Anyone who has ever had a journal or a diary probably has had this experience. You pick out the perfect journal or notebook and you just can’t wait to get started. You open up to the first page and stare at its gleaming emptiness just waiting for you to fill it up. You take a deep breath and…
That’s it. You might scribble out a line or two if you’re lucky before the doubts set in, but they do eventually come. Those voices that say you have nothing interesting to write. They tell you that you’re going to waste this amazing looking journal/notebook and screw it up before you even get started.
It is an oppressive and frustrating experience; one that most writers have experienced. I used to cope with this by tearing out the pages I’d already written on and starting over. Occasionally, I still do this with new notebooks, but I’ve gotten better. I’ve retrained my brain to think of my journal as a place to experiment and make mistakes, a place to just get it all out. It doesn’t have to be perfect because my journal is just for me; no one else.
However, I experienced this disturbing breach of confidence again this weekend. No, not with my writing journal this time, but with my sketchbook. I didn’t even think twice about ripping out those pages that I felt I’d messed up on. They were hideous and didn’t reflect my true abilities. The voices told me, “you suck at faces! Why would you even try that? Now look at your beautiful sketchbook. You should stick with trees and animals – that’s what you’re good at.” I felt that old familiar frustration rising up again; I felt like a fraud. I felt like I had no right to call myself an artist and who was I kidding that I’d ever be any better at it that I am now.
Ugh. Why do we do this to ourselves? I know I’m not the only one. I know other people have torn out those pages too; I’d be foolish to think otherwise.
Now that I’ve had time to step back from my frustration I realize that I need to look at my first sketchbook much as I do my writing journal. It’s mine – private. It is a place of practice and slow improvements. It won’t happen overnight and probably not even within this first sketchbook, but over the course of multiple sketchbooks, I will improve. I need to give myself permission to fail if I ever want to succeed. I’ve never had a sketchbook that I’ve made regular use of before, so small steps seem appropriate. Yes, I’d like to eventually add sketches to my blog posts, but that is a goal. It isn’t today; it’s a sometime-in-the-near-future aspiration. And I need to be okay with that.
When I think about it, I realize just how long I’ve been writing for myself and never putting my writing [read: myself] out there for others to see. It takes a while to build up that confidence to put one’s self out there, but that doesn’t mean I need to tear out the pages. When I look back, I’ll be able to see progress from those pages even if I can’t see it now and that is what will build that confidence.
P.S. My kitty Zoey likes to “help” me write my blog posts!