Thursday, July 22, 2010

With Obligation: Express Yourself

So, I wanted to make a thank you card. Simple enough, right? Unfortunately, the more I thought about it, the more frustrated I became.

Because, you see, I have a slight tendency to over-think things. What started as "I should make a card" quickly turned into "I should paint a scene from our trip to Venice, no, wait, I should create a design from scratch and carve it onto a rubber block and print it onto a card, you know, all in one day because I really need to send this card!"

And that would have been fine except I didn't want to paint a Venetian scene, nor did I want to stay up all night carving blocks and printing cards. I had no good ideas, no inspiration...I couldn't even bring myself to take out my sketchbook, the very idea made me feel bad. All I really wanted to do was make a nice card that would help convey my heartfelt thanks.

This may sound like the same problem as my last post but it's actually different. Because, you see, when I make things for other people, I tend to forget myself in the process. It was not outside my ability to paint or print a card. The problem was that rushing to find inspiration, trying to think of something the recipient would like, thinking "what about this? no, they'll think that's dumb" over and over...well, all I could come up with were total generic ideas until I felt so worthless, so uncreative that I had to walk away from the studio for a while.

This might sound over-dramatic, it being just a card and all, but it's representative of a larger problem. It is so easy to lose myself, my creative self, in an effort to please people, to anticipate what they'll like. This isn't limited to gifts...I also want to please my blog readers and even Ian, knowing full well his aesthetic tastes differ from mine almost completely!

And when I do cave to the pressure, the things I make feel like strangers. Nothing feels worse than accepting praise for something I made merely to please others. I feel like I can't fully claim it as mine because it didn't actually come from me, even though my hands were responsible for making it.

To me, the best part about being a creative person is getting to express myself through my work. It feels like a privilege, something not everyone has the ability to do. And I feel obligated (in a good way!) to explore that further, to look inside and see what's there, to nurture ideas that are important to me, to set aside the ones that are not my own and, most of all, to remember that the only person I need to please is me.

So in case you're wondering, this is the thank you card I ended up making that night:

fabric covered thank you card

It's simple and I love it and I hope you do too...but if you don't, that's ok!