Oh my poor website, how I have neglected you! Never mind, darling, you know you are always in my thoughts.
But it’s New Year’s Eve, and I have some things to confess.
First, let’s get this out of the way: I really hate New Year’s Eve. It is almost the silliest excuse for fake celebration and excess consumption possible (the sole exception being Valentines Day, which I hate even more, and which has no justification whatsoever).
I’m certainly not against celebrations. I totally get things like Yule – celebrating the solstice when the days stop getting shorter (hurray!) and start lengthening instead. And national celebrations like Canada Day. (Yes! There is one! Americans are saying, “Who knew?”) I even understand religious celebrations like Christmas. If you’re into saviours, then the birthday of the big one has to be worth celebrating.
But New Year’s Eve has always been the biggest anti-climax of them all; we’re all supposed to run around like idiots getting excited about it, dressing up and hanging around waiting for midnight, and then bong bong bong (bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong bong), it’s here at last! Much cheering (why?), a few fireworks, an out-of-tune rendition of Auld Lang Syne and it’s all over. What’s the point?
Maybe it was all those years of New Year’s Eve parties where you spent all evening angling to be next to some guy you fancied come midnight, only to find he’d gone to the loo when it came round and your chance of a New Year’s snog was gone for another 12 months. Whatever, New Year’s Eve gets on my tits, and we mostly ignore it. We certainly don’t stay up ’til midnight just for the sake of. No thanks, I like my sleeps too much to waste them on such triviality.
On the other hand, New Year’s Eve does have that slightly disturbing effect of making you look back at what’s happened in the last twelve months and taking stock. In the case of this website (there, there, darling, I’ll pay you more attention next year; promise!), it’s been less than six months, but still worth considering. Let’s face it, I’ve not got much else to do tonight.
And thus we come to my confessions: three things I feel I ought to come clean about – not because I’m trying to be all fakey authentic (I do love a good oxymoron, don’t you?) – but because continuing to avoid mentioning them is making it difficult for me to be comfortable with posting to my own website. Which is exceedingly silly, given that this is supposed to be my home on the web. I don’t like being uncomfortable at home, and I don’t like pretense here either. So, here we go.
Confession 1: I am a latent perfectionist.
I have a little girl inside me with a perfectionist streak a mile wide, and she gets very, very cross with me if I consider posting anything here that doesn’t have a point. A sharp one. Or clear cut usefulness honed to a fine edge. If it doesn’t add value for you, my dear readers, my perfectionist streak girl starts screaming and stamping her little feet and telling me that I had better NOT post it, or else. Or else what? Well, I haven’t asked her, but I suspect it involves everyone (oh you know – Everyone) hating me forever and the sky falling on my head tomorrow morning. Possibly today.
Perfection is, of course, a double-edged sword (I’m sticking with the sharp things metaphors for now. Hey, if it’s working, run with it.). The forward thrust is great for pushing you to produce high quality work. But watch that backswing; that’s where the unwary get cut by the paralysing fear of imperfection. The fear that prevents us from actually doing anything just in case it might not be perfect. Or useful. Or have an obvious point.
Are you getting where I’m going with this yet? Maybe a lack of blog posts recently? Or even – shhh! – a lack of new work to share? A fear, perhaps, of showing the crappy stuff that goes on before we get to the final work that’s just about acceptable for public consumption (maybe, if I don’t look too closely and squint at it in low light)?
Confession 2: I am depressive.
Notice that I did not say “I have clinical depression” or “I suffer from depression.” Those sound like “I have a cold” or “I suffer from lumbago.” They don’t at all correspond the the reality of my life – a reality I have lived with since I was fourteen – although, as they say, not a lot of people know that.
Depression is a part of my make-up, not a transitory illness or temporary injury. Churchill called his “the black dog” but I see mine more like a cat; sometimes it goes off on its own and I wonder if it’s been adopted by someone else or gotten lost in the woods, but sooner or later it always comes back and insists on climbing into my lap for some attention. Mostly, it sits in the corner, or over by the bed, or looking out the window and doesn’t demand too much so long as I keep it fed. If I forget too long, you can be sure it’ll remind me of its existence. It has claws and knows how to use them.
I don’t believe I will ever be cured of depression. That would be unreasonable. But I keep it at bay with medicine and cognitive therapy. Together they generally keep me from falling too deeply into the black hole of despair, but staying positive is a daily struggle. I don’t always succeed. Now you know.
Confession 3: This whole professional artist thing? Terrifies me.
As a child, all I ever wanted to be was an artist. I did art classes for three hours every Saturday morning for eight years. Art was my favourite school subject, my pastime of choice, my dreams for the future. And I was good at it too. If anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, there was only one answer: an artist.
But somewhere around the middle of high school, I got scared. Scared because Everyone (remember them?) said there was no hope of ever earning a living as an artist. Maybe I should think about graphic design. Or photography. Or teaching art. Because art is better as a hobby. Safer. Everyone knows that. Best go to university and get a good degree and forget about this art school thing.
In my family we have a lot of creative types. Who are also clever types. And the clever always trumps the creative. Because clever earns money; creative never does. At least that’s how the story goes in our family. Creative is fine, but it never earns us any money. Better focus on the clever, and the safe instead. How about a nice job as a secretary with a good pension plan?
I mentioned a while ago that I was building an online shop for this site so I can offer original work, prints and cards for sale here. Because people have told me they’d like to own my stuff. But I have a very hard time believing them, because you know, creative is fine but it never earns any money. It’s all about the starving artist in the garret suffering with chilblains, going insane and chopping off body parts, y’know? Or dying alone in a seedy flat and having my dogs eat me. Yep.
So I’m working on this fear. Just like I’m working on that shop, slowly in teeny tiny turtle steps. Because it’s very, very scary and I have to consciously ignore all the messages I’ve always believed about being an artist just to even think about it, let alone progress it.
* * *
Phew. Enough already.
I thought I should mention those three things – the perfectionism, the depression and the fear – because they all tie together into what sometimes becomes a very big stuck around producing art and wanting to sell it, in any form. And not being able to mention it, dancing around it, pretending it doesn’t exist, is just too damn hard.
So, what can you expect next year on this site? Here’s some of what I’d like to do.
- Posts about how I’m dealing with the stuck
- Recommendations for products and people that help me with that
- More journal-style, conversational posts about progress on my work
- A shop with my original art, prints, cards and gifts
- An Amazon bookstore full of books I recommend on art, textiles, creativity, and my themes of the mythic and fantastical
- Videos showing how I make my art
- Posts about the stories and images that inspire, and inform, my work
- More posts that don’t have a point (like this one)
That’s it. Have a good one, and see you next year.