The Noise in Our Heads

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the things I want to do, the things that used to give me a lot of joy and satisfaction as an artist, and the reasons I quit doing those things.

I grew up with paper and pencil always at the ready. I sketched all the time. I loved playing with pen and ink, charcoal, pastels, and acrylics. My husband once told me, while he was watching me work on a painting, that I had a beautiful glow about me when I’d paint. I quit doing all of that when I got into quilting, because I never quite felt like I was good enough at fine arts. Good enough for what? I don’t know. Just not good enough. 

Some time ago, I had a sewing day with a couple of my friends, and one of them kept saying that her blocks weren’t good enough. Over the course of the day, there were lots of words of self-doubt and self-criticism. A lot of, “I can’t, I’m not good at…, I’ll never be able to…”.  I was reminded of that day when I was talking to my friend, Carie, about why I’ve not gotten on with writing a children’s book about Shamus. I answered that it was because I can’t illustrate it. As she is so good at doing, she asked a very simple question: “Why can’t you?”  It’s the kind of question that makes you go hmmmmmmmmmmm. 

I was instantly reminded of what I had said to my sewing friend that day. Where does all the noise in our heads come from? Where along the way, did all of those ugly words come from? Can’t, never, not good enough, ugly, stupid, insufficient. Lordy me, those are awful words! 

I can honestly say that for me, it has come from expectations that I set for myself. I compare my work to that of artists I admire, and I think I’ll never be able to do that, whatever “that” may be. I’ve always struggled with my weight, having curly hair, horrible acne as a teenager, and generally haven’t liked the way I look very much. For some reason, I’ve had this image in my head that an “artist” has to look funky, be cute, be stylish, blah blah blah. I have no idea where that noise came from, it’s just always been there. I have the notion that to be the part, I have to look the part. Why do I think that an artist can’t be a jeans and t-shirt sort of girl? I have no idea! Logically, I know many artists who are just like me, and I love their work and think they are beautiful! Why can’t I accept myself like that? It’s the noise in my head. 

As I’m getting older, I think I’m getting bolder. As I’m giving up almost everything I’ve ever known, there is a sense of adventure starting to creep in. An opportunity to sort of recreate myself is knocking at my door. Maybe recreate is not exactly the right word. Maybe it’s just a matter of self acceptance, love, kindness, patience, and a matter of allowing myself bloom. Digging out my drawing tablets and pencils, I feel a fresh bit of excitement starting to bubble. This could be a grand adventure, or it could be a huge disappointment. It’s a choice that I get to make! Keeping the negative noise down is going to take practice, but I’m ready to take on the challenge!

As I said to my self-doubting friend, “The next time that voice pops into your head and says that you aren’t good enough, tell it to shut the hell up!” 


10 responses

  1. I love you.
    When you get to be our age my new motto became this
    “Straight to Ink”

    In an online class recently (Jane LaFazio’s watercolor class) we started all askeerdy cat in pencil first. Then would ink the final design then do the watercolor.

    I said *Fuck That* pencils are for sissies! (LOL) When I got back into drawing I read something that said “win, lose or draw, going straight to ink makes you think differently” And it does! THere is fear but there is also freedom! Do you know how many drawings took on totally different directions because I made an ‘oops’ and then had to figure out a workaround? My quilts are the same way. I don’t have time (or the financial resources) to have do-overs. Besides, it’s totally awesome when giving lectures to say ‘see right here? *pointing to something* here’s where I totally screwed this up & had to put xxxx in” And you know what? Most folks have told me the xxxx was their favorite part of the work.

    Live your dreams, and go ‘straight to ink’ baby!


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