Saturday, July 6, 2013

Doubt

Do you consider yourself an artist?   I do.  I believe that inside most every human is the desire to create just for the glorious sensation of making something beautiful or meaningful.  And, I definitely believe that the word "artist" should be used generously to describe the many of us who quilt for pleasure. 

I am an artist, and I'm very proud of many of the things I have made.  However, I doubt myself.  I have accepted this doubt as part of the life of an artist.  I don't agree, as some are taken to say, that it's best to ignore/deny/extinguish doubt at all costs.  No, I actually believe that my doubts are bound to be quite valid at times.  Of course I will fail sometimes.  Of course I will not always create in a way that fulfills my intentions and imaginations and expectations.  Of course.


Isn't risk a part of art?  Isn't failure too?  Isn't it Ok to recognize those moments?  Not to throw in the towel or beat oneself up, but to become more comfortable with who you really mean to be, more aware of the path you really want to take.  Doubt happens when I am pushing up against something that I'm not sure I want for myself.  Confidence is that sensation of authentic, personal creativity.


image by Kelly of Santa Barbara Chic

I write tonight after chatting with a friend who declared her most recent quilt not quite "her" aesthetically.  She was frustrated, unable to put a finger on what had gone "wrong."  Instead of denying her feelings, I concurred.  I spent some time considering her lovely recent finish and comparing it with some of her favorite works so that I could possibly share a bit of perspective as to how it was different.  As we chatted she added, "I was left feeling like I'd sold myself a bit short. Hadn't taken time for thought and creativity along the way."  I could so absolutely relate!

It's so frustrating to find yourself doubting a project. Sometimes those doubts turn out to be totally unfounded - you just need a fresh look at it in the morning or you just need to let the bud open slowly but surely.  These are the times when you're stretching yourself.  It's uncomfortable, but it's growth. 

Other times in retrospect, the doubts were big hairy signposts that you should have changed the course.  How to discern the difference?  Ah, I so wish I had the answer!

image from the Color Collective

I've actually had a lot of doubts lately in my sewing.  I often doubt myself when I am 3/4 through a project - yes, always far past the point of no return!   I am pretty tenacious about finishing projects.  Honestly more often than not I end up being glad I muscled through, especially if I make changes along the way in response to those doubts.  But sometimes... sometimes I wish I'd just walked away in lieu of another idea.  

So, know that you are not alone.  Doubt might be a pain in the arse, but it's also a sign that you're taking risks.  Not all risks will turn out to be golden tickets, but all of them are part of the journey.  Each little risk is a step towards becoming yourself as an artist, which, I am sure, is exactly who we all want to be.

image by Melanie of Texas Freckles

So, maybe the next time you find yourself quadroople questioning your fabric choices or losing momentum part-way through when the project no longer seems like that bright shiny idea it once was, maybe then just remember that doubt is more than perfectly acceptable; it's a sign that you're an artist. 

The worst thing you can do is nothing.  Keep moving!  Even moving "backwards" is really a step forwards because those doubtful moments and disappointing projects can shine a bright light on the path.


26 comments:

  1. Yes, sometimes trusting and listening to yourself means pushing through and finishing, and other times it means stopping and taking stock. But then there's still no certainty that we'll always be satisfied! And in a way that makes it feel more like a game, and gives me more a sense of fun. I loved the quote about doubt and absurdity!
    Thanks for encouraging us to try new things, stretch ourselves, and have the freedom to fail. x

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  2. I recognize you as an artist and a good one. That said most good artists doubt, not themselves as much as their works, because they had a concept that wasn't fulfilled. They strive for the perfection of every concept and you are right that feeds their artistry and their doubt. Grow with your doubts and accomplish great things. I will live through you and other quilters who are artists, since I am not b;essed with the vision. The difference is I can take someone else's vision and copy it but not even expand it in any significant way. I can change color, but not the feeling behind a quilt. Keep your concepts, your doubts and your artistry and be an inspiration for those of us that are not as skilled or inventive as you.

