Don’t be afraid to take a big step. You can’t cross a chasm in two small jumps.
–David Lloyd George
Last week we started exploring what Julia calls the “Creative U-Turn.” It often happens just as we are about to have a breakthrough (but of course, we don’t necessarily know this at the time). It’s where suddenly, everything seems to go flat, we sink into discouragement, the first flush of “What if” mysteriously gives way to “What’s the use.”
This happens because we are now, truly, on the road to our artistic identity. And that, after a lifetime of pain and hiding, is scary stuff. This is where it gets real. We have long years of habitual denial and creative anorexia. No wonder we might get scared somewhere along the way.
Some examples she shares include:
- A screenwriter has an agent interested in repping a script with just a few changes. But he somehow just never quite gets around to making those changes.
- A painter is invited into a group show, his first, but inexplicably picks a fight with the gallery owner.
- A poet reads some poems to a very good public reception at the neighborhood open mike night. Instead of building on this, she decides to enter a slam (a sort of boxing match for poets, judged by nonpoets), loses, and stops any and all public readings.
- A lyricist hooks up with a new composer, and they click. They demo three terrific songs to an enthusiastic response, but then somehow get busy and part ways.
- A novice photographer catches the enthusiastic attention of her teacher and gets high marks. But she botches developing one roll of film, quits the class and claims it was boring anyway.
To deal with creative U-turns, we first have to acknowledge that creativity puts us on the line. It exposes us. The more authentic our art is, the more vulnerable we are by sharing it. Yes, creativity can be scary.
(Can I confess that — honestly, sometimes I get very freaked out about exposing my heart and soul here day after day. Especially if I really get to thinking about it!)
So show yourself a little tenderness. This is why the whole idea of an artist child-self is so important. Gentle coaxing, lots of positive reinforcement, and soothing those fears is the way to go. Like they say in AA – Easy Does It.
And it might help to know that virtually every career artist makes a U-turn or two (or more). “Sometimes,” Julia reassures us, “these U-turns are best viewed as recycling times. We come up to a creative jump, run out from it like a skittish horse, then circle the field a few times before trying the fence again.
“Typically, when we take a creative U-turn, we are doubly shamed: first by our fear and second by our reaction to it. Again, let me say it helps to remember that all careers have them.”
Want some examples? Tune in tomorrow!