Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Self-Doubt and Sleeplessness

Eeyore understands -- :)
The last two weeks have been sponsored by the letter 'i'. For 'insomnia'....


This happens to me every summer prior to the start of the MN Renaissance Festival's season. Even though I know to expect and prepare for it now, being in its throes gets harder every year.

It's all due to the fact that even though I'm physically exhausted at the moment, my thoughts are a perfect storm.  There's so much to do, order, create, organize, scan, clean, print, package, sew, launder, frame, sign, number, count, fill-in-the-blank. The list is endless and intimidating! And then I have to go and add to it a plateful of self-doubt with a side of longing-to-rewind-Time-and-do-all-sorts-of-things-over.

I look at the recent work I've been so happily creating and I suddenly dislike it in spades. It's not good enough. It's all too whimsical or something. Too light! And too cartoonish, maybe. I imagine harsh public scrutiny. I compare myself unfavorably to creative friends I know who really ARE artists. I imagine few sales for the millionth Festival year in a row....

I find myself wanting to rewrite my history. Insert some stuff in there that never happened but should have. How would things be different now if I'd gone to Art School, learned to use the correct materials, learned to do things the right way, found my style? Would I have a healthy respect for my work now and not see it as simply lucky scribbles? Would I finally view it as Real Art, worthy of payment, and stop giving it away? Would I be able to call myself an artist and not feel like a liar?

I know it's just my inner Mean Girl. I recognize her voice. She's taking advantage of the fact that I'm too tired right now to fight back and I know this. As I try to fall asleep at night she hits me with her best shot -- over and over again -- and I just lie there and let her.... I've learned over the years to anticipate this, too. (Again -- doesn't get any easier.)

Do other creative people feel this way, I wonder? Do they share these doubts? And if so, what do they do to silence their inner critics?

What am I saying? Why don't I just ASK you: You're creative, my friend. I'm in awe of everything you do, and you know it. Do you experience what I'm describing? And if so, how do you handle it?

Waiting on your every word,



    Yes, in spades. I doubt myself and my art continually and even more so before launching a new batch to the public sphere.

    My stomach is in knots now about my latest enterprise. I don't sleep either, or only after an hour or two of toss & turn.

    The trick, I think, is to remember it is a War of Art against our inner demons. We procrastinate, to put off possible bad press. We question our unique view and start to rewrite what we do best, to better fit what we think the public would accept. To fight these personal urges, we have to forge ahead, minute by minute, doing the work we know and putting heart in every line and action. Then we have to close our ears to inner doubt and stand fast. That which we have created in a moment of inspiration is good and right. We must defend the artistic children we've created as we would our own biological progeny. We must stand up for ourselves against our misgivings.

    It is a War of Art, fought every day, every hour. We must hold firm.

    Chris - EverydayFriendsArt

    1. Delayne, I feel this way frequently, you know the term an artist is their own worst critic. I use to do airbrushing and knowing I wasn't fully prepared and should have had training I went ahead anyway, and found myself very frustrated when the airbrushing would spit... or just not do what I wanted. At any rate you have an ability that some people can't hold, so whether you had schooling or not, whether you use what you feel are the wrong materials, its still your art.Only you know where you flub ups are.: ) so rest assured my friend, I know you are the true meaning of an artist. I doubt Van go?!( spelling) or Picasso followed the rules all the time either. And A big HE.. YEAH for being able to be at home and able to have as much time as you want with your art.. as soon as I get my studio back, I am going to get myself back into painting.

    2. Sheri, thanks for weighing in on this topic Your comments and compliments mean a lot to me. And I hope you're able to return to your studio pronto and get back to painting again -- creativity is important! (P.S. -- I'd love to see some of your work!)

  2. Chris, thank you for this comment, and for emailing it to me when publishing to the Maily didn't work for you.

    I think it's an important topic, one that I really want to get feedback on. Knowing that YOU wrestle with these same doubts just boggles me! From start to finish (and everywhere in between) you're such a professional. You seem to always have it all together.

    The comment you made that was such a whack upside the head was this: "We procrastinate, to put off possible bad press." OMG. The public can't judge my work negatively if I give it nothing to judge! And I think my brain leaps ahead and imagines that bad press before I even touch pencil to paper, so I'm doomed from the get-go....

    It used to be that I could pickle my inner critic to shut her up, but I don't do that very much anymore. Mostly because it doesn't seem to work like it used to. She can dodge the stuff I throw at her now and just find another way to express herself.

    Which leads me to suspect that perhaps there's something she just needs to say. And because I constantly confine her, she takes out her frustration by carving at me from the inside out. Perhaps if I just gave her the attention she begs for, I'd find she's more of an ally than an enemy....

    Huh! Something to think about, thanks to your comment.


  3. I got a little wordy, so my reply is here:

  4. Laurel, THANK YOU for not only mentioning my post on your blog but for linking back to me here and for sharing your own thoughts on the topic. It means a lot to me to hear viewpoints from other artists as this whole self-doubt thing is something I've wrestled with forever.

    I hope your post helps create a dialogue, Laurel!


  5. self doubt is one big sucky pile of poo.. it s at its smelliest in the middle of the night... it seems to be a universal constant like gravity... i just try to reiki, talk to the inner child, have discussions with body parts (hello knee how are you what is up for you? what do you need) to distract myself and heal because the hydra that is insomnia is going to get me if i don't - big love to you honey sweet dreams xxx

  6. Thank you for your comment, faerian!

    I agree that self-doubt is at its strongest in the middle of the night, perhaps because I'm most tired then and feel weakest. Healing is vital, and distracting myself from my Inner Critic in order to do so is a great suggestion. Next time I hear her begin her tirade, I'll give it a go! :)

    I've never tried reiki; is it something a person can learn to do for themselves?