Saturday, October 10, 2009

Struggling with the voices

I woke up a few days ago after having several dreams about creating this image -- or something like it. This is not the first time such things have happened, but always before the images were created using pastels or acrylics; this is the first time I've seen a manipulated photograph in a dream.

So, since I had some free time yesterday, I decided to attempt to recreate it -- always an interesting process, given that dreams are so imprecise. And watching myself as I worked on it, I discovered some interesting voices playing in my head, expressing a lot of tension.

One voice was attempting to hold onto the image in the dream, as if that were the ideal and any thing that doesn't match the dream would definitely fall short of what was required. Not only is that voice a perfectionist, but it was as if the original image came from somewhere outside of me, and was something someone else was expecting me to live up to.

A second voice was making excuses: "But that original picture doesn't exist; I can't find it in my files, so you can't expect me to make an exact replica. I mean, I'll do my best to come close, but..." That voice was doing a lot of whining.

A third voice was attempting to stand up for me: "The dream is just an idea: YOU are the artist, YOU get to choose how to carry it out. And you can choose to add or subtract or change the elements as part of the creative process: this should reflect YOU, not some dream you had; you can improve upon the dream."

A fourth voice was chanting quietly from the corner of the room, where she sat on the floor, hugging her knees and sulking. "You'll never get it done. It'll never be any good. This was a stupid idea. You're not an artist, you're just a player." And a fifth voice was actually sitting at the computer with a frown on her face, trying different solutions and struggling to make it all work while a sixth voice was watching over her shoulder, tapping her foot and telling her to hurry up, she was wasting her valuable time; there are lot of other things to be done here, oh, don't worry about making that line straight, just do it, it's not like you're going to sell it or anything, it's not like it matters...

And then, because #5 listened to #6, we got to the end of the project and that line -- one of the first steps of the process, wasn't straight, and threw the whole piece off. The rush, the compromise, the busy-ness and the fear damaged the whole project, and though I could do some things to compensate, there was a deep regret at the end for not having trusted myself enough to pace myself.

Whooo-EE! Does EVERY artist have all those conflicting tensions? And are all those voices shouting only when I'm trying to respond to some inner prompting of creativity, or are they there all the time? Sitting apart from the project later and attempting to process a completely different situation, I had this vision of a crow with a wounded wing. But the wing has no chance to heal because it's been pinned to the crow's body with a sort of giant staple; one point embedded in its shoulder and the other embedded in its heart. The crow has learned to limp along quite successfully, but there's no hope of flying until the staple is removed.

For some reason that makes me think (who knows why the brain travels these odd paths) about Obama's Nobel Prize. It's fabulous, it's a message of hope and respect from the rest of the world, and he accepted it with all the appropriate grace and humility for all the peace that does not yet exist. And yet there are so many people in this country who are grumbling about it. Where does that grumbling come from? Why are so many people angry with this man who is attempting to tackle so much in so short a time? It is as if my voices are America's voices; as if Obama is trying to bring some reality to this dream we had, that dream articulated in the Declaration of Independence, in our Constitution, in Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and the rest of the country is divided up into perfectionists, worriers, cheerleaders, and nay-sayers; people who are trying to help, people who want to rush things, and gloomy guses who will never be satisfied.

It's a wonder ANY of us ever accomplish ANYthing.


Maureen said...

Our expectations of our selves are difficult enough to meet but layered with the expections of others, they often become impossible.

You cover a lot of ground in this post, from the most personal wrangling with your sense of self as an artist (who, at bottom, can express only who you are as a person), to the nit-picking at our president (who must stay true to himself). So many voices have channeled themselves into Obama's, because that his was the voice that spoke most eloquently to need, that the risk, perhaps, is he loses his own. In that is where fear lies.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... the image is stunning in spite of ... or maybe because of ... all the voices!


Wow, I agree with Maureen that you do cover a lot of ground in this post and I am so happy to have read it! Struggle in creating is something I'm learning to enjoy after NOT creating for so many years, I found now that part of the creation is the frustration, the change, the refinement, the nuance, the start-over:), the anxiety, the sigh of relief and contentment when the product is produced!

Same with Obama paragraph - people saying he should have turned it down to show his lack of arrogance. I thought just the opposite in that turning it down would have been a totally arrogant act. His dream - what a wonderful one - I'm for supporting him in every way to make his dream, our dreams come true.

And, of yes on the last sentence - isn't it a wonder!!!

Great post and beautiful image!