My friends in the Andilit writing community are gold. Pure gold. I am pleased to bring you my second guest post from that group from artist Sharry Miller.
Sharry with her public art installation created with local students out of fused glass for Gilson Middle School in Valdez, Alaska
It never ceases to amaze me the ways in which I can contrive to crush my own spirit.
There’s been a lot of press over the years about how we need to ensure our children’s self-esteem is kept high, how the little things we say to other people inadvertently tear them down, how, essentially, we’re all responsible for creating a kinder, gentler world. Within reason, I totally agree with these sentiments. Who doesn’t want to live in a world in which we all treat each other with respect and care?
What about how we treat ourselves, though?
I regularly read several blogs written by, for, and about writers, as well as belong to a couple of Facebook groups of glass artists. I have a whole library of books with advice about living a creative life. One of the messages that’s reiterated time and again by virtually every author and artist is how critical it is for an artist to be kind to herself.
We are our own worst critics. Every single one of us has that little voice in her head that says, “You’re not good enough.” If you tell me you don’t, I’ll call you a liar. Or be very jealous of you. Ultimately, we do more harm to our creative selves by being too self-critical than anyone else could ever do to us.
That voice in my head screams loud and clear. I have no trouble at all comparing myself to nearly everyone else and coming up the lesser. My art isn’t as artistic, my writing isn’t as literary, or at the very least, I’m not committed enough to my art to spend sufficient time on it so that I keep improving – let alone get good. My rational brain usually tells me to shut up, and reminds me, for example, that as much as I love photorealistic art, that’s not what I like to create and therefore it is not my forte. I shouldn’t, therefore, compare my colorful, playful art to that of artists who specialize in photorealistic art. If I try, I can usually validate who I am right now in my life, even if it sometimes feels like I’m making excuses for myself.
And then there are those times I let something outside me, something totally trivial, derail my ego. Recently, it’s been those 5-day art challenges that were running around Facebook. The idea was that an artist got challenged by another artist to share three pieces of her artwork each day for five days, and on each day nominate another artist to do the same. The amount of artwork being shared should expand exponentially (to use the word metaphorically, not in its literal mathematic sense), giving the artists great exposure and flooding the Facebook world with creativity.
What’s wrong with this? Nothing, except…
No one nominated me (whine, snivel).
I’ve been doing some sort of art since I was a kid, although my early forays into that world are better characterized as crafts. Over the years, I’ve cross-stitched, crocheted, knitted, quilted, woven baskets and textiles, spun yarn, painted…you name it, I’ve probably at least tried it. For the past several years, my focus has been working in glass, particularly fused glass. It’s like making magic: putting hard, cold pieces of glass into a kiln, heating it up until it’s molten hot, cooling it back down, and always, always being at least a little surprised by the results. Colors change, shapes meld, parts become whole. For the first time, I really feel like I am taking raw materials and creating something new and unique from them. I am an artist. (Okay, I admit that I choked a little writing that last sentence, but it’s getting easier. Sort of.)
In my ridiculous little brain, I have translated this lack of nomination to share my art to mean that I’m not an artist, at least not in the world of those I associate with on Facebook. It’s not that I haven’t previously shared enough of my work with those groups to remind them that I exist. Of course not. It’s clearly a personal comment on my so-called artwork and my self-proclaimed creative abilities. I might as well just give up now and start gardening or cleaning my toilets or something.
Holy crap. How is it possible that voice in my head can be so loud and overpowering? My rational brain is allowing me to sit here and type these words about how stupid that voice is, but still…still it’s here with me undermining my confidence.
And as soon as I send this post off for publishing, any future nomination will be undone. I’ll know that the nomination had nothing to do with my worth as an artist, but was instead motivated by pity after someone read this rant. I’m not really worthy of being invited to sit at the real-artists’ table.
(That little voice just said, “Yeah, right. Like anyone’s actually going to read this drivel.” See how insidious it is?)
I didn’t write these words to engender your sympathy or to solicit compliments. My rational brain reminds me regularly how many people tell me they like what I write and what I create (thank you, thank you!), and that I only need to accept those compliments in the spirit in which they were given to believe in myself. Heck, I don’t even need to do that. It’s enough that I like what I create, that it makes me happy – that’s all the validation I need.
I suppose I wrote these words to remind myself that I’m of value whether or not anyone else tells me I am, and to remind you that you are, too. Sure, it’s nice to be recognized by others for our efforts, but not a single one of us needs that recognition in order to be of real value. If you’re not invited to sit at the table of your choice, set your own. Only invite those guests who are going to support you and build up your confidence, not tear it down. Be your own loudest cheerleader, and that kinder, gentler world will be there to greet you.
Sharry Miller is an
aspiring artist, writer, and world-adventurer living life to the fullest in Valdez, Alaska. You can follow her creative and life journeys at http://sharrymiller.typepad.com.
She promises to not post too many pictures of her new puppy, Scout.
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