I’ve been a bit pensive lately. Some of it is reviewing where I’ve been and considering where I’d like to go as an artist and in general. I have been making art for a couple of years now, and I’m reviewing what I’ve learned from deciding to take the plunge and offer my art for sale. Here are some of my thoughts on living an authentic, creative life:
Fear is the enemy of creativity. Fear makes you second guess yourself. It prevents you from fully developing your intuition and trying things without always pausing first as you contemplate what others will think or say and how that will make you feel. If you are afraid to create something that your mother, boss, boyfriend, friend, ex-friend might criticize, you are living in bondage.
One of my favorite books is The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. The second agreement reads:
Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
Most of us would probably agree that there’s been a time that criticism of our work has caused us to reconsider whether we’re worthy of creating anything. However, the author goes on to say that the second agreement applies to both those positive things that people say as well as the negative things. If an artist believes it when people praise him or his works, then it can be as toxic to him and his creative process as well as if he believes it when others say he is not worthy of creating art. Both lead to the pausing to review whether we are pleasing others. To some degree, if we want to keep a roof over our heads, we have to understand what others like, but I believe that is different than creating for approval or trying to avoid disapproval. I believe that the hesitation hinders the development of intuition and spontaneity that are key elements in achieving our potential.
Masks are evidence of fear. How much do you change who you are depending on whose company you’re in? As I contemplate various endeavors — YouTube videos to help share my art, blogging for fun and creativity, writing to share what I’ve learned — I find that I hesitate. I’ve thought of various people in my life, and I’ve wondered how each of them would view what they see. I care too much, and I want to care less. I am caring less. It is a slow process, however.
There’s a saying I’ve read, and I wish I knew to whom to attribute it. It includes a line that says roughly “the people who care don’t matter, and those who matter don’t care.” That’s been on my mind lately.
Fear reduces your productivity. Fear has you self-editing because your creation is imperfect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve posted something for sale and considered taking it down because I see imperfection, only to then have it sell. Cliche or not, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Certain art speaks to an individual because of his or her life experience and memories. You cannot tell what will hold personal meaning for someone.
Labels can indicate fear and reinforce fear. When I first started making art, I really hesitated about posting the first products for sale. I didn’t have any professional training. I was looking at artwork from some amazing artists on DeviantArt and Artsprojekt. Many of them had formal training in art and years of experience. I compared their work with my own and thought maybe I should explain in a bio that I’m a “self-taught artist.” Since then, I’ve come to the decision that this isn’t usually a positive label — it’s something many of us do as way of apology. Writers hedge and explain that they’re self-published. On meeting someone and having them show interest that I was an artist, I found I was often following this up with “well, I’m self-taught” or “it’s sort of something I do on the side.” As in, don’t expect too much, okay? Since becoming aware that I was doing this, I’ve tried to make an effort to erase that language from my life and bios. I’ve tried to come up with my own version of a two-minute elevator speech that includes what media I use and what subject matter I typically create — minus any apologies. Remember, opinions of others, whether good or bad, have nothing to do with you.
The best way past fear is to just blaze through it. Have the chutzpah to create and put your work out there. Some will love your work, some will hate it, and some will be indifferent. Just keep creating. You are not an imposter, and there are no creative police that will come and ticket you or imprison you for being a “creative poser.” Any bonds are self imposed, and you free yourself by practicing freedom.