Am I any good? Is this poem, piece, painting, any good?
It takes guts, major guts, to even expose oneself to this question.
Do you realize how far you have come, how much work you have done, what courage it takes to open yourself to even your own judgment?
Most of us who are engaged at one level or another with any kind of artistic process have to grapple with this issue. Remember that even asking this question means you have already demonstrated some degree of willingness to step out there. You are brave.
Probably what we are really asking is – Where do I fall on the continuum of what is acceptable, admirable, valuable, publishable, sellable, award-winning, genius?
And we are ALL disappointed and doubtful about our own performance. The greatest geniuses are plagued by their self-perceived failings, so why should you and I be any exception? You will never create without Doubt looming in the background, so ask yourself:
Does it matter whether or not I get into this Journal? (Yes, it matters, or I wouldn’t want to do it.)
To whom does it matter? (To Me.)
To which part of me does it matter? (hmmm…)
Separating the needs of the ego from the process is very important, and can empower you to do what you want and need to do with less stress.Your ego is important, and has a function, but it is a very hungry little thing, and it can never be satisfied. In fact, even trying to satisfy this ungrateful child is diverting your energy from the real task at hand.
Everything you are producing is valuable. Eons, millennia, have conspired to create YOU, a portal of existence. What you see, what you hear, what you think, what you feel, is the cutting edge of the Universe . This is simply a fact – I don’t need to read or see any of your stuff to tell you that. What you are doing has significance. Let me repeat that: What you are doing has Significance. Period.
The road to artistic creativity and public recognition is steep for anyone. For women, and especially those over 50, it is very nearly vertical. Every accomplishment, whether inner or outer, is important for us. Is it necessary to be a Genius? Is that truly the only standard of validity, or is that just egotism? (By the way, the fate of many Geniuses is not particularly desirable, and they too are usually plagued with a feeling of falling short.)
What holds us back..
The unholy trinity – Fear, Doubt, Ego. These three are always playing Rummy in the back of my mind, so I’ve learned to get used to them. With any luck, they will each provide the guidance I need from them without running me into the ground.
Holding ourselves back because of fear of inadequacy is evolutionary. Fear is always a protective mechanism. Without it, we would almost instantly be dead and the human gene pool would not be here. In fact, if not for fear, there could be no consciousness.
Don’t try to get rid of your fear. What you need to develop is the ability to step past it, to lead yourself onward like a careful trail horse. Galloping ahead into unknown territory is dangerous…the speed with which you do so is your own. You decide how much risk you are capable of handling.
Doubt is a slightly different animal, though first cousin to fear. Women are more prone to self-doubt than men are, in general. Nature imprints on women a certain ability to suborn our interests to those of others. We have this capacity in far greater measure than men do, and it is not simply a matter of social conditioning. Our grey matter is differently wired, and it is full of highways and byways that allow us to be acutely sensitive to the needs and judgments of others, (which is a strength.) But we can also subconsciously pick up a message from someone or some situation that triggers our instinct to subordinate. This feeling is experienced as doubt, or self-doubt, or intimidation.
Doubt also results from an ancient question embedded deeply in the modern woman, who is the inheritor of generations of gender erasure and primal messages that she is the lesser of the sexes. But doubt has its proper place, too. It’s the first step in our own critical inquiry. Try to recognize the source of your doubt if it is plaguing you – it can be a stealthy and self-sabotaging guerilla.
Something Bubbles Up
You know what I’m talking about. Something bubbles up, and we pursue it. At a certain point, we hold it in our hand and look at it (figuratively, if not literally) and say, “Is this any good?” Just think – your starting point is the result of eons of evolution! Your crappiest, dorkiest stuff is the accomplishment of millennia. If you are doing it, at all, it’s valid. Let me say that again: If you are doing it, at all, it is valid.
If you have the guts to launch it forward, somehow, it may find a further audience. Set aside your fear, doubt, and ego, and get some feedback from a trusted source or two. Don’t worry so much about how you “measure up.” Focus more on your audience, – Who are they, and where are they?
It’s kind of like skipping a rock across a lake. You throw it. Sometimes it just plunks in. (Was it the rock, or the throw, that went wrong?) Other times I fling it out there and it bounces, one, two, three, four, five times!!
Find the rock. Throw. Repeat as needed.
Susan Baker is a North Carolina and Florida (USA) based painter and sculptor who also writes poetry and prose. She was a concert musician before beginning her visual arts. Susan’s main interests lie in the imaginal realm of mythology, “deep nature” and spirituality.
Susan’s “Mermaid” painting is in the Grief Issue of When Women Waken.