Saturday 23 November 2013

Experienced Beginner by Helen Yee

I have been mulling over my dreamboard, which I try to do each full moon, and unsurprisingly it has some messages for me. The thoughts and feelings that I've held in the background are right there on paper in front of me. There, in the cry of a newborn and the images of women in their prime, tables, flowers and ripe fruit.

How can I make peace with being both experienced and a beginner at the same time, when it comes to my creative pursuits? One of my challenges is I find myself feeling like a newbie constantly. Yeah, it can be a problem when one considers herself the perpetual student. I see all the stuff I don't know yet, and I yearn to be "there." I imagine a magical place where I'll feel okay when I have gained that next piece of experience, of accomplishment, of wisdom. And yet, I must have gotten "there" hundreds of times in my life and yet don't feel completely satisfied. An adjustment in interpretation is needed, don't you think?

My dreamboard has images of a baby, but also tall, old trees and women who stare down the camera and strut their stuff on stage. In the center, two words dominate in capital letters: NEVER HIDE. Is it that I feel I have to hide the newer parts of my creating, the not fully hardened edges of my learning and experimenting? Is it okay to show the world what I think is only half-baked right now? I need to learn it's me who keeps judging herself as not done yet and keeps feeling the need to hold back the newer edges of what she's creating. It is vulnerable territory to let the world see my process, but I do this in improvisation anyway. Maybe it's the technology of recording that creates this ability to freeze something created in the moment, and examine it over and over again that I'm fearful of. In improvising, it used to be only the people in the room with me and their memories of that moment. Now, with both fear and gratitude, I recognize that those moments can be captured for criticism, or for sharing or enjoyment.

I'll go back to my initial challenge: being simultaneously experienced and a beginner. If I can adjust my interpretation, forgive and love myself for always wanting to stretch and learn, I can perhaps come to a more satisfying place of claiming and showing myself as an accomplished artist, and let some of the fear of not being "there" yet fall by the wayside. Note to self and to readers: Don't let "beginner's mind" (in the non-Zen sense) get in the way of celebrating and sharing what you already are.


Helen Yee is an improvising violinist, multi-instrumentalist, composer with experience in a broad range of music genres. Currently violinist for the eclectic string trio, Trio Tritticali she also performs on yangqin, a Chinese hammer dulcimer, with Music From China. A multicreative adventurer at heart, she also loves exploring and collaborating in other forms of improvisation including vocal work, movement and text improv. She considers the practice of improvisation a profound teacher, in art and in life.


  1. I love this thoughtful, thought-provoking post, Helen! Your posts always feel like window into something--into your experience--and I learn so much. Thank you!

  2. Thanks, Kelly, for your comment! I'll gladly take this as encouragement to keep writing and sharing.