On the Hummingbird podcast which I co-host with writer and teacher Jessica Outram, we’re talking a lot about fear and confidence as it relates to the creative process. It’s made me pause and reflect on my own journey.
It started with a wall.
When I was a kid I was shamed by a parent with mental health issues for being “too much”. I was too loud, too talkative, too bold. Just too everything.
My confidence was slowly undermined and I lacked the maturity to understand what was really going on. Instead I tried to go unnoticed and pretend I didn’t care. It was my personal protective “wall”.
But here’s the thing. Small and safe wasn’t going to work for me if I wanted to get somewhere with my dream.
When I became an adult, I gained some perspective and navigated life fairly well. However, that wall stayed firmly in place when it came to expressing myself through art.
I needed to push back the boundaries.
I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. My dream had to be more important to me than the fear. I needed to take action. So, with the help of a very smart friend, I first got comfortable with sketching around family. From there I moved out into public spaces. Taking workshops felt huge.
I also learned to be comfortable with asking for what I wanted (art supplies and classes) and not feeling guilty when I received those things.
Sometimes it felt like there was no forward motion because they were such small steps over a period of time. But things were changing. I was simply so busy doing the work I wasn’t paying close attention.
Only recently did I realize how far I’ve come.
I accepted an opportunity to be a resident artist at a new gallery opening in our area this summer. I’m excited and it is that feeling of excitement and a sense of confidence that told me the wall is gone. It no longer feels dangerous to be noticed.
Now, looking back over the years I see the growth. I went from being paranoid about someone watching me sketch to stepping out into the public eye. I’m a little flabbergasted. And celebrating.
Now I’m looking for the next challenge
As an artist I believe there is always an edge that needs to be challenged. For me, that’s where the creative growth happens. If I’m not testing my limits and questioning them, I’m in danger of stagnating. It’s okay to hang out in the comfort zone to celebrate a shift (and we all need to celebrate those victories) but the juicy creative stuff happens in the exploration.
Where your fear is, there your task is.Carl Jung
Testing a new edge
That new edge has been calling to me for awhile now. The clues lie in my desire to paint looser, to be less representational and to use bolder colours. It even wants me to try new mediums so I have oil paints waiting to be opened and fabric to be made into art quilts.
If you follow me on Instagram and Facebook you may have even noticed these things finding their way into my feed lately. Part of my boundary challenge is to post more than just “perfect” finished pieces. I’m sharing my process, my workspace and explorations, whether they work out or not. I want to tell you a story with a beginning, middle and end and not just Happily Ever After. I’ve been encouraged by the response to these posts.
It feels like the beginning of the next leg of my journey.
Do you have boundaries you’re challenging? What progress are you celebrating? Share in the comments. We all need travelling companions.