It’s been a long, frustratingly unproductive day for sure and here I am again, wide awake in the early hours of the night. Here’s to letting self criticism go and letting the creative spirit back in.
Workaholics. Those of us who like to produce material day in day out, as often as we can, are in danger of becoming one. But there’s a difference between being too hard on yourself and doing your work. The difference isn’t in the amount of work you do, but how you treat yourself when you do it. A roadblock I always felt but never wanted to admit was that if I didn’t produce or accomplish something in a week, I get angry and feel out of sorts.
So rational, right? Who would scoff a great artist who didn’t paint for one day, and how else would that artist become great except by overcoming his or her self doubt to go on painting despite off days? One does not lose their entire identity or have nothing to do because of one missed opportunity to be productive; that does not constitute a total failing. What does constitute a total failing is failing to see the truth and not doing anything at all as a result of the shame you feel. That, of course, isn’t criticism-I use ‘total failing’ to explain that there is a total fail in the logic and reality in that untruth, a most delicious realization because it means you can free yourself.
Not only is having a more logical and caring thought process a great tool, it aids creativity when you free yourself from the chains of your own self doubt. Here’s a better way to think about things:
For example, I’ll get job, finish all my course work, and somehow still have a stress free day doing things I love and being with my family during the next 24 hours.
2. Did the above statement sound ridiculous to you? Laugh or cry or respond whichever way you feel, as long as you allow yourself to fully engage in that emotion.
Accomplishing everyone of those tasks not only is impossible, it’s totally ridiculous to beat myself up for not doing so when tomorrow is over. I feel terrible for putting that pressure on myself; I’m sad.
3. After responding to your own statement, remind yourself: that’s ridiculous but guess what, you’ve already accomplished X, X, and X, however small, and those were easy and you did so well.
This week: I went to class, finished a homework assignment, set up some opportunities for the future, and had meaningful interactions with friends, even though I felt burnt out. I feel pretty fulfilled.
Take a moment to appreciate the progress you did make and how you aren’t at a standstill at all right now.
Ask yourself what you feel right now. Are those feelings overly negative? Why? Are those feelings true? What other things do you feel? Do you feel pride, calm, confidence underneath that? If so, draw those feelings out and put it side by side the negative feelings to see how really irrational those negative feelings really are. Confront and work through those negative feelings, don’t just shut them out.
I have been overemphasizing my disappointment at not accomplishing everything on my ever expanding list of things to do. I am actually proud of the things that I did accomplish. Therefore, I allow myself to feel pride rather than self hate.
Finally, mileage is the most important step. Committing to doing the work for anything, be it for school, work, or health, mileage counts. Mileage always counts. Committing always counts. Committing means there’s longterm progress, even if you can’t see the immediate benefits, and it’s impossible to be at a standstill when you’ve got the next step outlined.
Of all the pets I’ve had, a blind lizard has got to top the list. Mom and I had cross checked across three credited sources and about a dozen uncredited, anecdotal ones to find that lizards always fly under the radar in no-pet apartments and, also, our local pet store had five. The local pet store at the time, anyways. We brought it with us when we moved and that was probably why we never noticed that it would always stare at you like any other animal, with both eyes forward, instead of messed up in two directions, like most lizards. It wasn’t a big deal, except that we had already bought the tank, a hefty bag of food pellets, and the counter space in the ninety square foot apartment seemed to have shrunk. In fact, nothing fit on the counter like we imagined when we first surveyed the apartment two weeks ago, despite the universal agreement of what an inch was not having radically changed since we last used it. And so, Mom sat in defeat while I stroked Unnamed Lizard’s cage with my pointer finger on the first day of fifth grade.
The single most important thing I learned is that your art is not defined by your life. (https://lawnchairair.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/vow/: I wrote this after a very scary panic attack that continued to impact my life for months, confused about how to turn my negative, fearful feelings around.)
