When my daughter discovers how to do something new, I applaud her. When she first rolled over. When she walked for the first time. When she makes the “ma-ma-ma-ma” sound anywhere in my vicinity. I praise her with actual applause, with “Good job!” and “Yay!” and with hugs and kisses. Last week, when she successfully climbed up on the couch without assistance, I cheered. On the outside at least.
On the inside, I was freaking out a little. Oh no. This new ability to climb on the furniture means more opportunities to fall. What if she gets too close to the edge? What if she starts climbing the bookshelves? What if can’t keep my eyes glued on her every second and she falls and hurts herself on my watch? One accomplishment. Dozens of fears.
The same thing happens when I try a new creative outlet. I ask for a ukulele for Christmas and actually get one. Yay! But now I actually have to learn how to play. What if it’s too hard? What if I don’t really have time to play it? What if I can never strum and sing at the same time? What if I never become Ingrid Michaelson?
I go to the craft store and buy some new yarn. Yay! It’s so soft and pretty and would make a beautiful hat. But I don’t know how to make a hat. I’ve never followed a pattern before. What if I can’t figure it out? I don’t even hold my knitting needles properly and knit so slowly. What if I wind up with a tangled mess? Better stick to knitting straight stitched scarves. That’s what I know and I’m okay at it, so I’ll just keep only being able to knit one kind of thing.
The problem is that I give much more airtime to the fear than I do the excitement. I don’t do that with my daughter. At least, I try not to. Since last week, she has continued to climb on the couch and has added a few choice arm chairs to her climbing repertoire. And I do my best to cheer her on first and caution her to be careful second.
What if I did that with my creative endeavors? What if I tried letting my cheers outweigh the fears? Campy? Perhaps. But it seems to help my daughter continue to learn new things, so why couldn’t it work on me?
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about our inner artist being a child. If that’s true, then it makes so much sense that taking care of our artistic lives so perfectly parallels raising our kids. We’ve got children running amok in our homes and a creative inner-child begging to join in the fun. We’ve got creative projects that we’ve abandoned or never even started. Each one is a newborn.
We don’t expect newborns to talk or crawl right away. If they did, we would totally freak out. But we load ourselves down with expectations that are just as outrageous. We’re not okay with being beginners. Or perhaps are and we find the “beginner” label so safe that we refuse to try advancing to a new level.The point is, we need to have some compassion for our fledgling forays into creativity. That’s what Week 9 was about: being gentle with our inner artist child.
So that’s what I did. I never learned how to crochet in elementary school even though it was part of the art curriculum. I don’t know how I got away with it, but I managed to never learn. It was too hard. I felt too clumsy trying to do it. Instead, I invented “knot crocheting,” which was taking a piece of yarn and tying knots on top of knots until you got a chain of yarn knots. I thought it was cool and it seemed to produce the same effect as a chain stitch and was far easier, so I thought I had it made. Until the teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to “knot crochet” anymore because it was really “not crocheting” and I was wasting yarn.
This week, a dear friend came to visit who happens to know how to crochet. I feel totally safe with her and if anyone was going to be able to teach me it would be her. So I asked if she would teach me. Not only did she say yes, but she also brought me my very own crochet hook and a new ball of yarn. We didn’t try it until the last night she was here, but eventually we sat down and she walked me through the steps.
It was hard. I felt clumsy. I had trouble keeping the tension in the yarn just right. But I kept going. I finally crocheted. The result was a lumpy, holey creation. And I all I can say is, YAY!