Thoughts on Secret Thoughts

Let me begin by saying that I don’t suffer from impostor syndrome. Absolutely not. No way.

At least not until the moment I step up to the canvas and begin painting. Then, all bets are off.

For the last couple of years I have been asking myself just what is wrong with me. I have all the confidence in the world when I’m writing, and heck, even when I’m narrating. But I would just turn myself inside out when I thought about drawing or painting. It use to not be that way. Call it “beginner’s luck” or whatever, but I started off feeling successful with my newly discovered art skill, but as the years went by, I felt more and more like a fake, a fraud, and a hack — a full-blown impostor. It ground me to a halt. No matter how many times people told me that my art was beautiful (and I only believe about 50% of the people that tell me that), I didn’t believe anyone. This reaction made no sense to me.

I, like everyone else, don’t like to be judged or criticized. I know this is part of it, but I realize that there’s a certain amount of exposure that comes with creativity. I’m all right with it in my writing. But my art… it just feels different. I don’t even think I can explain it.

I have no schooling in art, writing, audio engineering, or acting. Oh, I’ve taken a class here or there, gone to a few conferences, read lots of books, and bloody well jumped in and started doing the work figuring out what I need to know as I go along. I have no fear; I know I can learn anything I need to know. I’ve even taken painting classes with Jerry Yarnell. But for some unknown reason, not being school in art, art history, color theory, etc., really bugs me. I have taught myself about artists I’m interested in and can identify their work on sight. I may not know everything about them or their work, or even their creation process, but I can say that about many writers too. Why do I not feel worthy of being an artist? If it’s just a matter that I haven’t put in as many hours as I have for my writing, why can’t I drag myself to do more, to practice?

I realized toward the end of last year that I really needed to work on this, especially if I was going to get back to painting this year. So, I focused on some articles and books for writers about overcoming self-doubt.

There’s still a part of me that venomously hates that word, especially in reference to me: self-doubt.

Now that I’ve spat the awful taste off my tongue, my search took me down some very strange places, places I really didn’t feel I belonged. At least not when I took it from a writer’s point of view. I got into things about intelligence and creativity, multiple talents, creative anxiety, etc. I’m still working my way through some of it. But, in my search and while I was looking for my next audiobook to listen to while I walked, I came across The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young.

While this book is geared toward women, it also addresses men and the impostor syndrome. It is not slanted to creative types — Valerie Young works more with students, professors, and professionals. I have many people in my life who I really think would benefit from listening to this book.

It was very hard for me to listen too. I kept thinking, “This does not apply to me!” I suspect this is what many women I know would say if I suggested it to them. I kept having to round myself back and remember that I was not needing this for where I was confident, but where I was weak, where I did feel like an impostor in my own life. In trying to stay focused on this and knowing that I was seeing where I felt other people needed to know about this book, I realized that deep inside, many women felt small and insignificant. I kept thinking about all the quotes that speak to the fact that if you feel fear about something, that is the direction you should be heading in.

I have long known exactly where my own feelings of inadequacy came from. So when Valerie describes coming to understand your Crusher, the thing that gave root to the impostor syndrome in your life, I already knew mine. I could feel it.

Now for me, because of how my life has gone, I could see oh so clearly how I overcame this Crusher, which could have stopped me from telling stories, and gave me the confidence that my writing has today. It was sheer, dogged persistence that I could reject my Crusher in regards to writing. But art was always so different. It was clear to see how that became my impostor path.

I didn’t agree with the whole book or the exercises to help, but how much of that was coming from the extreme self-directed part of me I don’t know. I did bookmark a few questions and places that I thought would be helpful if I started feeling like a fraud again. I really do want to conquer this irrational side of myself. It’s holding me back from achieving my goals.

Are you being held back because you feel unworthy or because you feel like an impostor who is waiting for someone to find you out? If so, this book might be worth your read.

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Can happiness be solved like a math equation?

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been listening to Solve for Happy by Mo Gawdat for the last couple of weeks. Let me start by saying that I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much by listening to an audiobook before.

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Solve for Happy came about from Mo’s own search to be happy when he found that all the things he’d accomplished and acquired so far during his life left him unfulfilled. He began to pursue his personal quest for happiness analytically like the engineer he is. Not as a psychiatrist, or a self-help guru spouting things that he has yet to experience, but as a scientist seeking his own answer. What he found led him to share his findings with his friends, who reported back with similar results. He started to feel that he was finding the answer and began to fine tune it.

A few days, less than a month before he started writing the book, his son told him to never stop working, that his mission wasn’t finished. Seventeen days before he started writing, his son went in for emergency surgery, a routine appendectomy, and did not survive.

