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I like to draw. I fear I suck. Thus, paralyzed.
December 26, 2012 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Creative wibble: Feel like I could do some cool stuff but crippled by insecurity and thus don't sit down and DO IT. Hope me?

Sometimes when I see designs places like spoonflower or on a website that sells patterns (for embroidery, for example), or cute drawings on my tumblr dashboard, I think: I could do that! But then I don't and I want to.

Some background:I like to draw for fun. (I love my career which is very left-brained. This is about my hobby. I have no interest in monetizing it.). I have always loved to doodle & sketch and do get compliments from people who see my notebooks of doodles.

Sometimes I think I could design embroidery patterns (for my own use or to share with friends), or upload a design to make my own fabric patterns or even just have the balls/ovaries to just upload my drawings to my personal blog or tumblr.

But I don't. On one hand, I'm too nervous/embarrassed because I am not a real artist (no training) and my designs tend to be more cartoony/illustrator-y than anything complex or beautiful.
On the other hand, I know some people, myself included, like simple, stylized designs and I have seen some stuff that makes me think I could do things just as good (even typing this makes me feel like I should be smacked for hubris!)

How can I get past this? Should I? Is there a a secret to getting past the insecurity or is the insecurity a sign that maybe I should not subject my doodlings to the world at large? Sometimes the fear keeps me from putting pen to paper and that sucks because drawing is so much fun.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
 
DO IT! Upload your drawings! Find a group of people to cheer you on for what's good and provide productive criticism on what can be better. A friend of mine just linked to this from a fanfic-writer about the value of a community to provide that, for example.

Or just listen to "Die Vampire, Die! from [title of show] a few times when you need a little bit of creative confidence.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:11 PM on December 26, 2012


I have "The Terrible Play," which is something I keep writing on when I feel like a shitty playwright.

"The Terrible Play" is meant to be, well, terrible. Bad dialogue, hackneyed situations, terrible grammar. Whatever. I just use it to write because I can't make mistakes on it, and it keeps me in the act of writing. This always helps me free up to work on plays that I care about.
posted by xingcat at 3:12 PM on December 26, 2012 [18 favorites]


Yes, your stuff will suck compared to the best of the Internet. I was the worst mathematician in my grad program. I code worse than my co-workers. It doesn't mean I am not good at those things.

Not everything you make has to be the best, or appeal to everyone. Make what you make, focus on the strengths. If people like it, and that matters, then make more, focusing on the parts they like.

It's a big world, and it can always use more art of the everyday. Beautify the things around you and you are doing an awesome, and hoping me :)
posted by gregglind at 3:13 PM on December 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


"Start anywhere." --John Cage

Forget about the embroidery stuff for now and just think of them as drawings you're posting. The key to getting past the insecurity is ignoring it and finding that it was only holding you back. Just take the easiest steps possible: buying a scanner, for instance.
posted by rhizome at 3:15 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ira Glass on the gap between taste and skill as a beginner in a creative field.
posted by mollymayhem at 3:21 PM on December 26, 2012 [9 favorites]


I like to draw and paint. My creativity hack is to self-identify as an art student, not an artist. That way, everything I create is a learning experience -- and I take that learning experience seriously, by contemplating what was successful and what was not, and applying those lessons to the next piece. That way, I can't go wrong. If something I create is good enough to share, sell, or even to hang on my own wall, it's a bonus.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:39 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone feels like this. Everyone. Everyone. Those who are successful do it anyway. In many cases, people with substantially less talent but an ability to commit and finish will far outpace their peers, simply by having any finished product at all.

And like others have said, it's fine to consider yourself perpetually a work in progress. Maybe start your blog about the process of learning how to make and complete these things you want to work on. Get used to embracing your art as something that you know for absolutely sure that when you look back on it in 10 years, you're going to roll your eyes at how - ugh - ten years ago it is.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:58 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


don't stress yourself out. if you enjoy what you do then you should do it for the enjoyment alone. you'll be surprised at how good you can get at something simply by doing it, a lot.

i love what i do. it gives me great joy when i get to make art and more so now as i get older and find that i'm actually quite good at it and the things that i once only dreamed of being able to do are now just my basic way of doing things. and i love knowing that i have years more of depth and development to go. but, i also know that i wouldn't be any good at what i do if i hadn't been doing it for so long. i'm not special or extraordinarily talented, i'm just persistent.

i did go to art school and this is something that multiple art teachers told me "no matter how talented someone is it doesn't matter if they don't do the work." even my high school art teacher said "it's not the talented people who make it, it's the ones who keep working." even Matisse went to drawing classes at his old school and drew with the students everyday.

