Every time I create, share my work, teach and facilitate, I learn something new.
Then I try to make the learnings as conscious as possible.
Takeaways – this is what I call these learnings. They go into my sketchbooks, like you see me doing in the photo above. This is what helps me deal with the difficult subject of vulnerability.
I just got back from a whirlwind trip to the USA from Mexico (where I live). The big events were my first gallery exhibit and opening, teaching a live workshop, and anther episode of the BigAss Move (not over yet!). 16 days, 7 airports, 6 flights, 4 lodgings, 2 border crossings, 111 paintings hung, far too much chocolate and coffee consumed to count.
Right now, typing up these words, I feel that familiar mix of emotions: excitement, and also nervousness. Eagerness, mixed with trepidation. Deep desire to share this work, fear that someone won’t like it.
Can you see the push/pull and paradoxical nature of these feelings?
There is a handy word that describes the experience: vulnerability.
No matter how many sketchbooks I’ve filled, or how many milestone projects accomplished, I still feel vulnerable and tender whenever I create something new.
What if I listened to the fear, and it crowded out my desire?
What if my nervousness got the better of me, and dampened my enthusiasm and excitement?
Have you ever had that happen with your ideas? You or someone else rains on your creative parade before it’s even started.
When the negative forces win out, nothing gets created. That used to happen to me a lot. When I spent years (decades?) over thinking an idea before giving it form.
It may seem on the surface that all of this sharing of creative work (and *selling it – we’ll get to that in a moment) comes easily or naturally to me. It doesn’t.
It took me many years to get over abject terror and share my work. Now it’s not quite so terrifying, and fear doesn’t stop me as much as it used to.
But still, creating something new makes me vulnerable.
Using our creative gifts is a sacred act, and invokes our heart and emotions.
If we’re creating anything that’s uniquely ours, it’s a work from the heart.
It’s natural to feel desire, love, and also…fear. All wrapped up together.
We can learn to have compassion for the fear that will always find ways to rise up and bully us the moment we go toward what we love most.
Because the act of creating something new (or learning something new) makes us vulnerable.
Often, vulnerability is experienced less an emotion, and more as resistance: procrastinating, quitting, failure to launch, staying stuck in surface level drama.
This is why so many want to create, but don’t. And this is the most heartbreaking story of all.
Letting an unfounded fear boss us around and make us to timid to explore the creative fire within.
Facing the blank page is a metaphor for life.
Our life is the ultimate blank page.
Today I start a new session of Dreaming on Paper, and a large part of this essay was written for my class.
I want the people who read my blog and who work with me to know what the inner experience of creating is like — as much as I’m able to articulate it.
Getting to know how we work, and what we experience when we work—especially identifying and codifying the difficult emotions that might stop us, or else cause a lot of self-destruction—this is what will help us do our creative work.
Try this journal prompt:
Become aware of how you feel when you are creating or learning something new.
Notice your thoughts, too. What do the inner voices say? How do these thoughts affect your feelings, and vice-versa?
These are the sorts of things I write about in my sketchbooks. I invite you to make your own notes and observations. Draw, paint, photograph or collage what you can’t express with words.
p.s. If you are creating something new, PLUS putting it out in the world for show or sale — then the vulnerability level goes up exponentially. And by that I mean: a LOT!
I feel nauseous and on the verge of throwing up when it comes to trotting out work for sale. Bleck. I’d rather not do it…but here we are. This is what working artist’s do. Bills must get paid.
I’ve added this note in case that’s you: creating and selling your work, or creating and trying to make a decent living from your work.
Especially if you are “an emotional creature”. This post is a love note for you.
August 2014 Contest Winners
Congrats to Rainee, Amanda, Dana and Melissa who all won spots in the Dreaming on Paper online workshop.
Opportunities to win spots in my courses or get first dibs on goodies on offer are shared with subscribers to my posts and/or mailing list.