Continue reading

Progress – 05/29/17

Fiction words written last week: 4.133 words

Blogs/Newsletter articles/non-fiction written:  4,592 words

Writing month to date total: 26,161 words

Writing year to date total: 130,315 words.

Drawing/painting last week: 0 square inches painted.

Illustration year to date total: 131.25 square inches.

Audio: I spent 8+ hours on recording and editing  audio.

Week’s happenings:  I feel like the main reason my word count was up this week is because I started writing a non-fiction book. It’s one I’ve toyed with over the years and I’ve already written massive amounts of material for. I kept dropping it though, thinking that I’d rather be writing fiction and feeling as if I didn’t have my own angle for it. That angle came this week. I’m even thinking about incorporating my Rockin’ Life comics into them. As I was writing this post, I went back to Rockin’ Life and realized that I had started something (I thought was) pretty cute. This was actually what I had decided to do as an early version of my non-fiction book; maybe I just really need to get back to my original idea. What do you thing?

I’ve been listening to The Doorway Prince trying get the audio finalized. I keep finding things that need fixed. Argh! What a project.

The boys and I spent the weekend at Anime Oasis. Again, it was a fun time to listen to the voice actors. I even got a few helpful tips for my own audio work.  I also bought some new artwork from one of the artists in Artist Alley. One picture held so much grief in it, that I wanted to cry right along with the character. I know that I have to bring Steigan right to this point as well, so it will be hanging in my office as a reminder.  It’s always a success when an artist can bring such emotions into the viewer.

Well, still hoping to finish the audio for The Doorway Prince this week and get it uploaded. Then, my next project will hopefully get me to doing some drawing as well. More on that later. But, for now, I better get back to it.

April Fool’s Day

Don't whimp! Self-portrait (sort of) - the punk artist in me Digital drawing Dawn Blair ©2014
Don’t whimp!
Self-portrait (sort of) – the punk artist in me
Digital drawing
Dawn Blair ©2014

Ah, April Fool’s Day. The day when we all try to trick someone else while not getting tricked ourselves.

How often do we stop to realize that we are our own fool in our life every day?

If someone is trying to “fool” us, they are trying to trick us or manipulate us in some fashion. Do our brains not do this to us too? How often do you forget the present moment to lose yourself in a memory of the past or a hope for the future only to realize that we’ve made a mistake when we should have been paying attention?

Our brain fools our heart often. This is why in Manifest the Magic, my characters start discussing how the eyes are connected to the brain and the heart is held captive in a cage all it’s own. The brain is what “sees” the outer world and deciphers what it wants to tell the heart. I feel like it’s one of the ways that we trust our thoughts over our emotions and our gut instincts. It’s easier to believe what we “see” than trust what we feel.

But there is a good side to the fool too. I look at the fool card in the Tarot decks. Here, the fool represents starting a journey. Sometimes he is shown about to fall off a cliff, as if that’s exactly what happens to people who set out on their own in search for adventure. I think that’s the opinion of someone who is jaded and been burned themselves a few times. Not everyone who starts in a new direction is risking impending doom. Must we hold onto this legacy? In other decks, the fool is merely on a path with his faithful dog beside him. I’ve seen a horse and rider leaping a chasm as a fool card, as can be another interpretation of this card: a leap of faith. Any way you look at it, the fool of the Tarot represents taking a risk.

What if we were to look at April Fool’s Day as a day to take a new risk? Remember, you are the fool here, not someone else. This has to be your risk, not someone else’s. What journey would you set out on? What would be your direction? Would you be heading toward your True North (meaning that it’s following your emotions rather than what your head is telling you what to do)? Maybe for just one day, it is time to step outside yourself and allow yourself to be the fool. Do some child’s play. Eat something you’ve always wanted to try but never had the (dare I say it?) “guts” to try. Wear a jester’s hat to work and make everyone you see smile.

Beware, you might just find yourself liking to be the fool and decide to do it everyday. And maybe that’s not so bad. The world could use a little less jibber-jabber of head talk and a lot more fun and laughter.

Success

I have to admit that since my mother’s death last year, I’ve been asking myself if she was happy in her life. I know her goal was a to have a family and I know she loved being a mother, but did she find the fulfillment in it that she always thought she would?

It’s made me examine my own life a lot deeper. I don’t want my own children wondering the same thing about me.

Success is one of those slippery things to define. We all think success will make us happy. In truth, happiness makes us successful. Yes, it is the other way around. Try this: the next time someone praises you about your art, really think about your immediate actions. Do you discount what they have said? Do you feel successful, like you’ve accomplished something? How long does that feeling last? Chances are, when someone says your work is beautiful, you say, “Thank you,” and move on. It doesn’t really touch your heart. It doesn’t last long. Now, the next time you find yourself really happy, take a look back at all the things you’ve accomplished with your art. Doesn’t that make you feel awfully dang successful and proud of yourself? It’s easy to discount your feeling of success when someone else says it to you, but harder to discount it when you are already happy in your life.

