Do you remember playing hopscotch as a child? Tossing a stone, hopping on one foot then two, careful to never touch the lines. Ever get a tad over-confident and try to jump too many squares at once?
Ripped jeans and a skinned knee. No big deal to a kid (at least for a rough-and-tumble-kid like me). But skipping an important square (step) as an adult can end a wee-bit differently.
Before I lose you entirely, let me give an example. Say you just started doing pencil drawings. Say you get your ideas by finding photographs through Google images. Say you sketch, shade, smudge, blend and finesse them until they look almost identical to the original. Say you assume that the drawing now belongs to you. Say you never actually check it out. Say you just think, “Of course it’s mine, I drew it. I can do whatever I please with it”
In your excitement, you come up with all these glorious ideas for how you might be able to turn your newly-discovered love of drawing into something that could — gasp — possibly help finance your writing. Thoughts whirl through your head. Maybe I could sell greeting cards with drawings and quotes? Or make a cover for a journal? Or even — gasp, gasp — an illustrated b-o-o-k.”
Say you find out that the “Of-course-it’s-mine-I-drew-it” assumption was wrong. Very wrong. Oh so very, very wrong (see: Artist’s Copyright FAQ)
Now by this point, you may have guessed that I am talking about my own experience (gee, really?). You may also be thinking, “What’s the big deal, it’s just a few drawings, do some more. Be grateful you figured it out now. Live and learn and move on. If you really want to use them, find the photographers and ask for derivative permission” (on that last one: ever try finding the actual photographer for those bazillion photos floating through cyberspace?)
How easy it is to think clearly, when you are not caught in the emotional-muck of it. But oh, so very different when your buttons have been pushed. Mine jump-started the tyrant voice inside that said “See you’re not a real artist. A real artist can do something original. You’re a fake, fraud….”. Once the tyrant took over, it snowballed into “Just give up. Find a real job. What made you think you could do this?”, which turned into an avalanche that had kittens scurrying under beds and a husband contemplating building a rubber room.
Why am I confessing this somewhat embarrassing (scratch that: very embarrassing) reaction to what now seems way (way!) out of proportion? Because at the time it did not feel out of proportion. At the time it felt raw and real. The strength of the emotions that erupted out of me and the spiral of tyrannical self-talk, was real and I became completely lost in it. Am I proud of my melt-down? No. Did it scare me? Yes. Do I wish I could turn back the clock and react differently? Actually, no.
No one was hurt (other than my pride, but that healed just fine). The kittens were soon vying for a spot on my lap, purring up a storm. My husband put away his carpentry tools. And when I got my feet back on the ground (emotional melt-downs are draining), I was able to see how much pressure I had been putting on myself to “succeed”, to “make this work, RIGHT NOW!”
It helped me recognize that I had slipped back into control-mode. In my desperation to get out of the uncomfortable unknown (where is this going?), I latched on to something and tried to force it. It became “Oh, I have this figured out. I know where the path goes. All I have to do now is slam the gas pedal to the floor, close my eyes and zoom to the finish line.”
I don’t know about you, but whenever my ego decides to force its way into the driver’s seat, I tend to crash into a wall. I become so driven that I only see what I want to see, then Whammo! But when I pay attention to my emotions (rather than let them build) they have a story to tell me. Usually an important one.
I know my life flows so much better (with fewer kitten-and-husband-scaring-melt-downs) when I am in that more centered, soul-connected place. When I honor each step along the path, rather than try to rush ahead. When I connect to the process, not the end result. When my goals are tempered with openness. When I recognize that I am not meant to see the whole picture, only parts of it. When I unhook myself from my fear-based need to control — breathe — and let myself trust.
That is when I can patiently hop from one square to the next, and enjoy the game.
“A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” — William Arthur Ward
“When it is obvious that the goal cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” — Confucius
“There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.” — Richard Bach
“It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.” — Ram Dass
“Growth is an erratic forward movement: two steps forward, one step back. Remember that and be very gentle with yourself.” — Julia Cameron
PS: To my fellow fledgling artists out there, I found a free photo archive for artists where the Derivative Work you produce remains yours. PSS: The hopscotch drawing used for this post is 100% mine. (smile)