textiles · exploration · misadventure

On Art and Self Doubt: July, 2015


Poppies by Brenda Higginson

Self Doubt

I have an ambiguous relationship with the word “artist”.

I want to be an artist. I’ve always wanted to be an artist. I’ve done creative things all my life, but never in a concentrated manner. I have an English degree with a writing emphasis, but aside from that, I’ve never written anything besides this blog.

To me, an artist is what I am not. I imagine artists as having deep, controlled skills. I don’t have any deep skills, except perhaps in writing, but that’s not my chosen medium. I have shallow textile skills, in myriad disciplines.

I imagine artists make choices about what skills and materials to use, have knowledge of the history behind those skills and materials, and purposely choose them for effect. I’m busy collecting bits and pieces, throwing them in dyepots or onto a spinning wheel, and seeing what happens. I’m busily gathering and experimenting with random bits of matter.

It’s not that l think the skills I have and the processes I follow are not or cannot be part of an artistic process. I think the opposite: that I am building skills that will allow me to produce art, if I have it in me.

Fearless Creating: Introduction

I started reading Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel, a book on the creative process that I read about on Red2White, and I’m of two minds about it.

Partly, I think artists are artists because they do and make, not because they read about it. And yet, guidance and knowledge, especially of self, are important. I suppose my real concern is that I’ll allow the reading to take me away from the making. That’s been a problem in the past: I drown the anxiety over making in an intellectual pursuit, fetishize the study, but go nowhere, make nothing.

That actually makes sense, when looked at within Maisel’s theories. According to him, there are six stages of creative process, with associated anxieties, states of mind, and solutions.

I have wished, chosen, and started, but I have yet to work, complete, or show. The biggest block to creativity is anxiety and fear, with which I am intimately acquainted. I get that.

Do I have an inner artist? Do I even have an artistic aesthetic? Can my work be good enough, deep enough, interesting enough, to be noticed? Because yes, I do want it to be noticed, and WOW, that was hard to say.

What if I build it and no one comes?

Maisel also says that one of the strongest tools of the creative process is management of anxiety and fear, with which I am also intimately acquainted. The solution to fear is not only action, but specific action. And nevertheless, an artist will always work with and within a sense of pervading anxiety of some sort.

This all makes a lot of sense to me.

What about you? Artistic desires? Artistic fears?

Image Credits:
Painting, Patchwork Poppies, by my college roommate, Brenda Higginson. Brenda, your work has always stunned and moved me. I’m privileged to own two of your paintings. They make me very happy.
Photograph: Of Patchwork Poppies and granny squares, by curvylou.

19 thoughts on “On Art and Self Doubt: July, 2015


    Liked by 1 person

  2. What about you? Artistic desires? Artistic fears? Me? I WISH I could play an instrument (piano or guitar or saxophone) and blow people away. I WISH I had a beautiful voice and could sing and not inwardly cringe and worry that folks are thinking “I WISH she’d just shut up..” I do paint and I draw and I sing (choir) and I write. I have folks tell me that I am a great writer, and I resist the impulse to turn around and see who they are talking to, because it surely could NOT be I’m afraid of the same things as you are. I think all artists have those same fears too, just some of them have learned to harness the fear and turn it into a creative process.

    I went to college to learn graphic design and the first time I had to show a piece I had made I thought I’d die. Had a full blown panic attack and nearly threw up. I was 38 years old too. Too mature for such silliness. One thing college taught me though is that there are no ‘rules’ when it comes to art. It comes from somewhere inside the artist and it must be expressed. I was under the illusion that there were straightforward and correct ways to create things and that was totally blown apart during my time at school. I knew a student there who made his pieces out of old pieces of signage (it was during an election year and lots of political posters and signs in yards around. He’d take those and make his art on them. It was amazing. Rough (to me) but amazing.

    So don’t be too hard on your particular skill set and your artistic processes. They make the art that is YOU. If you take the individuality out of the equation, to ME (anyway) you lose the unique flavor of the art and then everything is the same.

    And I think your writing is fabulous. Just sayin’.

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    • Wow! What a great comment. We have some overlap—I always wished I could sing the blues, but I couldn’t hold a tune to save my life. And I am a terrible piano player. Just terrible. That’s not self-criticism, just reality.
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on ‘no rules when it comes to art’, and on my particular skill set and processes. I am trying to be non-judgmental at the same time as I’m trying to be analytical—not always easy, right? And thank you for the compliment on my writing. (: I’m enjoying using those skills A LOT.