to pass on what a friend once repeated from his yoga guru "do your practice and the rest will follow." that same friend started yoga with a bad back and numerous other issues and after he'd been doing yoga for about a year he showed me how he could go into a back bend from a standing position and then straighten back up.

the key is to just go for and screw what anybody else thinks. i second the notion of the "Terrible Play" although in my case it's the bad drawing(s). i work on lots of things at the same time and constantly rotate between them. when i reach a stalemate on one piece i hop to the next. sometimes i'll come across something that i haven't seen in a while and that i once abandoned in frustration only to discover that it's actually not bad and that i now have the solution for finishing it. the "Terrible" pieces are the ones i'm not afraid to ruin because i already hate them and am not afraid to change them radically because i'm not trying to preserve a part that i like. sometimes these are the pieces that turn out the best because i've worked on them the most.

also, if you find someone whose work you admire you should try to find out what inspires them and then go look at that. copy things to find out how they work. make big beautiful mistakes and then try to figure out what makes them mistakes and proceed from there.

just don't discourage yourself, that's what family is for. the world is sucky and boring enough on its own without talking yourself out of happiness.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 4:08 PM on December 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


You have to bite the bullet and just do it. And the more times you do it, the more you will beat back the fear and gain confidence.

A couple of good short vids that could help: Building Confidence, Breaking Through Artist's Block

And you might want to check out Steven Pressfield's The War of Art

But seriously just go for it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:25 PM on December 26, 2012


I have this "problem", the very same, exact thing you're describing. There's always an excuse to not try because someone does it better or because I'm not trained or because...anything. And (at one point) I was very interested in the same things you mention: crafting, embroidery, fabric design, etc etc etc.

And then, one day, spurred on by the want to create something that might get me paid so I could continue hanging out with my toddler at home all day (read: necessity), I just did some stuff. I kept it close to me at first. I showed my mother and some friends and got good feedback. No one said "Shit, youandiandaflame, that is hellaciously awful!". So I took that as a compliment and I kept on doing it. For a very, very long time no one saw anything I did. This fear related to anything I crafted then and now, it's moved on to nearly anything I write. I fight my mother when she wants to read something I've written or see something I've hand lettered, I cringe when someone tells me something I've written is beautiful, and I die nearly every time that I put a large piece that's taken me a good chunk of time to write out into the world. But I do it. I do it for me and then it's done.

Just for some motivation, there's this for you: I did all of this, thinking I'd never show it to anyone and then it turned into things. Some of the crafty bits turned into a blog read by 2 people (Hi, Mom!). Then it was read by thousands. Then my designs got published. Then I felt really good. Some of it turned into something real and while I still figure people are just being kind when they compliment something I've done, it still feels good even if my crazy brain convinces me, with it's dreaded fear, that they're just lying. It still feels good. I still feel proud of myself. I bet if you do it and ease into it the same thing will happen to you.

As for what you can do to get yourself moving? Draw something. Get to a point where YOU are proud of it, whether that takes 15 minutes or 17 days. And then upload it to a flickr group. Say, one centered on illustration or throw it up on tumblr. Start a blog and keep it private for a while, if that alleviates some of your anxiety. Don't check any of those avenues incessantly for comments but instead, put them out there and let them live independently of what you think about them. It might be that no one gives a shit. But it also might very well be that someone thinks you're fantastic at what you enjoy doing in your spare time.

But really, I cannot stress enough the whole "something you're proud of" bit (to quote myself, ugh, sorry). In the end if no one ever says something you did was nice, at least you'll have something that you are proud of. It's something that made you happy and you like it and that's all that matters.

Fwiw, I think you can do it. I think you should do it. Good luck :).
posted by youandiandaflame at 4:35 PM on December 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you don't use your capabilities, they don't develop and get better. If you draw, sketch, paint, etc., your skill will develop and you will get better. Take some classes, too; you may enjoy meeting new people, and you will get specific technical help to improve your work, which is enjoyable. Practice really makes you better, so get started, and enjoy yourself.
posted by theora55 at 4:46 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was once able to draw quite respectably well but then I let all my skillz get very cold for a very long time (basically all the long years while I was raising kids.) When the last of 'em moved away from home I tried to start drawing again. OMG how I sucked! I cringed to look at what I was producing. I thought "Will it ever start to come back?" I knew (in theory) that it would come back, slowly, if I persisted and kept plugging away at it. Fat lot of good that did me. It was unbelieveably hard to make myself keep plodding onward, and so easy-peasy to dawdle and give up.

