You choose to [create] not because you expect a worry-free experience, but because you want [to create] so badly that you accept beforehand the new anxieties you are about to encounter. ~Eric Maisel, Fearless Creating
Chapter One is about nurturing your creative instincts: having them as a child, losing them, relocating them in adult life, choosing the anxiety of creating over the anxiety of not creating, and then feeding your instincts what they need to grow and mature.
I currently can’t not knit, crochet, weave, spin, sew, dye. There’s nothing standing between thought and action.
This has not always been the case. I was very creative in childhood, but after about age 10 that was chipped away by what I understand now as being an artist in an engineer’s household. I was a complete mystery to my father, and an airhead to the only sister still left at home. Curiosity and fancy were snubbed or mocked, and I learned not to engage in them out loud.
Eventually any artistic sensibilities I had buried themselves under a crust of low self-esteem, self-doubt, alcohol, and shame, and only began to burble again three years into sobriety, when I spontaneously entered the writing program at SF State. Five years after graduating and doing nothing with my writing degree, I learned to knit, the pressure finally popped the cork, and now I.Cannot.Stop.And.Nobody.Can.Make.Me.
I worked hard in AA and with my therapist to bring down barriers between conscious and unconscious self, to strive towards self-understanding, and I think these processes nurtured not only my own being, but my creative instincts along with it. Plausibly, the only reason I feel there’s nothing standing between wish to create and act of creation is because we, my therapist and I, did this work.
In spite of that, the idea that anxiety is attendant whether or not we create makes a lot of sense to me. I have been paralyzed by fear in the past, anxiety so intense that working long-term on one project was impossible. Beginning was easy; complicating was habitual; quitting was inevitable.
I suppose that’s why this dyeing project is so important to me. It represents an opportunity to begin and to complicate at the same time that I can foresee actual completion, results instead of failure to finish.
All of the steps are small beginnings. Each time I start a new round of mordanting or dyeing, in a sense I begin again. This imparts a measure of safety, and feels like a nurturance of creative instincts all on its own.
I have a lot of anxieties. How actually artistic my results will be is my deepest question, but there are others more specific to the project. Will I finish is an important one.
The dyes are not coming out as expected, not as vibrant, not as exciting. Will the skirt be dull? I want it to be vibrant.
I’ve never made this type of skirt before, I’m making it up as I go, and I hope it doesn’t come out stupid. Although if it does, I suppose I’ll find a way to work around it. I want it to be beautiful, but don’t know if it will be.
It’s an odd balance between excitement and anxiety; action and waiting; motivation and patience.
And I love it.
For a full list of all articles on art and self doubt, look here. At this point, the list is short.
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.