Duct taping the mean girl

Duct taping the mean girl

Every creator painfully experiences the chasm
between his inner vision and its ultimate expression.
–Isaac Bashevis Singer


I came across this quote the other day. Somehow, I thought this only happened to me. There have been so many times when I had a specific idea in mind and the end result was disappointing. Sometimes a project was even an all-out failure.

More often than not, a project turned out “ok”, but a great rift still separated it from my inner vision

What makes you think you are good enough to create art?

It is during times like these when that anxiety-driven voice gains power. “What the hell are you doing? What makes you think you are good enough to create art?”

Soon that voice is no longer a whisper, but a loud, insolent chant. You remember those girls in seventh grade who could hone in on any vulnerability and make a vicious strike? Yeah, those girls. That’s what I’m calling this voice–the mean girl voice.

The trick is to remember that the mean girl voice often lies. If I had listened to that voice 18 years ago, I would still be sitting in some corporate cubicle, trying to duck the next round of budget cuts. Instead, I persisted. I started my own firm providing writing, editing and design services for corporate giants. Yes, I still worked with corporations, but I no longer worked for them. It was incredibly freeing and—guess what!—I was good at it. Take that mean girl voice! Nanny-nanny boo-boo.

Still, I persist

Fast forward to 2014, when I took a leap by creating Paper Calliope and presenting my art to the public. The mean girl voice immediately honed in on the soft underbelly of my professionalism: “Is this really a responsible way to spend your time? Will this pay for that emergency surgery your dog had last week? It’s been a cold winter, big heating bills are coming.”

Still, I persist.

When Mr. Singer’s quotation proves especially true and I’m disappointed in a project, the voice becomes louder. Sometimes this leads to a rut—a long series of disappointing projects.

Still, I persist.

Then one day, something clicks. A project actually starts going well. It is close enough to my inner vision to be satisfying. Not perfect, but good enough.

A snippet of a project that is going swimmingly.

A snippet of a project that is going swimmingly.

That is the magic that has kept me from blogging the last few days. I am elbows deep in an altered trading box (ATB) that is turning out, dare I say, beautifully.

I am preparing this ATB for a magazine’s call for submissions. I don’t know if they will publish my piece since it’s my first submission, and I picked one of the most prestigious magazines out there. Whether they publish it or not, I have already succeeded: I duct-taped the mean girl mouth (and added a little Mod Podge for extra strength), I created a piece I like and I took that first big step toward art publication.

Artist Birgit Kerr recently wrote in her blog, http://birgitkerr.blogspot.com/2014/02/of-splatters-colors-and-process-of.html, “I’m always convinced that I don’t have the ability/technical know-how, talent or whatever else, to actually put on paper what’s in my head. That’s before I’ve even started anything!  And I am usually “right” in that, however, I have found that even though it never ends up exactly like what I see in my head in terms of a picture, it does always seem to carry that energy and evoke the emotion I wanted to portray in the end. So, I push through.”

She added, “When I push through, when I ignore ‘the voices,’ I let go of resistance and enter into allowing. Allowing myself to create what it is I need to express, allowing the painting to become what it needs to be….This being courageous and allowing thing—it’s a daily process.”

Like Birgit, I am pushing through. Maybe my art will never perfectly reflect my inner vision. In fact, it probably won’t. Yet, each day I teach myself that it is still a worthwhile creation of beauty.  This requires daily persistence and courage. Most of all it requires me to ignore that mean girl voice–even if that takes a whole lot of duct tape.


4 Responses »

  1. Yay, that is awesome, Betsy! Way to go on practicing your courage in your art! Can’t wait to see your creations in magazines!
    Who knows, maybe some day the mean girl will come around and you can create something completely new with all that duct tape! 😉

  2. This is a fantastic post. You might think you are alone with the “Mean Girl” voice in your head. Especially when you see the magical works of others that say they hear the mean voices as well. This post will help encourage others – men and women – that are trying to be creative but are stopped by the fear of failure the mean voices continually speak of.

    Congratulations to you for taking the step of getting out of the world of an “Employee” and leaping into the world of “Business Owner”. That is one step that will frighten anyone into believing they have done lost their mind. You have succeeded and you are to be commended for it.

    I see by your next post you are ill. I hope you get well soon and can get this project finished and submitted to the magazine.


    • Thank you Leslie. Yes, I think we all have our own mean girl voice. Guys too! That’s one of the reasons for my blog is to celebrate creativity in the face of, despite of, and because of our own anxieties. Yes, I am finally well. It took more than a week. Ugh. I did manage to get the project done. I posted some of those hilarious moments today. Tomorrow, I plan to show the actual finished project. I actually love how it turned out. Yay!

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