Terror. That’s a word they never mentioned in art school.
Color theory, art history, figurative drawing, these were all pre-requisites; considered the very foundation of any good education in the arts.
Terror? Fear? Not so much. Neither of those words or any words like that, were ever uttered.
And yet… who doesn’t feel fear and even terror, at some point, when creating?
As children, we run headlong, without thinking, without concern, without fear, and we create. Using mud and sand and sticks and our fingers. We don’t pause and reconsider. We don’t think – but maybe this isn’t a good idea. Yet somewhere along the way we learn to be fearful. We learn that being creative opens us up to criticism, anger, even rage and perhaps violence. Suddenly what came naturally to all of us, no longer feels natural. We tell ourselves that we aren’t “creative types”. And yet, I would argue that we are born creative.
Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
Creating doesn’t have to be on paper, it can be an idea, a vision, a way of thinking. Each of us has a unique mind, shaped by our experiences, our interactions, what we love, our passions, where we were born, the families we were born into, the land upon which we were raised.
So where does this terror come from?
Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection, fear, fear, fear. We are taught to be “sensible”. We are taught to not “dream too big”. We are taught to not “waste time”. We are taught that to create is a luxury. But what if what we were taught is wrong?
Moving through fear, even terror is one of the most exhilarating, transcendent things I’ve ever experienced. It is what connects me to other human beings. It is what connects me to my creativity. It bonds, unites, and can bring me to my knees. It’s what causes me to rediscover the unadulterated beauty and joy of my innocence, that exquisite time before I learned to feel fear.
If any of this resonates with you, consider enrolling in my new workshop: Finding Your Voice where we will use various prompts, words, exercises and even stitching to break though our fears and find ourselves in our work.
For me, the fear shows up as an anxiety that I won’t be able to “see” like I wish to. I have memories of making art when I was young where I had clarity is “seeing”. Now that I am older and have the time to make art whenever I want, the backdrop of “will I see” what I want creeps in when I start something. Love your stream of consciousness writing about this part of the creative process.
“Seeing”. I love that.
When I was at Parsons I had an idea, but my skill level wasn’t advanced enough to recreate the idea, so that caused me a great deal of frustration and anxiety. Especially since what seemed so easy and effortless to others, took me ages to accomplish, if I was able to accomplish it at all. However there were other things that I was able to do relatively quickly, but those things seemed less important. Still the idea always was much better than what I was able to create. I don’t remember having that same anxiety as a child. I don’t remember having an idea (usually based on something someone else had done) and then feeling frustrated that I wasn’t able to reproduce that. As a child I had all kinds of ideas that I then created and felt perfectly happy with. But I think what you’re referring to is different, right?
Being happy as a child creating ideas, such a lovely image – our vision and execution would just happen without any filters, I think. That is what I mean with “seeing” – no filters impeding the process (like skill level get in the way of reproducing what is percolating, or newness of a medium…or lots of other things likely learned in school or life!)
Yes, without filters! That’s what I try to do now. See the filters and go about dismantling them!