Are you nice to yourself when you're in the middle of creating something? I am decidedly not. And I'm wondering, what's up with that?
Yesterday, I started making this collage for my art journal and my self talk was really terrible.
Unfortunately, I didn't take mid-process photos, but I think I can show you the steps and my thinking through them.
First, I approached the page the way I usually do: I had no idea what I'd be making/expressing.
That is, I didn't have a subject in mind. All I knew was that I had a cool idea for a background (I saw these shapes when I woke up from a nap the other day, kind of like they were a film I had to break through between sleep and consciousness) and I also knew I wanted to do collage.
Now, I'm always uneasy with the not knowing at the beginning, but I began with a quiet reminder that the piece will show me the way. It will become itself.
So with a book on tape playing in the background (Skippy Dies by Paul Murray), I made a quick little stamp—easy—and then I began stamping all across a small sheet of watercolor paper with waterproof ink.
Pretty soon I was listening to the story and happily coloring in the shapes with watercolor with one of my favorite color combinations (which I later realized are the same colors as my new duvet/pillows! See?)
Making the background was pleasant—the way backgrounds go for me. With nothing at stake, the self talk just burbles along. "Oh, that's pretty".
But then it came time for next step and suddenly I'm in it.
I start sifting through my box of images and there are so many good ones to choose between! I feel lost.
And now the real self talk begins. "Which one, huh? How do you know which one to use?"
I don't know but I choose several anyway and I begin playing with how they'll combine. And I'm having a difficult time because as I lay them this or that way, there's that ongoing rumble. "That way? Are you sure?" "Why? Why that way?" And the BIG question: "What is this about, anyway?"
I can't say that I know, but I decide on the binoculars in the foreground with a road winding behind it. I think I consciously defend my choices to myself. I don't know why these images. But see the colors? See the shapes?
And then from there the self talk escalates. "What next? What else are you going to add? Why? What is this about? By now you should know, shouldn't you?"
And I acknowledge—even as I play with the bird image, copy it to become three images, place them down, and begin using my pens to integrate—that I don't know. I don't know what that one thing this page is about. I don't know why I add the birds as I'm gluing them down.
I consider that maybe this time this piece won't come together and be what it's supposed to be.
And yet despite the mean questions and despite the doubt, I take pleasure in the doodling and their effects. At some point I talk back to myself. You're right, I don't know—I still really don't know—what this piece is about. But I kind of like it anyway!
And then I step away and I come back and I decide that it has become itself after all.
This negative self talk thing, though, it pretty much happens to some extent every time I make an art journal page or anything else. And I know this is resistance. I've read Steven Pressfield's The War of Art (if you haven't, you should!). And I also know that nothing is actually at stake when I make my art journal pages! They're for me. Why do I care?
But I do.
And when I'm in the middle of the making? It's a battle, baby.
What about you? I know we all have resistance to some extent, but I wonder if some of us learn how to ignore it or maybe it just goes away after a while? Have you found a way to quiet that negative self talk?