Thursday, April 03, 2008

Elizabeth Gilbert

Tonight I attended a lecture by the author of Eat, Pray, Love at the Schnitzer Theater in Portland, OR. I am always a bit intimidated when I cross the river into downtown Portland and try to find my way through the jumble of construction and one way streets, but I so wanted to hear her speak after finding such inspiration in her book. I was not sure what to expect or what she would speak about, so I was very pleased that she spent the evening speaking on creativity and art.

Her question was why is fear attached to the act of creativity? Why do so many of us fear failure when we create art, or, having created a work of art, fear we will never be able to match our past efforts. Her view was that we in Western Civilization began viewing art differently at the time of the Renaissance and began viewing artists as sort of a breed apart - afflicted people whose creativity is accompanied by pain and who were born with their talents and expected to suffer for having them.

The truth is that art is not the artist - we are the vessel that provides the tools and labor but something outside of us provides the inspiration and the voice. If I understood her correctly, we are the musical instrument but the music is a gift from an outside force. She felt we put too much emphasis on the need to always come up with something new and ourdoing ourselves each time we create art - that doing our art well should be enough.

I can't count how much time I spend in the fear of failing to produce the perfect piece of art and how afraid I am of not meeting the approval of others. Her lecture really hit home for me.

We are so blessed to be gifted with creativity and the ability to create. Why not rejoice in the creation of our art and leave our fear of failure behind? After all, we all share this love of creativity - why not band together and sing each others' praises and thank the muses for our art.


Diane said...

Hi Jan,
Having just recently started checking in on your blog, I was delighted to read this post. I am just finishing reading Eat, Love, Pray myself....and am an artist who continually faces (like most) the feeling that unless something is perfect, I shouldn't do it all, or that I should quickly hide it or toss it.
Within the past year, I remarried and my dear husband is a life-long artist. We quickly decided we needed a lovely studio within walking distance of the house and have now finished it. For a while, I was intimidated by the fact that nearly all our friends are professional artists...and of course, when they come by, they want to see what we are working on. Now THAT can be intimidating!
I've started learning from watching Nils that it is OK to do things that don't turn out so great, but that all of it is part of the process of creating. I love seeing the lack of judgment he puts on his work. He just keeps working, and in the end, comes up with lots of marvelous work. His self-limiting inner critic is on vacation nearly all the time....and that is something we all should aspire to.

He is currently writing a text book on The Way of Play which is about approaching art the way a young child does....out of pure fun. I recently watched my 8 year old grandson make a rather grand architectural construction out of slabs of clay. He worked quickly, without thought, without criticism....and the end result was spontaneous and wonderful.No wonder our work often looks tired...we think and work it to death.

I think your words (and Elizabeth Gilbert's) are ones we need to hear over and over and over again as we move through our creative experience. Often, even if we go through periods of free creativity, we can easily sink back into a serious block.

I appreciate the time and creativity you put into sharing your art and life through your blog.


Carol said...

Diane said it well, I will say "Amen"

Carol C.

Susan White said...

Hi Jan, I also enjoyed this post. I subscribe to the theory that it is more important that we do our art at all than that we mostly do it well. To get to doing it well, we often must put in plenty of time and effort while not doing it so well.

We had a discussion in my local group about original designs versus following patterns. I suggested that if working with patterns gives you time and experience in your chosen medium, then that may be more valuable as a confidence builder at the start.

We fret over so many things and let them stop us from doing. I also subscribe to the theory that I don't have to finish everything I start. Many times what I want to know is satisfied in the testing of an idea or technique.

I'll have to look up Elizabeth Gilbert. Keep up the great work! Sue