Here's one thing that helped me persist, and that was to take advantage of the astounding improvement in computers that happened while I wasn't drawing. If I started something new and actually liked my progress so far, but got cold feet about continuing for fear that my next pen stroke would be irrecoverably wrong and ruin it, I would scan and save a copy of the unruined version before going on. YMMV but for me it turned out that this provided the same feeling of security as doing incremental backups of music you're recording, or code you're developing, or whatever it is you want to create. The crippling fear of losing the whole piece to one dumb decision or clumsy stroke by me was basically cured. Thanks to that I have now reached the point where drawing is no longer a painful duty enforced by my Puritan self pointing at me like Uncle Sam in that poster and nagging me to GBTW on it. However sucky I may still be, It's back to being a pleasure again, something I look forward to doing and stay up too late doing. When you do reach that point, when it starts supplying its own energy... well, maybe you aren't Rembrandt yet and maybe you'll never be Rembrandt but you're right where you want to be. You're doing art, you are an artist. However minor, You ARE a f*cking artist. Best of luck to you. Or rather, like they say in the Jungle Book, "Good hunting!"
posted by jfuller at 6:24 PM on December 26, 2012


Doodles are fascinating and enjoyable to look at, scribbled on receipts or grocery lists or the margins of a newspaper or anywhere. I make art for a living but still very much love looking at little freehand scribbles made by amateur or professional hands... especially goofy stuff scrawled in textbooks (wasn't there an FPP like that?) Anyhow.. if you enjoy doing it, chances are good that it's going to be interesting to look at, if only as an artifact of an idle hand. Scan things and put them up somewhere. Spoonflower doesn't have to be public, you know. Make a picture and get it made as a sticker or something. Doodling is really a bit like playing, isn't it? Doing stuff WITH your doodles can be like that too. They don't have to be great. Look how many people put those stick figure decals on their car. Look at webcomics like Hyperbole And A Half and The Oatmeal - people can definitely enjoy looking at unpolished stuff. TL;DR: keep the fun in it. If you enjoy doing it, it's worth doing, and you may as well share it. If you decide to improve, improve because better skills make it even more fun.
posted by Lou Stuells at 9:25 PM on December 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


For me, these two things help:

1. absolute permission - encouragement, even - to suck
2. a ridiculous deadline that reinforces that permission to suck

I've been able to create those conditions through my own personal Immersion Composition Society. I write songs, but I also draw, and the same concept applies.

Here's the original idea - easily adapted, as you'll see:

Find a few like-minded folks and set up a game day, on which you are required to create TWENTY SONGS within ONE DAY. It's impossible! It can't be done! ... which is exactly what you need to JUST DO IT.

Last time I did this, I wrote ten songs in eleven hours (which was all the time I had to myself that day). Of the ten, most are completely forgettable and not even real songs (the rule is, "if it has a title, it counts as a song", and one of my songs from that day is just me singing single-digit numbers over the most basic three-chord progression imaginable). But there's one song I like pretty well - enough that I actually thought about sharing it on the web, as a "hey this is pretty half-assed but I like the idea" kind of thing ... and one is a song I REALLY like, that has some nice turns of phrase and expresses some things I hadn't had the impetus to turn into a song before. I really like that song, and it wouldn't exist without me playing the songwriting game.

So, here's my challenge to you:

Pick a day in January when you can have at least four hours to yourself, uninterrupted. (More time could be better, but you want it to feel like NOT NEARLY ENOUGH TIME.) MeMail me to let me know when you're planning to Play the Game and what your constraints are (10 designs in 4 hours? or what?).

On that day, CREATE TEN DESIGNS. Some of them will be horrible. That's okay. In fact, given your limited time, it's pretty much required.

The next day, see how you feel about it ... and send me a MeMail to let me know you did it, so I can send you a bunch of congratulations. You can post the finished drawings here to Metafilter Projects or not - that's up to you - but it can help to have someone you're accountable to to actually DO THE DRAWINGS or WRITE THE SONGS, and I'll be that person for you.



You can, of course, also do this on a daily basis. To get started, though, you might find it works better to have a Special Day planned, and a seemingly unreachable goal that forces you to do several works in one session.

For example, I'm trying to get myself to draw every day. I'm not terribly successful so far, in that I've probably only done any drawing practice on about 14 of the past 60 days - but that's much better than 0 of the past 60 days.

As an ongoing thing, set up recurring times for yourself to draw, and start each session by telling yourself, "Today, I'm not going to do anything good - I'm just practicing."


I think you'll find that, before long, you won't need to address the worry about being good, because (a) you'll have gotten into a bit of a groove of enjoying drawing for its own sake, and (b) you'll have accidentally created a few things you really like, even without trying - and (c) you'll learn that you'll produce lots of stuff you DON'T really like, and that's okay, and no one ever has to know about those - they can go in a drawer (or the trash bin) and you can just enjoy the ones you DO like.

Good luck! I'll look forward to your MeMail.
posted by kristi at 12:30 PM on December 28, 2012


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