I have known many people who do feel they are not equal to anyone else. Maybe it is like a friend of mine, one of the smartest and funniest young humans I know, who posted that she is worried sometimes that she will not live up to the standard of all the talented people she sees all around her, that she won’t make the cut. This is what I wrote to her in response:
We all feel like fakes sometimes. I am like 3 times older than you and I still feel it. But, while I was feeling that on and off all these decades I also became a kick ass artist who has created some amazing stuff. So, doubt all you want, it’s normal, just KEEP WORKING ON WHAT YOU WANT TO BE. That is what matters in the end, the work you do, not the feeling you may have once in a while.
Where did that originate with her? Honestly, I don’t know her well enough to say for certain. But if it is like many others I have known, it could be a disconnect between her desire for high achievement (based on her intrinsic understanding of her intelligence and abilities, of which there is a lot), and the recognition of her limitations of health, opportunity and ambition. I don’t think it’s an uncommon disconnect among young people. They have grand dreams and those dreams often narrow as they age. There is a moment at which they only see the narrowing of the dream, not the blossoming of another dream that will be even greater and more fulfilling.
Or maybe it is like my ex-wife, who felt she didn’t have enough value to stand up for what she wanted and expected in a marriage while she was married to me. I wish she had been able to, but she wasn’t. Where did that lack of value come from? Perhaps the roots were in her parents’ decision that if you wanted to be a good Christian (which they were in many ways) then not only was acting bad not allowed, but expressing, or even having, bad feelings wasn’t allowed either. The consequence was that when she did express the completely common and expected feelings of growing up into maturity, those feelings weren’t allowed or validated. And that told her that what she felt, and thus she, was of little value.
How to Balance
How do you get a balance? It’s about practice. Just as an artist or athlete gets better by practice, so attitudes and perceptions do as well. You can think about changing an attitude but the truth is that attitude will very likely not change until you take action to change it, to practice a new attitude. This can happen if you let an old attitude or perception trigger a new way of looking at something. For example, when you catch yourself denigrating your abilities, allow that to be a trigger to say something positive and good about your abilities. You don’t do this to fake your way towards something, you do it because you are practicing being truthful about who you are in the world. You actually do have positive and valuable qualities. Stating that you have them is not egotistical or vain. it is reality. And since you are currently on the self-denigration side of the scale you aren’t really in reality. This practice is getting you back to a balance, that is all.
I applied for a fellowship recently. It is Atlas Obscura’s ‘Fellowship of the Loneliest Road’. They are granting $5,000.00 for an artist to drive Rt 50 in Nevada. The road has the moniker as ‘the loneliest road in America’ because of its isolation, paucity of humans and lack of electronic connectivity. The idea is for the artist to creatively document the journey, finding unique and interesting expressions of that loneliness and separation from the fast blur of modern life.
I thought about this quote as I was writing the few essay type responses needed. My main work wasn’t in the writing, it was in the editing, getting the words to be essential to the message instead of filler to make the word count.
Less is More
The minimal art movement of the 20th century was all about this idea. Reduce each form of art to its essential. What is it at its essence, and just do that. Painting for example is color on a two-dimensional surface. It’s not about recreating a thing or a place. It’s not about an illusion of space. It is just color. So, the minimalists were painting flat, abstract images that forced the viewer to just see the paint and it’s properties, not anything else.
Brice Marden – The Seasons – 1975
Architecture was reduced to ‘form follows function’ which is what building something is in its essence. Just a structure to do something in, nothing more.
Andrea Oliva – Italian home
Sculpture is mass, surface, texture.
Tony Smith – untitled – 1960
Music is sound
Dance is movement
Lucinda Childs – ‘Dance’ – 1979
This is a great discussion about minimalism in art music and dance coming together. Worth checking out.
We often talk about getting lost in the landscape. The idea is to go out and lose oneself, and I get that. You lose all those society-laden elements that burden you. But losing is only half the story. The other is about what you find out about yourself when you are away from all that.
Here are a selection of photos I have taken over the years that visualize the lost and the found.
I have been designing a business card for someone recently. She is a creative person and so is her business. That means what seems like just a simple business card design is actually a detailed template for her entire business plan. In planning it out with her I asked a lot of questions, from who is her target audience to what colors she likes. That gave me a starting point but my creative juices didn’t start to flow until I was actually in Photoshop working on fonts, colors, and imagery. It was then that I saw progress. And that is because the act of working is like the act of getting your heart rate up. You don’t get your heart beat up BEFORE you exercise. It’s the exercise that makes your heart rate go up!
This idea is not exclusive to creative work. Another very similar quote brings out how it applies to almost any life situation. “It is easier to act your way to another way of feeling than it is to feel your way to another way of acting.”
Here is the final business card design, by the way.
“You don’t think your way to creative work, you work your way to creative thinking.” – anonymous