Friday 2 November 2012

Paddle Strokes and Feeling Safe by Angel Young

Andy and I are quite different - a classic case of opposites attract. This became very obvious as we canoed through some of the Yukon's rapids this summer - Andy's response "Wasn't that exciting! Let's do it again!" Me: "No thanks that was scary not exciting at all!". We seem to have such a different approach to risk taking: Andy is much more gung-ho, while I'm more cautious, more of a planner.

In creativity Andy has launched himself into silversmithing like a kiddie jumping into the swimming pool, feet first. He started describing himself as a silversmith without any qualms at all while he was still just taking the baby steps of his practice. Now he's been made redundant from his job he's turning his passion into a business, giving it all his focus.

Me, I've been wobbling about with my creativity for years. I want to be doing it full time, but can't get going at all. I don't do much actual creative work (although I seem to do a lot of washing up). I struggle to claim the titles associated - photographer, artist, printmaker, craft maker, even though my friends complement my work, and keep suggesting I phone Ikea to see if they want any of my pics.

I'm starting to wonder if this is a question of gender. That there is something inherently focused about Andy's approach, the way he can ignore the dishes and the hoovering, that he is happy to take risks and finds them exhilarating. I'm programmed to play it safe, to keep the boat steady, to protect the situation as it is, even if that's not what I actually want.  I'm guessing this is even stronger for women with kids to look after as well.

I'd like to think I'm miraculously going to be more Andy-like in my approach! But instead, back in the real world(!), I'm trying to understand what's needed to provide the level of safety I feel I want.  

I've started by working out what the risks are for me, aka what's getting in the way. Here's my chart:

All this time I had really thought that money was my main barrier, but it turns out those emotional concerns are stronger. Thinking about it more I realised I wasn't actually getting to a safe place with my work, so the money thing couldn't really be considered until I had. If I felt confident about the creative works I was producing then that would change my feelings about money and any risks I might be taking. That's not to say that finances aren't part of the equation, but for me they are a part-gremlin at the moment, masking what I'm actually worried about.

So what are the factors I'm worried about? What's holding me (and maybe you?) back?

Competence is the first bit. You have to have faith in the work you produce. This is why it's called a practice! Here's my chart for that:

So what is needed to feel safe?

Emotional Space & Time
I realise that personally I really need "percolating" time, or artist's dates as Julia Cameron calls them. Space to be inspired and let the normal day to day thoughts subside. For me this produces more work, and the attrition of doing the work breeds confidence. I have to start with the space, the inspiration, otherwise I just end up imposing other people's ideas and priorities onto my work rather than giving it a room of its own. This gives me the faith to believe my work will stand on its own, and I can defend it if I need to.

Physical Space
I'm lucky enough to have a place to work in, but this is obviously a factor for many - we all need a safe place to produce our work. How can you find that in your life? Is it the cafe on the other side of town, or a log in the woods, or a corner of the kitchen table? What about longer nourishing trips? The wilderness really does it for me - there's something in the silence that gives me room to breathe. 

The next important step is the backwards one. Look at your work from a distance: actually is it enough? If you had perfection what would it look like? Will most people even see the flaws you find? Check in with the final piece of the puzzle - intuition - are you ready to step forward now? What else would you need to do so? Just the exercise of asking these questions helps you focus in - maybe you are ready now?

Intuition is also the mysterious force that inspires, tells you to go right or left, red or blue, or to paddle the Yukon and marry the mirror of your personality! Learn to heed its signs. There's a lot of good books about this - Martha Beck's Follow your own North Star is a good place to start, or if you prefer fiction, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. 

So even as I write this I see I'm further down the road than I thought, and now I recognise this I can share my creativity with more people, feeling happy(ier) that it's of sufficient quality. 

A bit of safety lets me stretch a bit further. What can you do today to help you feel safe in your work, and build for there? After all paddling the Yukon, well the 460 miles we did anyway, was a journey built of a thousand strokes, and in the end you get there, safe and sound.

Angel Young lives in the UK, and is enjoying the late summer sunshine.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, Angel! Thank you for taking us through your process!