the novel that will not progress; the series of unfinished portraits sitting in a drawer; almost-finished art quilts; planners filled with unexecuted ideas; and teetering piles of sketchbooks and journals with barely a dozen pages used in each, and multiple pages ripped out.
Over the past few years, the more intense my "real job" became, the more the stress I put on myself to make my creative life the GOLD STANDARD. The more I felt myself losing ground in my "real job", the more I felt the pressure to make my creative life (i.e. my "true calling") reach the level of UNATTAINABLE PERFECTION.
Each time I sat down to work, a little voice would surface from the deepest, most embarassing depths of my Id that would whisper, "This could be your breakthrough. This could lead to an agent/a gallery/the bestseller list/to quitting your job and doing WHAT YOU WERE PUT ON THIS EARTH TO DO".
Please tell me that at least one of you hears a similar voice. I won't believe you if you tell me you don't - unless, of course, you are actually a working artist or writer who goes into the studio every day and puts in the hours and juggles 20 assignments in order to make a sustainable living. Then you don't hear this voice, or when you do, you know to tell it to SHUT UP.
The rest of us, or at least me, we work under different standards. We do not start or finish anything unless it meets THE STANDARD OF UNATTAINABLE PERFECTION that will lead to the above.
This little voice has more control of me than my mother ever had. It manifests itself by excessive procrastination while I research methods and backgrounds, surf Pinterest and YouTube, order how-to books, new supplies, and rearrange my studio, until I lose interest in it all and go onto The Next Great Idea.
This syndrome is exacerbated by my real job, in which I literally have about one hour a night when I am not ready to fall on my face. I drive home determined to get started on a new chapter of the novel OR an illustrated history of ALL OUR FAMILY VACATIONS (OMG, this could lead to a writing and illustration career a la Maira Kalman!) and when faced wth the enormity of it all, spend my free hour surfing Facebook and falling asleep with a book I haven't read under my arm.
It is a family curse. Trust me. And I have passed it down to some of my progeny.
Because what is the point of any of it if I I don't produce THE PERFECT NOVEL/ILLUSTRATED MEMOIR/ FOLK ART PAINTINGS?
You try sitting down to "play" with some paints or write a first draft with this ridiculous guillotine waiting to cut your paper into shreds?
In 9th grade my English teacher, the to-swoon-over Barry Breen, had me stay after school to tell me he had read my creative writing and given it to a few friends to read and they'd all thought it was "amazing" but he also felt that I was, well, lazy. I wasn't giving it all. I wasn't motivated. I COULD DO BETTER.
I swear to God it's all been downhill from there.
I wish I could tell you that I have the antidote (OMG, I could get a bestseller in the self-help genre out of this blog post alone!!!!), but I haven't. The only motivating factor that has begun to release me from the icy grip of my Inner Critic (you are a failure; a waste of resources; a sham) is the realization that the years are slipping by in a cycle of stress and exhaustion. I am failing to find the work/life balance. It is eating into my sleep, my friendships, and my emotional strength.
So this year: I AIM LOW. This year I UNDERACHIEVE. This year I take baby steps, piddle along, waste a lot of time fooling myself into thinking I am just making drafts and sneaking myself into producing the best of what I can produce at the moment which may not be much but which is SOMETHING.
Let's all aim low. Let's hit the ground walking. Let's go bird by bird (thank you Ms. Lamott).
Let's go for a walk with our walkers and orthopedic shoes and see if by springtime we can make it to the end of the block.
Or perhaps just take a nap.