FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….”  For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.

FEEL THE FEAR (And Do It Anyway)*

Share your work, your thoughts, yourself on social media, and own it!

(5 minute read)

There’s a hidden underbelly to using social media to promote our creative work. We don’t talk about it much, it’s quite prevalent, and it can’t really be fixed.

There will always be someone who’s happy to tell you what’s wrong with it: Your style, your subject, your technique, your skill level, your choice of color, theme, title, etc. And also what’s wrong with Y*O*U.

If this happens to you, here are some words of comfort and encouragement.

In 1948, Shirley Jackson’s most famous short story, often included in high school reading/literature classes, “The Lottery” was published in the New Yorker magazine. It generated a (quote) “deluge of complaints” to the editor, and a substantial number of cancelled subscriptions. (Just FYI, the new movie about Jackson is not based on her actual life, according to her son, and contains incredible untruths, as does the book it’s based on. The author says it’s fiction, though it can ‘read’ like a true bio. Although I also hear Elizabeth Moss’s performance is amazing!

One of my all-time favorite mystery writers, Sue Grafton, died before completing her famous “alphabet series” (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, etc. and her last one was Y is for Yesterday. No Z.) She’s won almost every mystery award you can think of, multiple times.) Critics have called her one of the top mystery writers in every category, especially her series. I’ve read them all multiple times.

Out of curiosity, I checked some reviews and ratings on Amazon, while buying her last book. I was shocked to see how many 3-stars and below ratings her books got, usually between 17-19%. One longtime reader gave her 1-star and a terrible review, because she “wrote too much”. (Remember “Too many notes” in the movie Amadeus?)

One of my top three favorite advice-givers, Captain Awkward, is hugely popular, known for her wit, in-depth analysis of what’s going on, her insights, etc. She is an advocate for kinds of good causes and movements, all people, all genders, etc. She has thousands, tens of thousands, of followers, maybe more, including thousands of paying supporters on Patreon.

And yet, she has created a special folder for the deluge of hateful, angry, highly-critical comments she receives on a daily basis, which she doesn’t even read. (She also deletes their comments and blocks them forever after their first rant.)

And we wonder why people hesitate to post their thoughts, their writing, their artwork, their stories online….

I actually wrote a series a while back called “Haters Gonna Hate”, about how we can’t focus on who hates us/our work, we just have to get it out there. I received quite a bit of blowback about using the word “hate”. (Can you spell “irony”?) And another series, Mean People Suck, has truly stood the test of time.

We know that Shirley Jackson persisted and began a highly-popular and highly-respected author (faux movie dialog notwithstanding), as did Sue Grafton. Captain Awkward (aka “Jennifer Peepas”) does not let the haters slow her down for a minute.

Neither should YOU let these people slow YOU down.

I used to engage with nay-sayers, until my team/partner/wise people in my life encouraged me not to even try. I still struggled, hoping to convince those toxic people to simply skip over or delete my posts/emails/columns/articles.

Now,in the movements for justice and equality today, people deep in those movements advise the same: Don’t waste time or energy trying to change someone’s mind. Instead, find ways to support the people/communities/organizations who are already working to change the world for the good.

You could do the same. Delete, mute, block. Move on. And get back to your happy place so you can make your art, and get it out into the world.

It took courage to see the artist in yourself. It took courage to take up brush/pencil/clay/a camera/a microphone/dancing shoes and pursue the work you care about.

It will also take courage to put it out into the world.

I’m reminded of this today from another source: Ginger Davis Allman’s email newsletter The Muse. Allman works in polymer clay, but her wisdom and insights apply to almost any creative endeavor. In today’s article, she concludes, “Best is subjective. Because each of us is different, things resonate with us differently and hit us in different ways. So we each have our own idea of “best” or “favorite”. There IS no best.” Yes, in certain instances, the opinions of others are relevant. But in the end, “the only idea of “best” that matters is your own.”

