Saturday, November 17, 2007

Listening to your inner voice

An artist friend called today to say she'd been invited to a critique group but didn't want to go. "I've spent my whole life learning to trust my OWN voice," she said. "Why would I want other people telling me what to do with my art?"

I told her about an article I had read just this morning, in Shutterbug Magazine, about how, if you are a successful photographer, you get more and more people -- agents, editors, gallery owners, art directors, family members, friends -- all telling you what to shoot, what works. But since it's the little voice inside you, telling you what to shoot, that got you to this point, you need to keep listening to that little voice.

I read another article today in another magazine (I'm working through a pile of old ones before we go away for Thanksgiving, saving my books for the plane) that said the biggest difference between unsuccessful and successful people is that successful people fail more, and learn from their failures.

So I told my friend about that article as well -- after all, if you listen to your own voice, you'll probably try a few things that don't work. And she said she'd been reading a book about success that offered a simple formula: E+R=O. Sounds kind of simplistic, I thought, but I waited for her explanation. "It IS simple," she said. "Event plus Response equals Outcome."

Our conversation meandered on a while, and then I got off the phone and took the dog for a walk -- which was hard, because my knee had been bothering me all day. But I realized on the walk that the important thing is not that my knee is bothering me, and therefore life is a drag. That would just be E = O. I forget that there's an opportunity to effect a change in the O with my Response.

I can't make the pain go away. But I can stop thinking I must have done something stupid for it to hurt, or that the rest of my life I'll be in pain, or that it's terrible it's a weekend and I can't see a doctor. I can just stay with the feeling of soreness, maybe take some ibuprofen, and see what I learn about myself, about the world, about pain from paying attention. Maybe there's a message there? That R, my response, is a chance to make a difference.

So then I thought I wanted to blog about it. What would the right photo be? Something, I thought, that I had taken for fun, prompted by the small voice within. And here's what came up.

It's not a great photo, by any stretch of the imagination. It would totally fail a critique. And who but other people who live nearby and see this thing -- Frog Rock, it's called; no surprise there -- every day would realize how funny it is that someone put fangs on the frog for Halloween?

But when I looked at it again, I realized the stop sign almost looks like a mirror. And there seems to be a leaf attached to the post, that's sort of waving at the frog. And somehow the picture becomes very sweet, as if even a scary ugly frog wants a little reassurance. And the mirror senses that and wants to acknowledge the frog's concerns.

I know it's all a little silly. And I didn't see any of those things when I took the picture; they only emerge now when I look at it after the fact. And at the time a voice said "this is just a record shot, it has no use, why are you taking this?"

But maybe even this little "record shot" has a message, and maybe that's why the inner voice encouraged me to take the picture. Maybe it's a way of saying that if you sit with the scary things that come along in life, they become less scary... even, sometimes, endearing. It may take a while -- a long while. Or, like the pain in my knee, once you pay attention, it may just go away. And then you find yourself almost missing it.

But not very much.

And PS: don't you love that this scary old frog has a heart? I didn't even see that when I took the picture.

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