Every so often as I’m working, I come down with a big case of the stupids.
It starts out with my aesthetic choices somehow feeling off. Suddenly, every brushstroke becomes a painful reminder of how unqualified I am to be a painter. From there, the feeling overwhelms every aspect of my art practice, from my thoughts about individual paintings to my plans for larger projects. I see that my blog is full of useless nattering—my whole website even. And I know that everything I say to people is dumb, meaning that I can’t be much smarter. In other words, I’m stupid.
I don’t think I’m the only artist to ever be afflicted by this sickness, nor the only person for that matter. And as difficult as it is to see beyond stupid when I’m right in the middle of it, I try to remember that self-doubt is a natural part of taking risks.
Growing up, I loved school. (Big nerd.) But I remember as a third grader curling up in my bed, sobbing over my future homework load as a fourth grader. (Tragic nerd.) I was anticipating not being smart of enough to get the work done. Of course, by the time I was a fourth grader, it was fifth grade that had me terrified.
No matter how many times I graduated to the next grade, I was certain I wouldn’t be able to handle the new work load. But I always did, from third grade all the way through a liberal arts degree.
Being an artist is hard. Every time I put a work on public display—either physically or on the Internet—I’m saying that a thing I made is worth looking at. It takes a lot of courage and self-esteem to do that, to believe that what I’m doing should matter to other people.
And part of being able to do that is accepting that the stupids will get to me every so often. When they do, I just need remember the third grader crushed by the academic pressures of fourth grade and smile.