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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Struggling with Self-doubt

Montana ground of those "random" photos my daughter criticizes me about.

And that's really what this post is going to be about. I am my own best (or is it worst?) critic. Ever since I joined an art quilt group which had a person who was hyper-critical and often said things in general which were quite cutting socially at it's head (although in the art world she was well respected), I've wondered if I should continue.

On Monday, I received the transcript from the interview Karen Musgrave did of me for the Alliance for American Quilts: Save Our Stories. I was floored. There were MANY "ands." I felt that I came across as someone who was uneducated and not very verbal. I have difficulty believing that I really said them, but on the other hand I didn't hear the tape. However, the transcriber DID say I have 8 (!) cats (I have three, and never would have said I've NEVER had that many cats ever), so maybe the tape isn't as damning as I feel.

I'm tired. I'm frustrated because I can't seem to get on top of my flower gardens. I'm still digging and dividing iris, trying to get rid of the borer and get a box ready to send out to someone who wants divisions. I have too many gardens, and life's general things are getting in the way of me quilting. (I type about 80 words a minute so blogging doesn't take too long).

Someone on the quiltart message board put of a link not too long ago about how we are responsible for our own success and that if we are not producing then it's our own fault. I accept this, and at this point in my life, my family still takes precedent, although I am trying to simplify other areas which I have taken on.

However, yesterday someone put up a query on the same message board asking if we struggled with self-doubt in our work. I was reading the posts with interest, as that's exactly how I was feeling.

Most were very supportive. Then, someone posted this "Maybe when you worry in the dead of night that you aren't good enough it's because you aren't good enough." Ow.

Talk about a major downward spiral. Words, whether written or spoken, are dangerous things. I have a hard time letting them slide off. I have an excellent memory and I still suffer for things I've said or done when I was a child, with the additional baggage as years have gone on.

Now, granted, she went on to say this "That doesn't mean you're a worthless human being, but that you have grown (or ought to grow) and what was good enough last year is no longer the best you can do. So go into the studio and do a little better today." However, I'm having a hard time getting over that initial statement.

Fortunately, Robbi Joy Ecklow wrote in that she struggled tremendously with self-doubt. That helps. Knowing that someone who is recognized still has those periods makes me feel a little better....and probably I'll feel better tomorrow if I can get some decent sleep.


Vivien said...

I struggle with self-doubt so often! I'm always asking "is this good enough?", but the problem with that is that I'm often comparing my work to someone else's. That's really not productive. What I need to do is judge my work now against work I've done in the past. Have any of my skills improved? Am I using a technique more effectively? These are questions that would help me, but I often forget to ask myself. It is comforting to know that accomplished artists struggle with the same thing.

Michigoose said...

Good point, Vivien. Sometimes it is just so frustrating....

In addition, many who are "good enough" to be nationally recognized quilters (or fill in the blank), aren't. Sometimes I think that those who self-promote (and that's not necessarily a negative, it is just seen as a negative in our culture) do better than equally, or more gifted artists.

For example, look at Susan Boyle, just having an opening and the right time did so much to enrich both our lives as well as her own.

An old family friend has a fantastic voice---but because he married and had 5 kids whom he put(s) first, he has missed a lot of opportunities.

However, in the mean time....I still struggle with this and it is so nice to know that my boat is a very crowded and friendly one. :)


LaughingLG said...

I'm learning to talk to that critic (my self doubt) directly. Like so many things in my life, once I can identify the demon and name it, I have control over it. It's like that trope in Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels that says when you know the name of something, you can control it. So, I'm learning to identify doubts voice in my head and then I have a list of questions to ask it, "Is that true?" and "Does that relevant to this work?" are two top ones.

Indeed, the boat is very crowded, so we might as well through a party.