I have long struggled with being creative. At one point in my life I actually would have classified myself as an artist, which seems funny now. Certainly, none of the people in my life would see me that way.
My struggles began early. I will never forget being in kindergarten and feeling completely frustrated over an assignment to color in a photocopied sheet of stars. I felt smug disgust as I watched my classmates fill their stars in with rainbow colors. Fools! When I handed mine in, the teacher was confused because it didn’t look like the stars hadn’t been colored in at all. I explained (probably with disdain) that I had colored them in white…because stars are white. I took pride in my infallible logic. The teacher then ordered me to re-do the assignment using an actual color, so I begrudgingly chose yellow, which seemed to be the closest acceptable color substitute for white as it relates to stars. I remember this incidient with a mixture of amusement and sadness. Clearly, from an early age the left side of my brain has dominated. I am who I am. But does that mean that there is no creativity in me?
Sometime in junior high, I decided I wanted to be an interior decorator when I grew up. God only knows where that idea came from – Designing Women, maybe? In high school, I took art classes from Crazy Miss MacMillan, and while I didn’t necessarliy learn a lot, I had a lot of fun. I’d never really been one of the “good artists” in class growing up, but the thought of it appealed to me. There were some great influences for me in those classes and the friendships I made then definitely shaped who I became and what I my interests were. I started obsessively sketching portraits of the beautiful models in Vogue. At the time I thought they were great, but a look back reveals otherwise. When it came time for college, I didn’t have the nerve to enter as an art major, so I went in Undeclared and took a basic drawing class “for fun.” I lasted about a month and a half before I became completely crippled with insecurity at what I was drawing compared to everyone else. I remember the professor looking at me with sympathetic eyes, and at one point telling me I was really “brave.” Not a good sign.
By junior year, as pressure to figure out my major mounted, I had the brilliant idea to combine my love of art and my love of psychology to study Art Therapy. Besides the psychology courses, I had to start the studio art portion over again, which included basic drawing, 2D and 3D art. It was a bad semester (yes, that’s all I lasted). My drawing teacher was a notorious bitch. We would draw for our 3 hour class, and at the end turn our easels around in a circle. She would walk around the room and point out the good and bad in the drawings. She ignored me for weeks; one day she finally stopped, looked at my drawing and said “Everyone see this? Don’t do this.” In 3D, I essentially learned I have zero talent for 3D art. The concept of making something look good from all angles is still a challenge for me (I am rubbish at arranging flowers).
I never finished the 2D class, although I’ll never forget the day we had to “gesture sketch” a part of our face while looking in a mirror. Having always been partial to eyes (I still doodle them to this day), I just went for it and didn’t really think about what I was doing. The concept of gesture sketching was lost on my fellow class mates (at that point, I was the “old” junior in a class of freshman) and I was amazed at what I’d produced in comparison to everyone else. My instructor was also impressed. I only bring this up because I wonder if there is something creative buried deep down inside of me, but my crazy, controlling left brain is too neurotic to let it out.
Despite this high point, the rest of my semester was filled with confidence-killing lows, and I decided I just couldn’t handle the humiliation of not being good at something at which I desperately wanted to excel. I approached my advisor, one of the Art Education professors, for a heart to heart. I explained my struggles to him (I may have even relayed the kindergarten story), and he was very kind although he may not have truly understood and perhaps thought I was giving up too easily. He then explained to me the notion of Jung’s theory of the Shadow Self. Essentially, he said the things from which you shy away, or even the things that frighten you the most, are really the things you crave and need to feel happy and fulfilled. He made me promise that I would always keep art as a part of my life. I made the promise but have since broken it many times over.
I finished out college as a glorified Liberal Arts major, and was able to take lots of Writing and Art History courses. Finding meaningful jobs post-graduation was a challenge, so I started in administrative positions and eventually ended up in marketing. This is where I decided I had found my calling – what a great way to combine my fondness for wordsmithing with a desire to make things look pretty! I did neglect to notice that sales is also a big part of marketing, and it’s really difficult to sell something that you don’t believe in – a position I’ve now been in many, many times.
At the end of the day, it comes down to challenging yourself to try something new, and daring yourself to do something that scares you. Otherwise, how will you grow? It’s hard to end this entry because I’m not sure how my journey ends – it seems I still have a long way to go. In many ways, I’m still struggling as much as when I was five. I guess I’m just hoping that somehow, I will find the courage to be creative again.
Read Full Post »