That’s when I realized how important art was to me. I had been bugged by the thought of art as wish fulfillment and emotional catharsis (Last year, I forayed into Photoshop compelled by the image of a snowboarder riding the wall of the Lonsdale loop, which expresses both my limited experience and how I limited my vision to my experience.) The idea made me feel angry and jaded, because it made me think of all that I didn’t have, but it was really a reflection of my inability to overcome mental blocks than a true expression of what I thought about art. After all, I knew for sure that I hadn’t created anything that made me feel as if I was creating genuinely and originally for a very long time. When I stumbled upon the helpfulness of counselling and having a public blog (as a opposed to a private journal), I rediscovered that art is the expression of visions and ideas; while the best artists are invisible, they incorporate their identity into the photo but codifying it in such a way that it is inseparable from art. Art is creation that belies life, not just pretty turns of phrases or pleasing images (a feeling that makes the world seem boring and trite when you aren’t able to overcome mental blocks of any kind). And moreover, you don’t need to write or draw or create based only on your life experiences-you don’t need to even know something to create something with it. All you need is an attraction on a deeper level and general understanding and love for your craft to incorporate that element of the thing which speaks to you. That’s what makes art unique. That’s why a million artists can look at a sunset and paint it a million different ways. Because you aren’t replicating something; you’re creating something new out of your understanding and attraction to an inspiration.
Counselling has been instrumental to this. Although I sought to improve my emotions, what I really found was that emotions weren’t something I change. What did change though was the perception of the hold I saw emotions had on my life. Counselling peeled that back, lessening the haze from overpowering firing of emotions and allowing me to hear the quiet tune of outside sources of inspiration. It eradicated the fog of emotions that had always hovered over the blank canvas in my mind when I wanted to make something and instead of having my thoughts train wreck, directed by emotional lows and highs, I parked my train of thought and set to work without its distracting rumble. I have rarely, and only in certain periods of my life, really created without mood disorders. These times I can pinpoint clearly in my mind because they were the times I was most proud of my creations.
Another thing counselling has helped me do is broaden my perception of people. I don’t know how true this holds for everyone else, but only understanding people similar to you, or being able to identify with only certain types as a result of limited empathy or thought about the wide range of human emotions is one way that we fail to connect with broader humanity. Although we might use our highs and lows and map them onto other people’s lives, the only true way to understand is to get multiple perspectives of one’s own emotions and generalize that multilayered approach onto the unmappable, but fathomable realm of human experience. Everybody hurts the same way, even if their situations are extremely different from yours. A highly trained and successful person, brother, mother, 80 year old grandma in South Africa or Canada or Iran, all hurt the same-as evidenced by the non discrimination mood disorders have on all peoples and our ability to universally understand original texts. And because that hurt is so universal, there is no reason for you to have to write about your own family struggles just because that’s the kind of hurt you know-that hurt can also be applied to any of the above people with the same genuineness because we all feel the way. Art is art because it includes; if it excludes everybody then one needs to work on their craft. But no one doesn’t have the proper life experience to make art.
I rambled on. But in writing it I articulated some ideas that I hadn’t even been sure of. Good things can really come out of life even in trying times-not as a result of mood disorders or hardships, but as a result of perseverance. It hurt when I couldn’t produce art, but to regain it reminds me that even if mood disorders can’t be erased, they can be a very small part rather than a consuming one.
Although this looks very different, I imagined a deer in the middle of a luminescent forest in the night.
Another month has passed (December: http://ow.ly/WML6t). I had no intention of creating after December; indeed, after I posted that, I felt like I was in a creative rut. After I realized photography was 700000% harder than I thought and there was only a limited number of times I could rely on auto mode to take pictures of my friends, and a 2 week snowboarding/outdoor break, I set it down for the moment. Dissatisfied with the lack of visual output and piggybacking on the ease of controlling every aspect of an image, I traced photos, free handed, and drew my way to yet another random assortment of visual candy. This is the stuff that’s been occupying my visual mind: bold colour, the colour blue, candy coloured logos, mountains and character foxes. You can read below what else has been inspiring me to interact with, contemplate, and ultimately love the relationship between people, writing, graphics, and the outdoors even more.