Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Moving Gently Forward

Last week, somewhere in the middle of writing my morning pages, starting a yoga routine and consciously taking care of myself, I had a moment of insight that should have been obvious to me before, but wasn't. This really was “artistic recovery.”

I lost sight of this reality, expecting myself to be consistently productive, forgetting that I am still learning to show up as a writer and artiste everyday.

I am still learning how to break the addiction to self-doubt. I am still learning how to let go of the knife of my inner perfectionist that slices through ideas even before they form.

I am still learning to take one step after the other. I can't expect myself to run.

But I forgot this, or didn't acknowledge it, and what this ended up doing was bring me to a screeching halt. Comparing myself to others, and trying to match their steps only added to the pressure I was already feeling.

If you are a recovering writer or painter or photographer, then like me, you are still in the process of forming a relationship with your work. 

You are still learning its nature. You are still learning how to make decisions as an artiste. You are still learning what everyday habits you need to replenish your stock of inspiration.

To give a concrete example, I just finished a quite personal piece that talks about being an HSP. While writing it, I had so many things that I could say that I didn't know where to begin. 

My entire identity, or at least the part that I most identify with, is based on the intersection of being an HSP and an introvert. There is so much that I think and feel about the topic that just beginning was hard. 

The actual process of writing was choosing what I wanted to talk about, and letting go of most of the other ideas. It was essentially a process of paring down, making decisions.

In the background was the emotional charge of the writing, the fact that I was revealing something about myself. And also the fact that I wanted to say it in the right way.

All this is a lot of emotional engagement. It requires a certain attitude and a certain skill-set.

As a recovering writer, I am still learning how to do this, how to take baby steps forward. And yet, I had gotten into a space where I was comparing my hesitant steps with others who seemed to be galloping forward.

The reality is that I was getting ahead of myself. If you are a recovering creative, then you will need to first engage with and break through the patterns that keep you from moving forward. You will also need to learn new habits that support your creativity.

You can't compare your progress with someone else's, someone who might be more comfortable in their emotional relationship with their work.

Last week, I was a little more gentle with myself. Instead of putting off exercising, I started a manageable yoga routine. I let myself draw some baby drawings using a charcoal pencil. I copied drawings of birds, and a squirrel, and made a baby tortoise. I felt happy.

While I did it hesitatingly, the act of moving the pencil across the paper was grounding, clearing. The permission to make mistakes, to be just okay and not great, was freeing.

Later, I watched some youtube videos on how to draw hands. They used delicious words like vine and willow charcoal. They talked about color values, and the different kinds of shading. 

I understood the concept of first seeing and drawing the overall shape of the hand, and then filling in the details. That felt exciting.

What I need to learn, I think, is to correctly identify what's stopping me every day. When the store of my images dries up, I need to change my tools, maybe pick up a pencil or my camera. 

When I feel unease and ambiguity, I need to learn how to stay with the feeling, instead of getting up and giving up for that day.

Learning how to make myself, see myself is a process of listening to myself and encouraging the easily discouraged child within. Learning how to do these things will take some time. And for now, I am happy to just move gently forward.  


  1. Nicely written. I love your blog's subject and what a good writer you are :)