Today I turn 39 which means I’m stepping into my 40th year. I’ve decided to use my birthday as the first day of a more artistic life. I’ve always been drawn to creative projects, yearned to make something but I’ve always been scared. ‘I’m not an artist’ I tell myself. ‘I’m not creative like others are, I’m not talented enough to show my things to people.’ I’ve decided that it would be a good idea to give my well exercised critic a break and learn how to be gentle with myself.
When my older brother turned 39 he decided he would take a picture everyday until his 40th and I thought that was a fun idea. It’s been percolating in my head for almost 2 years now and now on my own 39th I want to expand the vision. My goal is to do something creative everyday for the year – a photo, writing, drawing, painting or anything imaginative. This will be a lesson in letting go of my perfectionist – what I produce doesn’t have to be good, it just has to be something. Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten how to play and have fun. This is an invitation to my free-spirited inner being to show herself, to come out in the open and play.
A friend of mine told me about an exercise she experienced in a class. Everyone went around giving each other compliments and the only response allowed was, “Thank you, it’s true.” I immediately felt drawn to the idea but the practice seemed impossible. Wouldn’t it seem conceited to respond that way? But why shouldn’t we be allowed to rejoice in something good about ourselves?
There have been messages coalescing around me for some time, ready to drop into place the second I was open enough to hear them. A book I read left me this one idea…we were all born to create. Part of me latched on to it like an artistic life line. If we were all born to create then there’s no need to be jealous of other’s abilities, there is plenty to go around. Creativity isn’t to be hoarded, it has to be shared. A plant certainly can’t grow in a dark, enclosed, hidden place, so how then, could it grow in me if I never opened up to it.
Shortly after this concept took root in my head I read a quote by Ira Glass and it was like I was a large tuning fork hit by a hammer, it resonated so deeply in me:
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one piece. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
So here I sit, wondering if I’ve bitten off something the size of New York, and yet that’s the idea right? I don’t know. I won’t know unless I try it. I’m starting this blog to hold myself accountable to a daily output of something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be big, there’s no one grading it, it doesn’t have to awaken buried feelings in others, or bring someone to tears. It can be a line on a page or a snapshot of a bug-splat on my window. The only rules I’m going to have are these:
Be gentle with myself.
Post everything, even if I think it’s bad because how else will I see improvement at the end of the year.
And finally, if someone says a nice thing about what I’ve done say, “Thank you, it’s true.”
My first project – a sketch book.
Materials: blank book, Gesso, India ink, watercolor