#10. Stopping Trying

Confession: I used to try to be a certain way, look a certain way. I wondered if I was beautiful enough, smart enough, cool enough. Wondered how others would see me and/or my art. If my art was “good” enough, different enough, unique enough, powerful enough, inventive enough..If it was really meaningful. And on & on. Although I’ve consistently fought this stupid and annoying monkey on my back, it’s a constant process to shake it off. (“What? You think that’s GOOD ART? who are you kidding? who do you think you are?” ) This stuff is all a product of fear. Fear of what? Being rejected? Being hurt? Failure? Being seen as stupid? Being found out that I’m not really who I pretend to be? (see: impostor syndrome)

I know I’m not alone. It seems so many young (or not-so-young) emerging creatives are SO concerned with being edgy, cool, hip, trying their damnedest to impress. What about just DOING? Making? Saying? I know the feeling so well. Wanting, desiring, hoping for acknowledgement and “success”, wanting to stand out in the crowd, be “different”, get “known”.  Don’t all artists?

Maybe not.

“If we are willing to open ourselves up and be laid bare, to respond to the moment and without hesitation, to connect deeply with our audiences’ eyeballs and the minds behind, we will be freed of the bullshit that holds us back. We will tap into the deep wellsprings of creativity that lie beneath our artifice and style and self-conscious crap and hesitation and self-deception and excuses and fears. We will make art of truth.” Danny Gregory

Artist/writer/thinker all-around amazing and inspiring human Danny Gregory recently wrote a truly brave post regarding fear.  I’ve been ruminating on this topic quite a bit recently, and interestingly enough, over the past few weeks, I’ve been coming across references to one of my favorite books on the subject, which if you never read (in art school, or out, or whatever) you’d best find it– “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingby David Bayles and Ted Orland. (1993, folks, and still as timely as ever.) Funny how when something is percolating, references keep showing up. Somehow, my old copy of Art&Fear has been missing. I was actually looking for it yesterday, in my studio, when a visitor happened to mention it in our conversation. No luck. Then this morning, reading some comments on Danny’s post “The Fears of a Clown“, there’s yet another reference to the book.. so bingo—-I look in my bookshelf (where I’ve looked a ton of times before), and find it immediately. (dust-covered.) Obviously I’m supposed to re-read it. So I will.

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 To quote Danny Gregory, again: “At their core, drawing, painting, clowning, all art, are about letting go, responding from your gut, trusting, working hard. Can you let go of all your preconceptions and finally, truly, truthfully see? Can you embrace and trust your audience rather than trying desperately to impress or con them?… Art is not entertainment. It is the way to what matters in our lives. To conquer our fears, we must face them, turn their ugly lies to beautiful truth, and share what we have made of them on the page or the stage.”

 Funny thing. As I’ve begun stopping the “trying”, I realize I no longer worry about what others think, so much. I’ve begun just “doing”. {I will not quote the famous footwear company here, but you know the deal}

“There is no try, there is only do.” Yoda

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6 thoughts on “#10. Stopping Trying

  1. Yoda knows best, listen you will.

    Seriously though, the best advice I have ever received is this:

    “You must please yourself, then, with luck, you may please others. But, if you don’t please yourself, you won’t please anyone”.

    This was from an artist with letters after her name, so I take this advice dearly and seriously. I really think that, for me anyway, these words ring true. Also lately, I have often said to myself ” what would David Hockney do?”. That is really because he is one of my all time art heroes and does what he wants to do….and he’s doing ok isn’t he? x

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  2. Good post Karen –I often feel and tell others “I’m a fraud” in reference to my visual art so wow –interesting to know there is an actual study and term that describes these feelings. I had never heard of the “imposter syndrome”.

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    • Brenda.. There is SO much info out there on impostor syndrome.. read up on it; you’ll feel much better!! And of course, your work, your energy, and your spirit are so absolutely amazing, beautiful and truthful, that you have nothing to worry about,.. xo

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