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 seven days I did not step foot outside our loft. Since the pandemic became known as such, I have ventured out only occasionally. So it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I tested negative to having COVID19 antibodies, and yet, weirdly I was. And perhaps even odder, I felt both relieved and disappointed simultaneously. Disappointed because knowing that I’d been exposed, and weathered it, would have given me some degree of comfort, but now, knowing that I have not, makes me even more inclined to continue my #stayhomestaysafe poster girl endeavors.
Of course there’s always the possibility that the vile of blood I gave was switched mistakenly with someone else’s or the test itself could have given a false negative or… But if I’m being reasonable, chances are I have not been infected. Which is a little surprising considering that I live in New York City, with a population of over 8.5 million people, making each and every one of us likely super spreaders simply by going about our daily routine. A routine that might include, depending upon how active we are, all, or at least a few, of the following: gym, errands such as the post office, grocery shopping, work related meetings, entertainment related outings such as a Broadway show, dance performance, music concert, museum, art gallery, walking the High Line, having dinner with friends or any number of other things one might do in this vibrant, beautiful city I call home.
Everywhere one looks, spring is on full display, inspiring me to think of designs and stitches and colors and shapes.
The beauty of our world continues even as this pandemic rages on. And so does the artistry and creative expression of our fellow humans. My mother sent this to me the other day… Evidently a librarian arranged these books to be read from left to right.
And here are a few of my latest circles that I have been designing, using Sue Spargo’s #Instastitchwithsue project as inspiration for a wool applique 1″ circle and the stitches and threads that embellish it. As Sue will be removing her videos from instagram once the 90 days are over, I have been using my videos to explore threads, stitches and the creative process.
The day before yesterday I came up with this wild looking circle as one of the circles I’m doing, loosely following Sue Spargo’s Toned-Down Circle Sampler 90-day project that she is doing on Instagram. Often I’ve been using a stitch or two that she’s using for that day as a prompt and then seeing what I come up with. This one quickly announced itself as a diva.
Yesterday I posted a video about the creative process and a number of people messaged me privately, and a few publicly, about their process and how it was similar or differed. What struck me when reading other people’s experiences while creating or even just attempting to create is that unless you are one of those people who has felt the brutal horror of indecision, making the wrong choices, battling perfectionism and the inner mean voice, it’s very, very difficult to understand. Those who have experienced it know how awful it can be to constantly question what one is doing. Is it any good? Should I have done it differently? Maybe I’m just not creative, and do it anyway. As a result, I’m going to be doing a weekly youtube video – exploring the creative process; what stalls us, and how to work around those challenges.
The circle I created after the Diva was the backup band in comparison. It was all I could do not to tear it out. However I had no time to redo the whole thing, and part of my efforts to combat my own inner critic is to force myself to leave things that I want to completely redo, alone. This requires sitting with the discomfort and desire to “get it right”, “make it better” and any number of other things I tell myself I’m doing. The discomfort can be, and often is, quite painful. But once done a few times, the next time becomes a bit easier.
All of this is not to suggest that we settle for mediocracy. This has nothing to do with that. This is very specifically about how to move forward when creating.
What are you creating? Is it easy? Difficult? I’d love to hear.
I’m not sleeping much these days. The up-side is I’m getting a ton of stuff done. Also, photographs of empty New York City streets, though eerie, have a certain grace to them. I only venture out every few days, but when I do, I’m struck by the same things: the exquisite beauty of New York City, the increasing number of people wearing face masks, the amount of space people are keeping between themselves and others, and the absence of noise.
Someone on social media posted an image like this one, with the caption (I’m paraphrasing) – Remember these? They’d be good to have right about now.
Every morning I go over the things I’m grateful for. It’s a routine at this point, something I’ve been doing for more years than I can count. Only now my list has increased exponentially. Things I once so took for granted as to not even make the list, are now at the top, among them are: electricity, food in our refrigerator, my husband’s breathing next to me during these early morning hours when I cannot sleep, but keep hoping I will be able to, the sound of sea gulls calling to each other, a friend texting or calling to check in, the little snoring noise our cat, Merlin makes when he’s curled up next to my head at night, knowing we have enough toilet paper for the next week, who knew that would ever make the list!? All the people in my life whom I love. The list is long. I’m so grateful.
Gratitude and fear are not easy companions. The fear may still be there, but its power is greatly diminished. The other day my husband and I were discussing fear and how insidious it is. He reminded me, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s going through it.” Here’s to courage, and noticing those thousands of moments of joy and beauty in every given day.
New York City has now earned the dubious distinction of being the epicenter of the pandemic. I know 6 people whose doctor’s believe they are sick with COVID19, though without the ability to test anyone unless they are incapable of breathing on their own, it’s impossible to verify, and another handful of people who are sick and suspect they have it, but again, have no way of knowing for sure.
What I do know is that here in New York City we are a population of more than eight and a half million people, living tooth by jowl, and like the rest of the population in the US, had hoped all of this would pass us by. Except it didn’t. And here we are.
At least a week before my gym closed I developed a cough, had some other weird symptoms and called my doctor’s office. I asked if I should be concerned and if it was worth getting tested, just to be safe, but was told they had been sent 10 tests, as had all private practices in New York City, with no indication of when or if they would be receiving more. Ten tests for a practice that sees thirty times that many patients in less than a week.
Obviously my rookie symptoms were not a high priority and so I began self quarantining, before it had become a thing. But it did make me wonder at the whole – Have you traveled to China? Have you been in contact with someone who tested positive? – the litmus test for knowing whether one should worry. The first question was easy to answer, Nope, haven’t been to China in the last month, but the second question was a bit harder, because technically, no, I hadn’t been around anyone who’d tested positive, on the other hand, I hadn’t met anyone who had been able to get tested period, so how was that even a question anyone could accurately answer? How can we know how many people are carriers? How many people are asymptomatic? Wouldn’t this be good to know? In fact, isn’t this essential information to have?
I meant to write an upbeat piece about how we New Yorkers are resilient in the face of difficulties, but once I began writing, that idea took a back seat, because what we are experiencing in New York City right now is what much of the United States may be facing in the coming weeks. And while most of us will be just fine, there are a lot of people who aren’t and won’t be, particularly those who are on the front lines trying to save lives. To all those people – please know that we are staying home thinking about you and appreciating all the risks you are taking for us.
I leave you with some lovely photos taken on my walk with my husband over the weekend, which was the last time I stepped outside, donning the now mandatory face mask and latex disposable gloves, our new normal when venturing out these days. Stay healthy and safe everyone.