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  3. I've been suffering through this myself. I've been looking at tons of pieces and prices and I'm shocked! I spend so much time under valuing what I do and then hating what I'm working on. Much like when learning typing, as speed starts to increase, which is a good thing, mistakes are more likely to happen because the hands are speeding up at different rates. This very questioning is crucial to becoming a better artist. You are outgrowing your confines as an artist. May be it uncomfortable, but its better than the latter. Not growing at all.

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  4. I guess I don't take my quilt making quite as seriously as many do. I'm totally invested in making scrap quilts for my pleasure not for others. Appealing scrap quilts. Do I think of myself as an artist? Yes. But artist with a lower case "A". I do what pleases me. Do I struggle even with this simple criteria? Sure I do. But I tell myself as long as I'm struggling that I've not given up. Toni

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    1. That's a wonderful place to be, Toni. =) And I am always taking things so seriously. Just imagine my poor mother while I was growing up...

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  5. If you never try anything, how will you know whether you like it or not? If you never push out of your comfort zone, how will you learn anything new? There are times when I've made something, and looked at it weeks, months, moments later and wondered what I was thinking, putting those things together like that. Other times, after time and space comes between me and something I've made, and I get to look at it fresh again, I get to think, yeah, that was a good one. In the moment, though, in the moment I really push for the finish, knowing I can't let the doubts stop me (although they can occasionally redirect me) or they will stop me for ever. Don't stop creating.

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  6. Very thoughtful post. I needed that!

    Lorna:)
    http://sewfreshquilts.blogspot.com

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  7. Excellent post! I know that I'm a lot more confident than I was a year ago, but still tend to doubt myself more than I probably should. Very encouraging post. Thanks!

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  8. I needed this post tonight. I find that if I'm working with fabrics that are not my style I tend to question every move and not to feel motivated. This is the case now as I am making a baby quilt in the mom's fabric of choice for the nursery... NOT baby but fancy and fru-fru, just not my style. I will mudle through a little more in the morning and hopefully it will start to take shape... Thanks for the push to PUSH ON!

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  9. I enjoyed this post. Really made me feel better to be out of my zone. I needed that push. Lately I have been going through the same thing as I am still trying a lot of new things and still pondering on whether to make it or not. So far, most did finish though I am not really happy at the end of it but in another perspective, I did learn something new and I also learnt where can I improve so I guess, just going with it is still rewarding somehow.
    Amira @ http://littlemushroomcap.blogspot.com

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    1. Yes, I really do think that just going with it is truly rewarding somehow. Sometimes when I just can't decide what option to choose, I tell myself that I won't know until I do one so just forge ahead already! Good thing sewing is reversible!!!

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  10. This has been so thoughtfully written, really appreciate everything said.
    I've been in this very same place, sometimes so hard to get out of. Happy to say I'm not there at the moment.
    Thank you Rachel for putting my thoughts into words!

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  11. Nice post Rachel! John Maxwell wrote a whole book on this, it's called Failing Forward!
    As my nearly 12yo son is into his 4th week of tennis league, having never ever played and learning on the court, the father of a competitor commented his son had been playing for 3 years, his eldest daughter for 5, he himself has been playing all his life, his brothers are now pros, and his father retired from the Open circuit. He's had a lot of experience with failure on and off the court, and offered the encouragement that failure is necessary to success. The key, just as Dr. Maxwell writes, is not to let failure stop us, to not let the mind games of fear, doubt or discouragement stop us. Fear and doubt are just feelings. Have you seen the anacronym for fear: False Evidences Appearing Real. Doubt is in those same lines. Risk is indeed what expands our comfort zones and accomplishes things like space travel and men walking on the moon, deep sea submarines, cars, trains, telephones, cell phones, cures for diseases, the feeding of people in far away countries... every great work comes as a result of someone feeling the fear and doing it anyway. I think that's the title of another book. Doubt is a part of the process, it's the resistance that wants to keep us "safe", to keep us from growing and becoming all we are meant to be; it's the enemy of our destiny and legacy. Pushing through the doubt, even if it results in a perceived failure, is truly Success!
    Rachel, I always marvel at your wonderful thinking and artistry! You are a magnificent Artist! Be blessed!!

