The other day I shared the backside of one of my embroidery works. When I shared it on social media someone made a comment that really triggered me and that got me thinking, so today on Artist Strong I want to talk to you about the fact, the truth that I see which is there is no right or wrong way to make art.
In this comment a friend shared with me that when she was learning to embroider when she was little, her mother told her that the backside should be as clean and as pretty as the front side of her work. When she told me that I immediately felt triggered. It immediately made me feel ashamed of my work. It made me feel like there was something wrong and that the quality of my work was somehow downgraded as a result of this new information. I’ll share. I’ve got some of them on my lap with me. I’m going to share one of them. Here’s the front side of one. You can see one here. These aren’t framed yet or finished out. Here is the backside. I’ve got several of these on my lap here and I’ll show a few more today.
You know I guess part of this trigger and the reason I’m sharing it is, one, I want you guys to understand that you’re not the only people who can feel vulnerable. A lot of people are starting to look to me as an example for ideas or for motivation and inspiration. I want you to know that I still struggle with these things too. It’s a natural part of our creative process that we have to accept.
Takeaway number one from this story today is that there are arbitrary rules that we hold ourselves to when it comes to our art.
These arbitrary rules come from the outside. They come from people in our lives. They come from well-meaning or inadvertent action of our parents. It’s just a natural part of creative life: people can convey ideas that trigger insecurities in us or trigger or remind us of these arbitrary rules that we hold for ourselves.
Take away number two today is that even when we’re proud of work that we create, we can still have moments of insecurity about it.
I love my embroidery work. It’s pretty and colorful and joyful. Here’s another one. You know I think they’re lovely. Yet when someone saw the backside of some of these, it triggered me. It reminded them of some notions of perfectionism that they navigated, and because I’m a recovering perfectionist, it triggered me too.
Accept you can be triggered. Accept there will be moments like this. This will help you push through them more easily and embrace them with a little bit more gentleness and kindness towards yourself and the people who trigger those moments for you.
Take away number three is I want my embroideries, the front and back, to be a metaphor for life.
A family member told me that they used this notion once in a sermon that they shared with their community. The idea was that we always like to put the best foot face forward in our lives. We like to show the pretty side of things and that’s especially apparent now on social media. We like to show the best side of ourselves. We curate the best moments in our lives and that can often lead people to feel this “keeping up with the Jones” or it can make us feel like our lives are inadequate or not fulfilling enough.
Life is not just the pretty picture. It’s all the messy bumps, the knots, the little steps you take, the jumps, all of those leaps. Everything in between. The inconsistent moments. The back and forth. All of that is what leads us to moments of good quality, of moments to savor.
I want you to think about that the next time you are somehow you’re triggered around your art. Remember the backside of my embroidery: this is just as important and valuable to get you to the good moments and that’s a really important lesson for all of us to learn. It’s not just for our art, either.
Today’s dialogue makes me wonder how many art activities, hobbies or other interests people could hold for themselves that are ruined because of arbitrary rules they place upon themselves? Because of stories like the one I shared with you today?
I encourage you to be messy. Embrace that as part of your creativity because it’s an important and necessary part. It’s what lets us get to the good stuff. The more we avoid those messy moments or feel shame around them, the less we create, which means the less value we bring to the world. And/or the less that we feel a sense of happiness and fulfillment. When we have those moments of fulfillment we can contribute more. That’s a really important thing for you to think about today.
Ultimately I want you to embrace all of your life. All of your creative life. The messy and the pretty bits because that’s what leads us to where we are today with our work.
Be Creatively Courageous: In the comments below tell me an arbitrary rule that you’ve held to for your own creative work. The more we share this with others and the more we can all be open about having these moments of insecurity, the stronger and more confident we all will become.
Thanks guys for watching and if you feel this video can benefit someone in your life, please share it with them. I will see you next week. Bye.