Monday, May 16, 2011

Dealing with Doubts

May & June: Observations on Art & Fear

“Making art can feel dangerous and revealing. Making art is dangerous and revealing. Making art precipitates self-doubt, stirring deep waters that lay between you and what you should be and what you fear you might be. For many people, that alone is enough to prevent their ever getting started at all—and for those who do, trouble isn’t long in coming. Doubts, in fact, soon rise in swarms.”

             Bayles & Orland, from Art & Fear

I am better at dealing with doubts these days—writing doubts. I somehow know how to dodge at least some of the bees that swarm and rise and look like they will attack, leaving me in the fetal position with a thousand creative bites swelling and stinging and calling attention to all to come and see me as the sad and pathetic  person I know myself to be. Ouch, that doesn’t sound like I am better with writing doubts, but I am. Honest. 

However, I still wrestle with creative fear. For years I have wanted to take an African dance class. I lived right by a studio in Brooklyn but I could never make myself sign up. For years I have wanted to study mosaics. I am fascinated with how broken pieces can be put back together to create something glittery and beautiful. Even now in acknowledging both of these creative pursuits out loud, right here in cyberspace, where friends may ask me or hold me to account for trying, I am not sure if I will. I want to…but what if I look like a failure? What if I have two left feet? What if I stink? What if people laugh at me? What if I can’t laugh at myself? What if I need help? What if I look like a fool?

Ok, you know something. Writing these doubts down they look kind of silly.  But what isn’t silly is being able to be with the discomfort of trying, of wanting, and doing and taking an action. It is a skill. It is a muscle that needs developed each time we try something new. V, the man in my life, takes African drumming and has done African dance in a class where he was the only man. He is brave. Braver than me but I hope his ability to deal with doubts rubs off on me. He said about the dancing, “Ah, I don’t care if I am no good. It is fun.”  I want to feel good when dealing with my doubts. I want them to be fun, don’t you?


  1. Try it, Bethany!
    I just started taking a hot yoga class, and the act of being brave has DEFINITELY transferred into my writing.

    I love that they call it "practicing" rather than "doing" or "participating." The gentle nuance of that term helps me overcome my fear of being "bad at it."

    Writing is like that....practicing. I mean, you can always rewrite it.

    Part of my talk this weekend touched on "embracing the hesitation....and weeding through writing/plot choices." Doing something a little bit risky really helped me see that I could embrace the hesitation and choices.

    Nice post!

  2. African dance rocks! I took a course way back in high school, and to this day when I exercise, I use the steps.