  3. I loved your post, and I have to confess that I am always of two minds about creativity, because as a non-ficiotn writer I tend to think i’m not creative. (Fiction writers are creative. Non-fiction is the Joe Friday of writing.) When people tell me I must be really creative I feel fraudulent. I’m not sure what the moral of this reply is, but thanks for making me think.

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  4. Hi, Solsdottir, thanks for the very interesting comment. Your dilemma is an intriguing one.
    I can absolutely see how there is creativity in non-fiction writing. If there wasn’t, you’d take a dry set of facts and write a list. You have to take those facts, analyze how they fit together, create conclusions, and transform dry facts into interesting prose. That is all creative work.
    I know from experience how hard it can be to see oneself as artistic or creative. For me, I feel those are special labels, only applicable to select people who don’t include me. I’m trying to widen my opinion; I think it’s too limited and limiting. My I go out on a limb, and encourage you to try the same with yourself? (:

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  5. Aaah – the fears of an artist. This is very nicely described. I have a little fear with every blog that I choose to post. Each time I click the icon, I take a deep breath and hope that it will resonate with someone. Thanks for writing about what many of us feel.

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    • Thanks for your comment, K.E. I know that moment of panic before hitting that publish button. I’d bet most of us do, right? I felt it particularly, with this post. Thanks for your support. (:

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great thoughts. I think ALL of us are creators of some type of art. It’s in us to be creative. Maybe the problem is our definition of an artist or even our definition of art.

    I say you are an artist.


    • That’s a good point, Marie. I definitely think there’s creativity lurking in many people who swear they don’t have it. People who I’ve heard say this about themselves are people are I know i particular have neither sought it or tried to nurture it. I’ve always been creative, but when I started nurturing it, it thrived, and it’s still growing.
      And yeah, for me, my own definition of art and artist excludes me. I think that’s what I’m trying to work on. In an earlier post (the one linked to “ambiguous,” at top) I discussed that a bit. That post was the seed for this one, what I hope is the next in an explorative series.
      Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m an accountant by trade, and many people would assume I’m not creative but I am very much creative. I write, draw, paint, and create in general. Now I may never be paid for it but some of the greatest artist we’ve known weren’t paid for their art. Not saying I’m of that caliber but you get my point. Glad to be in on this conversation. Thanks for making us think and letting us share.

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  7. “What if I build it and no one comes?” It doesn’t depend on someone else, just you. And I think you are as you strive.


  8. “I think you are as you strive.” That’s beautiful, Kelsey. I DO want it to be noticed, eventually, inasmuch as I’d like to try to make a living from textiles, but not in the sense that I want to be some great, well-known artist. However, so much of what I do, I do because of the way it makes me feel, not for external feedback. If that internal component did not exist, I would not be driven the way I am.
    Thanks so much for stopping by, and for the comment. It’s LOVELY to see you here!


  9. Nice post and I will check out his book. Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat Pray Love fame) has a new book coming out on creativity called Big Magic. It’s on my list, too.
    I think, I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I call myself a “Writer who doesn’t write,” which is not entirely true. I just don’t write as much as I want to. That’s because of everyday life demands, and those pesky friends, Anxiety and Fear. I started to blog to manage them, as Maisel put it. The blog is my “specific action.” As for the “What if I build it and no one comes?” Well, I blog mostly for myself. I publish to spite Anxiety and Fear, but I almost hope no one will read it. It is always nice though to hear from people in the comments and have an interaction with them. I find the blogging community to be such a supportive bunch!
    You are an artist filling your toolbox, Curvylou. Keep filling it.


  10. I must be a dolt because I thought you are an artist.

    Every time I read your blog, you make me want to create. You inspire me. Your art inspires me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Holey cats that means so much coming from you. I really respect you; how you write, how hard you work at life, how you point your horns at adversity, paw the ground, and take it on. (I have elk on the brain.)
      Seriously, it moves me deeply that you are inspired by what I’m doing here. I really struggle with the appellation ‘artist’—which is why I decided to explore it in a more purposeful way, to see if I can move closer to applying it to myself. So far, it feels not unobtainable, but maybe pretentious, unearned. But then the questions arise: how much art must one make to earn the title? How do you know when it is art you are making? Who’s to judge? There are worlds of psychological complexity there to explore. Luckily, I find it all very interesting. (:


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