Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Artist's Defeating Self Talk

If you hang out with me on other social media sites, you know I'm a sucker for good quotes and inspirational words of wisdom. I don't post too many to this blog because I feel as though I've already filled up my social media quota through Facebook and Pinterest. (@jcwarchalking - check out my Pinterest pages for more creative research).

But, this article, 15 Things You Should Give Up to be Happy, popped up in my feed and number 4 was particularly pounding at this point in my creative process.

"4. Give Up Your Self-Defeating Self-Talk".
(Read the article to get the rest, including some useful tips for "How to"!)

My "Self-Defeating Self-Talk" includes:
  •  the moments of panic during rehearsal when I want to say, "um.. yeah... let's just forget this whole thing. You're totally great but... We can just cancel the show and move on with our lives."
  • the moments when my (very carefully chosen) collaborators ask for more information or clarification or provide feedback. "This costume feels strange to dance in." "The program description might be shorter." "What about the visual effect?" "What is the intention with that moment, this work, these images?" Answer: moment of panic. I don't know. Reality = these very carefully chosen collaborators are asking because they're invested in helping me through this process. The questions aren't asked with criticism but curiosity and a challenge for me to investigate them. But I still panic when I don't have the answers. 
  • the moments when the work, itself, challenges my own perceptions of myself - my values, my aesthetic, and my goals. I'm not prepared to write too much more in this post, other than that these moments cause me to revisit and reflect and repeat familiar processes with new information to see if I'm making the right choice for the work and my creative spirit.
  • Why do I do this to myself? The panic days, weeks, moments before the show. The hours of physical and intellectual research on my own. The hours of research in the studio. The marketing. The asking for financial and in-kind support. The asking for emotional support. The questioning of artistic choices. The self-doubt and "if only's".
  • The if only's - I had more time. I had more funding. I could hire a costume designer. I could collaborate with a lighting designer. I could do more physical research. I could do more intellectual and emotional research. I could book more opportunities for performance research...   
And yet...

I did choose this challenge - to produce my first professional, shared-evening, dance concert.
asked my collaborators to provide their feedback.
I need the work to challenge my aesthetic values.
I sought financial, in-kind, and emotional support.
I have done extensive physical, intellectual, and emotional research.

But I still worry.

Reality check and giving up my own self-defeating self-talk: A large part of "Unveiled" is participating in a very vulnerable, uncomfortably honest process. I need to trust that even if that is my only success, I fully participated in that work.

On another note, I'm reassured by the conversations that I have with other artists that I admire and who are looking out for me during this time. "How are you doing," they ask, fully aware of the answer. "I'm in that uncomfortable place where nothing feels right and I'm questioning everything." 

"Uncomfortable? Isn't that a bit of an understatement?" from an established artist and respected mentor/friend.

Deep sigh on my part - "oh goodness, yes. I'm freaking out!"
My mentor nods, "Yep, that's where you should be right now."

I also find solstice in the many conversations I listen to on NPR where the interviewer asks the artist if they ever get nervous before they read their poem, sing their song, play live, or perform. They most always say that they do feel a sort of nervousness or anxiety before a performance, showing, sharing, reading, or event, but they also understand that nervousness is part of the role of being an artist and sharing work. It's a part of being vulnerable, but also a part of having something to say and holding the responsibility of saying that.

And, in the words of another mentor, "A little nervousness is good. It means you care. When you stop getting nervous, then it's time to move on."

Original photo by Bill Hebert, from microcosmic current, 2010

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