I get it. I dread reading comments. I’ve gotten some doozies, and it can be daunting. But I’ve worked too hard to get where I am today, and I’ll be darned if I let someone who’s having a bad day/hair day/time/life take me down to their level.

Do your work. Do it for yourself. Take a deep breath and share it with the world, however you can. Be proud of where you are, and be excited about where you’re going.

I wrote some of my best articles when I had no audience. Because, I learned even before my favorite “Sally Forth” comic was published, that it’s not about having an audience….

It’s about having a voice.

You can be afraid. You can worry about being judged. You can worry about feeling ‘less than’. It’s human.

We all want our work to be loved, respected, collected, displayed with joy. Once it leaves our hands, it has its own journey. To be loved now, or in a hundred years (like Van Gogh), or in 10,000 years.

Or forgotten, like so many others lost to us in time. No matter. It’s not where it goes that counts.

It’s what it brought YOU, in the making.

Feel the fear (and do it anyway.)

 

*Thanks and a hat-tip to Susan Jeffers for her amazing book, where this title came from!

DUBLIN LAKE (revisited)

I took a quick road trip Friday. I hadn’t been to Peterborough in quite awhile, even though it’s only 18 miles east of Keene. I was delivering some new work to the Sharon Arts Center, so I had a great excuse to muddle around a little.

I’d just reached a point of clarity and peace with our upcoming move. Some of my fears were huge–Would we find a new circle of friends? Will people in California like my art? Will I find another studio as amazing as the one I have now?? Others are plain silly. Will we find another place to study tai chi? (Yes, Santa Rosa has at least eleven tai chi studios. Which is ten more than Keene, and we only need one.)

What did this remind me of??

It was a foggy day, so white that when I got to Dublin Lake, I couldn’t even see Mount Monadnock from the highway, which runs along the lake on its northern shore.

Shades of gray...Mt. Monadnock just beyond Dublin Lake, from Rte. 101, looking south.
Shades of gray…Mt. Monadnock just beyond Dublin Lake, from Rte. 101, looking south.

The mountain was less than a mile away, behind a wall of white fog, so this seemed really eerie. And beautiful. This is one of my favorite views in New Hampshire, one that never fails to put me in a state of awe and gratitude.

The fog created a sense of agelessness, as if I and the road had become unhitched from time. And as I drove by the waters, I was reminded of a post I wrote back in 2005, in July, on a day much, much warmer than this chilly November weekend. A moment when I was blessed to see how silly so many of my fears actually were.

And so today, “something old”….

DUBLIN LAKE

When my children were babies, there was a spot on Route 101 that used to terrify me.

It’s a majorly curvy section around Dublin Lake which nestles at the foot of Mount Monadnock. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot. But the curves can be tricky to negotiate, especially in winter. And the water comes right up to the side of the road.

Rte. 101 runs right alongside Dublin Lake (or Pond) for a mile or so.
Rte. 101 runs right alongside Dublin Lake (or Pond) for a mile or so.

I would drive by at night in the dead of winter. I would imagine me losing control of the car, going into a skid, and swerving off the road through the ice and into the dark water below.

I imagined terrible scenarios of me struggling to get my babies out of their car seats, forced to make terrible decisions about who to rescue first. I would lie awake at night trying to figure out if I would have time and the strength to get them both out of the car, and wonder whether they would survive the icy waters.

It used to paralyze me.

Later, of course, as they grew older, drives past that lake tended to be more about yelling at them to quit kicking the back of my seat and not to spill their juice on the floor.

Last weekend, my husband cajoled me into going for a dunk in that same spot. We parked by the side of the highway and scrambled down the small incline to the lake. Soon we were standing in ice cold water up to my knees.

That’s right. Up to my knees.

That horrible stretch of water that haunted me for years is only about 18 inches deep.

As I lie awake nights now, listening to the fearful voices in my head, I wonder how many of those fears are also only 18 inches deep.