The other day I was rifling around and found and posted to Instagram this drawing that I did in 1996:
The main reason for sharing it was to throw out a unique drawing prompt for people (cut a magazine photo in half and draw one side), but after getting some positive feedback on the drawing itself and wanting to respond in a, “Meh, I dunno…” manner I spent most of the next few hours thinking about the past, doubt, and how to not let either of them get in the way of my current endeavors.
I’ve read enough self-help books in my life to know that people have a difficult time shaking off the devils that would sabotage their big ideas, myself included (that’s why I read the books!) and the two gnarliest creatures on my shoulder are The Past and Doubt. The Past says to me, “Yeah, you used to be artistic and made some stuff but you didn’t commit to it. Your ship has sailed, lady.” Doubt says to me, “I know you think this might be good, but lemme tell ya, it’s not.” How can anyone function let alone progress with this going on, right?
No clue. Even with the books and my own self-awareness, it’s a struggle every damn day. Oh, that sucks. Why didn’t you go to art school? Everyone can see your mistakes. That’s ugly. You were more legit when you were younger. Nobody is going to like that. You’re too old now for any of this. I took a good, long look at my drawing from 1996 and answered the devils:
Doubt: You can’t draw.
Me: Well, I can draw. I drew this.
Doubt: But it’s not perfect.
Me: Nope, it’s not. But it’s decent.
Past: This was ages ago, you don’t have the skills anymore.
Me: I bet I do, plus maybe some new ones.
Past: Quit living in the past.
Me: I’m not. But this might make a good blog post.
This went on for a while, but you get the point. I didn’t let The Past or Doubt get the better of me. In real time, with the drawing in my hands, I let ’em both come at me and tried to stand fast. No! I don’t suck. No! I haven’t lost my skills. No! It’s not too late! What I discovered is that I had to get kind of cocky with these two, which does not come naturally to me. I will always, always defer to being humble, non-confrontational, and downright self-deprecating (even with imaginary voices in my head). Finding the guts to say, “This work is good and I’m still very much capable so kiss my ass,” felt weird but it’s going to be necessary if I want my artistic self to flourish.
Over the weekend I read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic (for like the 8th time) and she mentions in it how as an artist you should be working from a place of joy, not tormenting yourself and creating from a place of darkness because you’re doing a disservice to yourself and the work that’s trying to come out of you. This is a gross generalization of how she put it, but it resonates with me every time I read it. I’m not interested in being a sad, disgruntled, anxious artist. If I don’t show The Past and Doubt who’s boss though, I stand no chance of that. So I made a promise to myself and the universe that as I go forward and create, play, experiment and share, I’ll be doing it from a place of faith in myself and my abilities and remembering that even the so-so work has value. ‘Cuz let’s face it: some work will be less good than others. It happens. But I’m not going to let Doubt tell me that my good work isn’t good. Screw that!
Be fair to yourselves, friends. I don’t think we lose our art skills, much like how we don’t forget how to ride a bike. Anything that was done once can be done again, even if decades have passed. I’m still feeling a bit wobbly in this new practice of making art every day, but I know I’m not going to fall off the bike – I just gave it a sweet freaking paint job.