“Write about the emotions you fear the most.” – Laurie Halse Anderson
We met for brunch today at favorite pub. After the drinks were ordered and the coffee stirred, we all started trading stories about what we’re doing.
She says that she’s nervous over a class she’s created. From scratch! A class! This is amazing work! But she has misgivings about performance. Her beat is glamour, art, and yes, artifice as needed. I can’t possibly be so sophisticated, but I am very familiar with the feeling called “oh, it’s all a show” because “shows” can’t be real, right? Ritual is not real, right? A play is not real, right? Ah, but it turns out they are, in a sense.
That tension between reality and illusion is at once enthralling, inspiring, and nervewracking. And thus lies the secret and the struggle of being a creative woman: we will never have permission to do what we want to do so we must take it upon ourselves. We must write our own play, say our own lines, and address our own theater. Our creativity is authentic, our art is authentic. I know this and I have probably said it a million times in support of others but damn if I still don’t feel like I am “going to get caught”. All creativity is experimentation and thus leaves one whacking through the underbrush.
But Deb did not make it without some self doubt, and neither will I. It’s damn hard to be a creative woman in this world. Hell it’s hard to be a creative person of any gender! For years I have made things – oils, baubles, objects – pretty and meaningful things. I did this while I was on a shoestring budget. Making things, talking to others who make things, teaching people how to do what I do even – those all gave me such a charge it’s not even funny. But it’s hard to do that with the rent due. It’s hard to do that with the bills getting closer and closer.
Now I have a stronger day job that’s lifted me out of financial worry for the forseeable future. I am happy for that. But that also means less time to actually make things. Less time to tend to my creativity.
Then again…..when I was worried about money, I was depressed. So how much was I really using my time? Hmmm…
But even as that worry can be helpful sometimes, oh wow does that get stressful…..The idea that Shit! Could! Happen! At! Any! Time! can lead to some great work but it also becomes paralyzing. What if I get caught? What if my ritual looks stupid, what if my mask falls, what if my spell fades?
Witch talk aside, this is what we call impostor syndrome. And it needs to get bent.
Impostor Syndrome is a hell of a thing to deal with. I suppose it never goes away. I used to think it would “keep me honest” and “keep me humble” – that if I was too confident and too brazen I’d make an ass of myself and that’s surely the worst thing ever. There’s nothing wrong with tempering confidence with humbleness. However, if, like me sometimes (many times) you let that internal editor go wild it’s not helpful. Oh, don’t use that color it’s too bright/Oh don’t post that work it’s not that good/Oh don’t call yourself that you’re not a real artist/Oh don’t try that technique you’ll just screw it up/Oh don’t talk to that other person you’re not cool enough/Oh don’t, oh don’t, oh don’t.
All those oh don’ts add up and before you know it you’re not making anything, you’re not connecting with other artists, and you’re not growing.
I know this, I can say this to some anonymous audience, but I do still struggle with embodying it. Age is helping, though – as I get older I care less and less about what others think and I start throwing more stuff at the wall to see what works. So it’s a work in progress.
Fast forward to now and Deb’s glamour empire is growing! I am so proud! It’s amazing to see her idea come from notes to drafts to publication and ever onwards. Every time a friend of mine makes it, the fire burns a little brighter. The way towards a creative life gets a little clearer. It becomes more normal to be open about making things, about learning, about teaching. It becomes normal to talk about yourself as a witch, or an artist, or what have you. It becomes normal to conceptualize yourself as more than your day job. That fire I mentioned – it burns away some of those misgivings and mundanity. It helps to be reminded that I am not just my day job – I am a creative woman.