I’ve been struggling lately and though sometimes it helps to know the reason why, it doesn’t always make things easier. Growing up, we were expected to always be perfect. Of course, that is never possible… but we were punished often when we were less than stellar. We weren’t taken to task just for the small things, but it was most often the small things. Besides, if you are afraid to do the small things the larger things seem less possible. I guess it’s a good way to ensure we stayed in line, but I don’t agree that it’s a good way to raise children. It made life stressful. I’d became afraid if I made even a small mistake and it often made trying new things difficult. Somehow, those feelings have still followed me, even though I have made great strides.
Somehow, I’ve learned to trust my voice and I still continue writing. I have learned to change things though and perhaps that is why I’ve been more successful in that. In high school, I was given journals to write in. I loved writing and I loved my journals, but found it difficult because I always wanted things to be perfect. I’d write in my journal and I would not like the way my handwriting looked or I would not like one particular line, but if I crossed it out, it would make the journal look horrible. The journals (for some reason) were always those that were easily ruined if you tore out any pages. It’s strange to think that I would hold myself to such expectations, but I guess we learn more from our experiences growing up than we realize. I guess I could say that it has been a complete blessing to have a computer these days… I write and if I make a mistake, I can just go in and fix it. No one would be the wiser. And for that reason alone – I think I have given myself permission to write more than I ever would have.
Beyond that – and it may be apparent more to some than others – but somewhere along the way I learned to just force myself to write. I learned to quiet those voices that wanted to be so critical. I don’t spend hours deciding what I want to write, instead it is done more on the spur of the moment. I also almost always post something immediately after writing it, whether here or somewhere else. I do not spend a lot of time writing and rewriting or painstakingly questioning my choice of words, because if I do… I would not bother writing them at all. Now, it is not to say that I don’t look over my posts after writing them, but I have to push that button first, without thinking too much about it. I have to trust myself. I guess you could say that this is my way of coping or perhaps it is just a way to force myself to challenge that perfectionist voice inside my head. Not long after I submit a post, I will go back and read through it. I often find errors… perhaps in typing, or in tone, or in word choice, but I have learned that is just the way things work. If I spent so much time editing the words prior to posting, I would not be posting as much as I do. This is one of the ways I have learned to overpower those voices that always want to question… those voices that always want me to silence my own.
I don’t know if everyone else struggles similarly, but I have even heard of famous artists, writers, and great thinkers feeling unhappy with their work. Other times, I really enjoy a piece of work only to hear that some people during that artist’s lifetime felt the work to be unworthy. It makes you realize the resilience of people, to see how self-doubt and other people’s perceptions could have forced them to easily give up, but they kept going. Perhaps we all struggle with that in our own ways. Realizing that many of the people we celebrate today… their spirit and talent that we celebrate today… all started at the beginning. They did not just stand up and immediately achieve the results that they wanted immediately. Most of that came from hard work and determination. So I know I have to keep pushing myself… not because I will be a great artist, but because the only way that I can get better at what I want to do is to try.
As for my writing, there have been times when I have regretting writing something. Other times I might have found my writing to be not as good as other things I have written. To be honest, I am often rather amazed at the words that come to the page. Those words would not have been possible, if I wasn’t willing to take a chance. Now I know this is going to sound opposite of what many people might do… they will write, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite… etc. and then eventually post, ensuring every word is perfectly in place and has the right tense and it exactly what they wanted to say. However, I know myself. I know that if I were to allow my “editor” to be in charge of my writing, barely anything would be written. Most of it would be found crumpled in the wastebasket. Nowadays, I feel that writing is one of those things that (most of the time) I face bravely. I just get up and do it. I force myself and allow myself to make mistakes. So, if you ever pass by here and find things a bit out of shape… know that I eventually go back and edit, but I have to let time pass so that I am not as critical of the words. Instead, I can read the words as if they are not my own.
Sadly, I have been less successful in my pursuit of art. I have no idea why (at all) but I have this huge burning desire to create. I have no idea what my perfect canvas is, nor what medium I need to express myself in, but there’s this huge gaping hole begging to be filled. Strange, isn’t it? The problem is that I don’t know where to start… the minute I put pencil to paper or paintbrush to canvas, I seize up. I’ve bought materials. I’ve bought paints, charcoal, pencils, and the like. Yet, the first marks I make are always quickly scrutinized and deemed unworthy. It’s strange, I think – because I would not expect anyone to be a master artist the minute they take up art, but here I find myself, hand holding a paintbrush and I’m too afraid to begin. Other times, I dive right in and finish, finding the work unworthy. I find it odd that one can be so critical of their every move, but I think we often struggle between what we want and how we have been taught to value ourselves. It might not be a struggle for all, but I’m sure that I am not alone. I think that… even when we know how ridiculous it can be, we still succumb to those voices in our heads, but I’m refusing to give up.
Now I know that (in the past) I have shared some artwork. Many of them were a labor of love. I made them as gifts for other people and I hardly have one to claim as my own. Somehow, it is so much easier to put the words or to paint an image when I want to show my appreciation for others. I might not pick up the artist’s tools right away, but the transition from thought to finished produce it so much easier. The problem only arises when I want to create something for the sake of just creating. I don’t know where to start and I easily give up.
I’m still trying, you see. I guess that’s why this post has given life to these struggles. I guess I’m trying to be as brave in art as I have been for writing the words. Last year I bought myself a sketch journal and I promised myself that I would do some of the lessons in the books I have gotten to do with the kids. I was excited by the prospect. The kids have pretty much breezed through their journals… often not even needing anything to prompt their artwork, nor any lessons. Especially my youngest one who filled an entire large journal just over our vacation of three weeks. It’s amazing to see them so full of belief in themselves that they just plow through it and I know that’s a gift. My journal remains untouched. That does not mean unopened by any means, but every time I have opened the page I worried that whatever I put there would not be worth the time it spent to make it.
So this week I have still been trying to force myself to just get in there a try. I don’t care if it’s learning to draw, or paint, (just something) and overcoming the difficulty to believe in myself. So what if I’m not an awesome painter? So what if I can’t draw to save my life… but what if I actually can create something I would be proud of? How in the world will I ever know if I’m too afraid to try? I’ve had to remind myself of those things and I’ve tried to motivate myself, just as I have done for each of my children. However, I guess some things are just more deeply ingrained.
I guess if there is one thing to be said about me is that despite my struggles, I don’t give up easily. That… and I also try my best to understand myself. If one way won’t work – I will try to find another. So yesterday I went to the art store and bought a different type of art book, one in which you can paint or draw and then tear out the page should you so desire. This way, if I’m not happy with it – it does not have to be permanent. It will not blemish the rest of the book.
I’ve given myself permission to get rid of anything I am unhappy with, as long as I allow myself to create… and I promise to wait on my decision. I don’t know if it is going to make a difference or not, but should I have time this week, I am going to try. I’m hoping that someday I will learn to be as carefree as the children I have been blessed to raise and I also hope that I can be as gentle and as understanding toward myself as I have been for them. I think we all need to learn to do more of that for ourselves and I truly don’t believe that it is ever too late to learn.
© Sumyanna 2018