So, yes, when I think back over my mother’s life, she was successful with her goal of having her family but I often wonder if it was a “be careful of what you wish for” time. I don’t know if she was every happy. I look back over pictures of her life and I see a beautiful woman smiling back. There is a whole other side that I never realized was there. I don’t even know if she realized how beautiful she was. I think if she had found herself beautiful, she would’ve been happier. But she could never allow herself to see it.

That goes back to what I was talking about earlier this week: choice.

We choose to be happy. We choose our emotions — we create them much like we create our art. Moment by moment. We could be angry at the person who cut us off in traffic, or we could be grateful they didn’t hit our car, or we could remember that they might just not have seen us or realized how close they were. Our brains are full of flotsam all the time and we can screw up on occasion by thinking about something else. Strangely enough, we chose to think about that flotsam rather than driving!

Don’t look for success. Find that which makes you happy and you’ll always be filled with abundance. Well, that and remembering to choose wisely for your happiness is a choice only you can make.

Cross Post

I’ve written a post for my Sacred Knight blog, but I debated on which blog I should put it – if it really belonged there or on this one. It’s about how artists use their own emotions as fodder to create their art. I decided I wanted it there, but I also wanted to share it with my readers here. So here’s the link that’ll take you directly to the post there for your reading. Then, if you want, stick around and check out more of my Sacred Knight blog.

Artists do the strangest things!

If you’re an artist, you understand. When people give you look like you’ve lost your mind, take comfort in knowing that you truly are normal. Normal for an artist, that is!

Yesterday while I was painting in the morning, I had my headphones on listening to some music. Sarah McLachlan’s Angel came on and I fell into the slow mood of the music. About halfway into the song, I heard this sweeping sound which reminded me a little old widow out sweeping her porch, and accompanied the song with sad loneliness. But what was that noise?

I realized it was the sound of my brush on the canvas. Even with my headphones on, I could hear that faint sweeping. Even backed by the lonely mood it all, there was a strange peaceful calmness.

I went into the day carrying that mood with me. That smooth loneliness. But as the day wore on, it deepened. I felt a sadness creep in. I realized that this feeling wasn’t my own. It was the feelings stemming from the lead character (Steigan) in my graphic novel, Sacred Knight. One of Steigan’s long-term goals is that he wants a family, but being in the position he’s in as a warrior, he knows that his life isn’t his own and might be short. Being an orphan himself, he doesn’t wish to leave behind fatherless children. He’s shielded his heart from wanting to be loved and reached a plateau of sad calm. As long as he doesn’t dwell on his lot in life, he doesn’t allow himself to slip into the hollow pain. The biggest war he fights is the one within himself.

I went through my day, feeling these same emotions that he goes through, exploring them. Let me just say that it is a weird, disjointed sensation feeling what someone else is supposed to be feeling, especially when you keep in mind that the person who’s emotions you’re exploring exists only in your own mind.

In the afternoon, a friend asked if I was okay. I laughed as I told her I was in a sort of funk, one that I know I should snap out of, one I would ordinarily just tell myself to get over, but that I couldn’t. At the questioning look from her, I explained I was exploring the emotions because my character needed them. That got me the “you’re insane” look. After all, who would purposely dwell in dark depressive holes for the fun of it? Who sits around and studies the locations of the body that house various emotions? Well, not the sadder emotions anyway. We’re all aware that when we’re happy we feel like our heart could just burst with joy. But rarely do we want to examine the hole left in your heart while pain sears it away. Better to seal that away and eat or sleep until things get better.

Now I admit that I have a fear of sketching in public. It makes me uncomfortable to think that someone might come over to see what I’m doing. Even more, I’m afraid that they might criticize my sketches and kill every ounce of self-confidence I’ve built up. It’s an emotion I’ve been exploring lately, much in the same way that I studied Steigan’s lonely longings. But my fear is unfounded. I am doing the one thing most people only wish they could do: I’m writing, drawing, and telling stories. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It only has to be my own. I need to loosen up and relax, be freer with what I do. No one has to like what I do, can give me “the look” all they want. I know where I find joy and happiness! Who can criticize that?

Who cares if someone thinks I’ve lost my mind because I’m doing something creative, like exploring the emotions of a character? I’m changing my thinking: artists should do something every day that makes people wonder if they are insane. Step outside the box, release of the fears of being judged, and let creativity guide you. It’s an “artistic normal.”

What have you done today to let your spirit reign free? Tell me.