I recently read the book “A Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. I had pre-ordered it when I was diving head first into minimalism and creating a space to be creative in.
I decided to do yet another purge of the house throwing out a half used and terrible smelling candle, emptying kitchen cupboards. I did it all, except the one room that housed boxes of my creations. The office was a daunting task. I had oh so neatly packed things away into the closet. Everything was as it should be, collecting dust in just the right places.
Cait has a line in her book where she says she moved the same box from place to place without ever even opening it. From one closet to the next for years. I had done that exact same thing. I had moved the same 4 giant boxes of art work from place to place. I gingerly stacked and unstacked those boxes for 5 moves.
This thought marinated for a few days and I finally decided to tackle the room. Of course I started with every shelf and drawer I could find before opening that closet and sliding the boxes out. I pulled out large expandable files filled with notes and sketches from college; none of which made any sense or had any sort of value. I promptly added these to the recycle pile.
Deep breath. I could do this. Not too bad.
I continued to sort through some paintings my parents dropped off from when I was a child. Cute and sentimental, but as I do not plan on a family and my fur babies could care less to look at the disproportionate horse I had drawn, these too could be recycled.
I started to sift through the boxes from college. Pulling out paintings, photographs, block prints, drawings…you name it and I had experimented with it at some point. A thick and twisted knot began to form in my stomach. I realized no one had even looked at these except myself and the occasional professor.
The anxiety and tension grew as I attempted to sort through what I should keep or how to decide if all this creative energy had been wasted. If it was all just crap stuffed in a box.
I sighed. One of those long and terrible sighs that are filled with self doubt and pessimism. I was an unknown. These things I created had lived their lives in boxes.
I realized two things as I gingerly set the boxes in the goodwill van…watching them be moved for one last time. I was a creative. I had been creating everyday since I could remember. This was the upside. The second conviction was really a flaw of sorts, I was terrible at sharing.
I thought about this too for some time. Sharing that is. I wondered why I had opted out of sharing what I had created? Why had I not given the work away as gifts? Why had I not shared my TedTalk on my Facebook page? Why had I not shown my partner or friends any of my drawings or experiments?
The excuses were abundant but all stemmed from the same place. Fear.
My boding fears led to the following narratives which have all taken their place in my inner chantings at some point over the years:
- The work was not good enough
- If I shared it, what would they think?
- People will think I am too proud
- People will think I am vain
- No one wants to see it anyways
- People will not be my friend (how does this make sense?)
- Why would they want to connect with it?
- It is just something I made
From belittling the work to being petrified of judgement it seems only natural then to store the work away in the closet. That was all the respect I was giving it after all.
As I continue to work on myself, these narratives have started to fade. Especially since I started a blog for my phone photography, updated my artists website, opened a new Instagram and of course continue to work on this blog as well. I dived into things like TPT, Skillshare and Etsy to see how sharing work on those platforms could develop.
Sharing does not come naturally to me. While the above platforms are ways of sharing, there is still a component that is creation. Opening websites and starting stores, that is sharing and creating. I think I had this idea that putting everything out there online would be enough.
I know…take a moment to laugh at my ignorance, which was bliss by the way.
I had done almost the same thing as the box. I had created something, put it where it belonged and carried it with me in my online presence. I had shared it with myself and the occasional friend who felt inspired enough to click on whatever I put out there.
I was entirely lacking in building a community.
The First Shares
Considering most of my fear driven narratives were centered around people, it may be of no surprise to you that it was the community part I was struggling with. While I am an extrovert, I am an extrovert with social insecurities.
As a child I was always trying new things or learning something new and I wanted to tell everyone about it as most children do. This optimistic sharing was slowly tampered after a series of unfortunate sharing in the wrong communities.
I learned about sex at a young age (10) because I had picked up the anatomy book and asked questions. I happily shared this information at my friends 12th birthday. Not too big of a deal, except that in a highly conservative religious community I might as well have burned a Bible. I shared what I had learned to a group of people who taught women their worth was in virginity and attempted to convince young people for as long as possible that God put babies inside of people. Not a good choice. It was the last sleepover invite and the girls quickly turned their disapproving glances they were mastering in my direction every Sunday.
Again, at 12 I had been in charge of bringing treats to an event. So excited to share my baking ( a new skill I had learned) I made a two tier cake, cupcakes and ginger bread. While I made sure it was delicious, comments included how over the top I was….how much I had wanted the attention. In this community it was a bad thing to shine a light on you, it needed to only be about God. Needless to say I was not asked to bring anymore treats.
These two instances stand out to me more than the many others that occurred in this community I was raised in. However this pattern of sharing and quickly loosing connections and admiration left a mark on my personality that has directed how often I share and with whom.
These experiences are not directly stopping me from building a community, instead they set up social insecurities early on that I now am working on shaking.
It is certainly a challenge to shake these as well. This is my current self improvement objective. Build a new community of like minded people. Focus energy on groups of people who could benefit from your creations. Create with value, authenticity, and quality in mind.
It is true now, that in the scheme of blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc I am an unknown. I am an unknown creative, except now I no longer have a box of crap because I am giving the work I create respect, and that changes everything. That has allowed the doubting social anxiety voice to fade.
When I pose a question on Twitter that voice will occasionally whisper to me. When people play the follow and unfollow game on Instagram, that voice will whisper again to me. It is a battle I will fight because I am done carting around a box of work I created from closet to closet only to develop a following of dust.
Thanks Cait for writing about your boxes in a closet so I too could have the courage to look at mine.
Fellow creatives, unknown or well known, do these narratives of social anxiety speak to you?