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    1. Thank you for sharing all your thoughts, Glynis. "Failing Forward" is a perfectly delightful way of capturing it!

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  12. And as I reread what I wrote to myself more than anyone probably... Teehee... I am also reminded that one of the greatest things we can do to equip our children, our business associates, our friends, and ourselves is this - to learn to expect resistance, to expect fear, to expect doubt, to be prepared for it... because it will come. We must take authority over our minds, determine that our identity is not wrapped up in failures or successes, and receive these fear and doubt moments as opportunities to expand, grown and be strengthened in the process of moving forward into all we are created to be and do!! You're awesome Rachel!! Enjoy a magnificent week and have a blast!!

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  13. Just keep swimming . . . just keep swimming . . . I definitely need to do more doing and less time thinking so much about everything. Good post.

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  14. Excellent! I get these doubts every time somebody "with a name" asks me to quilt for them. Also- every time I see so many, many GREAT new longarm quilting artists. You're absolutely right & I thank you for voicing this!

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  15. Rachel, how well I can relate as I can see others do too! But as I am learning to understand ME (ok, call it Age if you must). I'm realizing there is less doubt, confusion and uncertainty when I only allow my head chatter to say---Am I Really that bad? I Love what I do (maybe not each project), I Love my life (most of te time) Love who I surround myself with (maybe not 24/7) and who seem to Love me (and why wouldn't they-HaHa).
    We will always "Drift Into The Doubting Lane" but once we clear the fog in our heads we can put the "Crusise Control" on for a little while, till we Drift over again. There is NO DOUBT--this was a Great Post!

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  16. I definitely doubt myself sometimes, and I think it's a good time, but then I also think that I have so little free time in my life that there isn't much room for doubt. Easier said than done though.

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  17. Sometimes I do walk away, and when I eventually come back to it, things come together in the new light.

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  18. Yes! You have to keep moving.

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  19. You hit the nail on the head with this post.

    First off, coming from a BFA background, it was wonderful to have our professors call us Artist day after day...ego boost! After graduation, I entered the corporate world that that killed my creative spirit and any hope of reconnecting with the inner Artist.

    Yet, upon discovering the magical world of modern quilting, I have become reinspired and while I'm still uneasy about calling myself an Artist, at least I no longer doubt my abilities.

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  20. Rachel, I've been thinking about this post for DAYS.

    I feel like I waste a lot of time struggling with sewing projects that somehow aren't exactly what I want to be doing, and aren't saying what I want to say. I feel like I'm regurgitating ideas, not creating. I find that I doubt more when I'm NOT pushing myself -- funny. I think what you're saying is that doubt can be a good thing, yes? As long as you work with it instead of letting it cripple you?

    (I'm the worst about not commenting on posts that really make me think! Because I think, "oh, I have to think about that," and then I think, and never respond. And you're quite good at the posts-that-make-you-think thing.)

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    1. Thanks for adding your thoughts, Laura. I've been thinking about it more too. I think that often times I doubt a project before I've shared it and received feedback. No matter how much I push myself (and even on some of my best work) I doubt myself sometimes until someone else weighs in. This just occurred to me today, btw. Of course, that's no good, as I want to be independently assured (and sometimes I am), but on the other hand I guess it's pretty natural. There's definitely a danger as a blogger of becoming too reliant on outside affirmation.

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  21. Rachel, you have such a gift for talking about things that I believe so many of us are thinking about too. Do I consider myself an artist? Normally, I'd say no. But reading your first paragraph... well, maybe I can sneak in through the backdoor of the artist clubhouse and no one will notice. LOL

    I think we're all plagued with self-doubt at times, especially when it comes to an important project. Something that we really want to see turn out the way we've been dreaming. Sometimes, doubt can be helpful. It can push us to our creative limits. Other times, it's paralyzing. I think the key is having the ability to discover what lies at the heart of those doubts, then challenge ourselves to test our limits and conquer it.

    Easier said than done, right? ;)

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  22. I enjoyed this piece so much. Thanks for your willingness to share and put yourself and your beautiful art out there. Loved seeing all the responses too:)

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