Artist’s Guilt

Writing for Wit and Whimsy has had some unexpected impacts on my life. For one, I feel more confident about myself. No, not because of likes or follows (though I do get a little rush of pride when that happens, I won’t hide it). It makes me confident knowing that last month and even last year I dreamed of being a professional writer. Today, I can finally say that I am working towards that goal. I AM a writer finally not just in spirit but in action.

The second unexpected result is I feel more creative in everything. I don’t just want to write anymore but I also picked up a canvas again for the first time in months and sketched out a painting! Since last October my art supplies have sat in my closet collecting dust. I even started avoiding that closet in particular because of the guilt I felt looking at them. Some people don’t quite understand what I call “artists guilt” but a few of my friends who also dabble in creating things have said they feel similarly.

When I have a bunch of art supplies laying unused I feel like I should use them. I should be making beautiful things and expressing my unending creativity. Except I don’t. I think about what I will make next or what would look pretty on canvas in my kitchen or stairwell. Then I move on to not doing any sort of creating. Then I feel guilty for not making anything even though I should.

Everyone has different reasons for artist’s guilt if they experience it. Maybe their situation has changed and they haven’t nailed down a time to be creative yet and that makes them sad. Maybe they are suffering from depression and don’t have the energy at the end of the day to put brush to medium. Maybe they don’t have a concrete reason at all and are just stuck.

No matter the reason, artist’s guilt is right up there with mom guilt on the list of feelings that suck to have. Just because it is unpleasant though doesn’t mean it isn’t OK or useful. I think some forms of guilt are bad to hold on to but some can be catalysts to help us change and grow. I will eventually write about how awful mom guilt is on every level but that is for another day.

Artist’s guilt, guilt after a fight with a friend, or guilt from not doing our best at something are all productive guilt because they inspire us to ask ourselves “why” and grant us permission to grow. Taking the opportunity to grow can be terrifying because it is almost always uncomfortable but the end result is usually worth it.

After finally taking the leap and asking myself “why” I found that my guilt stemmed from people pleasing and perfectionism. (Keep in mind this was not a fast discovery, this has taken me about a month to come to terms with). No matter what idea I had in my head I would convince myself that I couldn’t make it well enough to merit bringing it into existence. I became so overwhelmed with this idea that the thought of creating anything became daunting.

How could I create something beautiful? Do I even have the ability to do that? All of my past paintings are OK but they aren’t what I aspire to be so why would anything now? I let my inner critic set impossible standards for my paintings and then let her make me feel so ashamed of my work that I was afraid to make anything else. I knew it was irrational. Of course my past work isn’t what I aspired to be but how would I get better if I actively avoided creating things? I wouldn’t!! Inner critic me ignored that fact all together.

The worst part is no matter how much anyone else said “hey, I really love that painting you made!” I thanked them politely and then my inner critic would come storming in “they pity you! They’re guests in your home so of course they would compliment it. Your art is mediocre.” and I would believe her.

Reading the book “How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t” by Andrea Owen and creating this blog have both made it a million times easier for me to thank my inner critic for her harsh opinion and then move on from it. The paralyzing fear of disappointing people with my art and the unrealistic expectations for my art have subsided enough that I worked up my courage and drafted a painting today.

For the first time in 6 months I brought something into existence that wasn’t there before I started. And it felt amazing! It was so freeing and calming to relax into the creative process all the while reminding myself that this was my art and even if my lines weren’t straight, my sketches weren’t Instagram perfect, and you could tell I had to use my eraser a few times it would turn out amazing.

I learned that while sometimes getting over a fear means jumping in head first there are times where it means getting to know your feelings really well and then slowly walking into the fire. That is exactly what artist’s guilt was for me, fear. Fear of rejection, fear of imperfections, fear of failure.

I am still afraid but now I am setting that fear on my shoulder like a pet parrot and walking forward into battle like a pirate. There is a chance I will lose a metaphorical eye or leg after posting this and reading the comments but in the end it will all be worth it because there is also a chance that I will be completely fine. In fact, the chances of me being totally fine are phenomenal. ❤

It is not done yet as I still have to actually paint but without further adieu here is my sketch.

Title: Dreamers


Be bold. Be beautiful. Most importantly though, be you and be unashamed of what you put into this world.

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