I have spent almost a year since deciding that I was going to live differently, more from a place of courage instead of insecurity. And for the most part, I feel somewhat successful in this department. I decided I was not going to live with the old stories I had written about who I was and what my life had to be. So, I started firing out little missiles of courage in the form of my art that was straight from the heart of this woman I was getting to know through doing it. I started to rewrite the story about "me" the way I wanted it to read (honestly, before then I never even knew it was possible to do that).
At first, I have to admit, sharing my art was scary business and I hung on the other end of Facebook, waiting to see if I would be a miss or a hit. I was terrified and I had an inner battle that told me I should not have been so "stupid". I should not have shared my soul. I could get hurt! Lucky for me, I had a lot of angels on my side and they carried me through those fearful moments in a beautiful protective bubble. They told me I was an "artist"! They told me they loved what I had created and the thoughts that were being conveyed through what I was doing. My beautiful friend Jean even coined my art "Heart-Art"!
It wasn't until recently, thank goodness, that I started to get the responses that I had feared back then, but from my protective cave on the boat, I could even handle that now. It's like I am doing this art that desires to be social, but I am also able to hide out in cyber-land, protected from having to really stand behind what I am doing. Not so courageous.
So we moved to this beautiful little community out in the boonies, but close enough to the community I lived in a few years back. It is a very artistic community. And a couple weeks ago I met my bestie, Patty, for coffee. She and I went into a sweet new store in Sechelt called East 4th. Patty suggested I bring in some of my art cards and display them in the store (she believes in me more than I do). I showed the owner some pictures of my art on Facebook and she was delighted and wanted to have some in her store for the upcoming art crawl.
Here is where that stupid old fear comes in. For some reason, when I can't hide behind my computer, I fear putting myself out there in the form of my art? Kelli, the shop owner said it would be good to have some originals and most of my work has been done on paper and I am not really in a position where I live now, to quickly get them framed. I had a couple on canvases and I looked at them, not from my eye, but the eye of someone else who might judge them, and I felt that old familiar fear of exposure come rushing in. Yesterday I madly tried to rework those pieces so they would not look so "stupid"! Oh jeez, just when I think I have made some head way!
This morning I read a letter by Elizabeth Gilbert about this very thing. this is what she wrote:
"Dear Ones -
The other day, a brilliant friend of mine let me read the first draft of a book she's been working on for years. It was wonderful. But that's not what I want to talk about.
What I want to talk about is what happened AFTER I told her how wonderful her book was. She sent me a long email detailing all her fears about how bad her book actually is, and about how nobody will like it, and that it's overly simplistic, and critics will call it self-indulgent, and that I'm just being polite when I say that it's good.
(To reiterate, her book is GREAT.)
Normally, I would have responded with a long, tender, compassionate letter — trying to convince her once again of her talents, and of my support and faith in her.
But I was tired and in a hurry. So instead, I just wrote the truth.
I wrote this:
"Listen, honey — I read through all your anxieties and your fears here. And I just have to say something very bluntly: Your fears about your book aren't very interesting or very original! I can say this with complete authority, because they are exactly the same fears that I have, whenever I am about to release a book into the world. And I know for a fact that my fears are not interesting at all. (Like yours, my fears alway sing this familiar, droning old song: 'Your work is garbage, it will be criticized as self-indulgent, it's too simplistic, it has no value, nobody will buy it, your friends are only being nice to you when they say it's good, you just wasted a whole bunch of time for no good reason, you are done for and washed-up').
"Moreover, I have it on good authority that these are exactly the same fears that EVERYONE who has ever finished a book (or created anything) feels. In other words, your fears are just regular old mass-produced, made-in-China, sold-at-Walmart fears. Nothing fine or precious or artisanal about them. So don't treat them like they're precious.
"I realized this about my own fears a few years ago — that they are always exactly the same, and that they are always exactly the same as everyone else's, and therefore they are nothing special and actually just kind of boring. (I want to say to my fears sometimes, "Really? That's the best you can come up with? This old song again? REALLY — you're telling me once again that I'm not good enough? That my work isn't good enough? That's it? That's seriously the best you got, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS? Jeez, get some new material, dude.")
"So now I just come to expect those completely boring and unoriginal fears to show up every time I write anything, and I don't even pay attention to them anymore, because they never have anything new to say. They're just the neighbor's dogs, barking incessantly in the yard next door, blah blah blah. But they never bite. They can never escape the yard. They have no real power. So I just move ahead and do my work. There's that old Bedouin line: 'The dogs bark; the caravan passes anyhow.' Your caravan needs to pass along now on its journey, whether fear barks at you loudly or not. It's time.
"Because here is what IS interesting and original: This book that you just wrote. And here is what else is interesting and original: Whatever is about to happen in your life next, when you send that book out to publishers. Because god only knows what will happen. Could be good, could be bad. We have no idea. Because the future is a mystery And mysteries — unlike fears — are always interesting. So let's focus on the interesting parts (the creativity and the mystery) and forget about the fear. Time to be stubbornly brave, and dignified in the face of any fate."
So that was my letter, and my friend said it made her laugh (which is good, because I was a little afraid it might make her cry)...and since laughter is good, now I'm sharing the letter with you all.
In summation: Your creativity is fascinating, but your fears are not.
(Spoken from somebody who REALLY knows what she's talking about — because she has the most boring fears in the world, and she does her work, anyhow.)
Now go make your thing.