Birthdays and Blocks

5/27/2010 07:50:00 PM Edit This 23 Comments »
I haven't posted anything for a very long time - almost a month.  After being ill, I found myself blocked.  First, a bit of personal history.  Some of you know that I am a registered nurse, although I have been retired now for some time.  I retired quite early.  Anyhow, I spent most of my nursing career in administration at a major hospital in Ann Arbor.  2 years before I retired, I decided I wanted to go back to clinical nursing, and after having been away from it for about 15 years, I decided to take a job in the ER.  Before I actually started there, I hit the books on my own.  There was so much to learn - how to read the monitors, I had to get certified in  advanced cardiac life support - well, you get the idea.  I finally started actually working there, and I have to tell you, I was scared shitless every time I went to work.  It  was a 35 minute drive, and all the way there I was talking to myself, asking myself what in the heck was I doing - was I totally insane?  By the time I got there I had so much adrenalin in my system that every cell in my body was on full alert.  I felt like a fraud.  I was certain that at any moment someone would discover that I had no idea what I was doing.  But here's the thing .... I was good at it ..... I really did know what I was doing, I just didn't believe that I did.  The manager came to me one day and wanted me to be a preceptor to a new nurse in the department!   She also wanted me to train to be a charge nurse.   I was stunned.

So, fast forward to now.  In many ways I feel exactly the same about  my ability to make art as I did about practicing nursing in the ER.  I feel like I don't know how to do it .... any minute now I will be unveiled as a wannabe with absolutely no talent.  Sometimes I feel like there's an elephant standing on top of me.  I know, it's crazy.  I mean, who cares what I do?  What difference does it make?  I can only think that my inner critic has grown to monstrous proportions.  So what to do?

Tomorrow is my birthday - I can't believe it, but I'm going to be 65!!! (which has nothing to do with any of this).  I'm giving myself a present.  I'm going to draw or paint something, and no matter what it looks like, I'm going to post it.  It may not actually get posted until Saturday, but I'm doing it tomorrow.  I don't care what it turns out like, I'm posting it, warts and all.

I'm sorry for the length of this post.  I like to keep them short because I know many of you check out many blogs and long ones take too much time.  But there you are - the next one will be short, I promise.

Oh yeah,  the "blocked" thing was done the last time I was blocked, it's not new.


Anonymous said...

Really? YOU feel like an art fraud? So interesting to me when someone whose work I love to see says that about themselves. Gives me hope one day to give myself some slack. Maybe. LOL. I can't wait until you post!

Ann said...

I hope you have a wonderful birthday!!

I think we all feel the way you do about our art work at some time or another. Have you read Art and Fear? It addresses these issues too. I remember something in there about what separates the artist from the person that could have been an artist isn't as much about talent as it is about not giving up, keeping on working anyway. I think having that desire is what will propel you onward. Of course it doesn't hurt having such a supportive community as EDM! I love seeing what you are working on here, you never fail to inspire me. (I'm still thinking about following your lead and copying masters' drawings but haven't felt quite brave enough yet.) I do look forward to seeing your birthday post - and I seriously doubt I'll see any warts :-)

Alex said...

First of all.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY in advance to you Nancy! ^^
You've been one of the kindest person in the group, and that's why you're an awesome nurse.
Eventhough things aren't not looking pretty at the moment on the artsy side, but it'll come back I am sure ^^ You told me that once too remember. We all stumble upon this phase even once in a while, as long as we don't get stuck in that moment, and can't get out of it, then we're good. If one can live up to 65 and not end up living under the bridge or pushing the WalMart cart around, I am pretty sure you are not the kind that would get stuck for too long =)

Barbara said...

I turned 65 in August and it's been one of my best years. So.... turn that corner and enjoy every minute of your next year! Happy Birthday!!

Unknown said...

Please don't apologise for the length of your post, I for one appreciate your honesty. I have these same doubts and reading your post I can see I am not alone.

You are talented, and I have seen improvement in your drawings since I have been following your blog.

Have a lovely day tomorrow. I look forward to seeing what you produce.
Relax and enjoy it.

Sarah said...

Feeling like a fraud - oh yeah I know that one very well. When I was told I had got a First Class Honours degree, I spent the next six months waiting for someone to ring me up and tell me they were sorry, they'd got it wrong and actually I'd failed! Then I spent my entire academic career waiting to be exposed for a fraud :-)

Sounds to me like you are extraordinarily competent and capable Nancy, I enjoyed reading your post and I'm looking forward to more! And that's some nice lettering there - regardless of when you did it.

Sarah said...

...And happy birthday to you! I think drawing or painting something is a fantastic present. Give yourself permission to just do it.

Autumn Leaves said...

Nancy, I can so relate with your words on the artist wannabe paragraph. I consider myself just that. Not a true artist in any sense of the word. Passion yes, but about life in general, not just art. Love and joy, fear and angst all roiling down to the tip of a shaky pencil or paintbrush and it shows...(the shaking, that is! LOL) I wish a happy birthday and happy painting, good, bad, or ugly. I have to say I've seen some of your pieces here on your blog and I think you are a fine artist.

Jennifer Edwards said...

Happy, HAPPY Birthday to you Nancy!! I hope it is a terrific day for you in all ways, especially creatively. Gosh, you described exactly how I feel about painting...every time! The more frequently I paint, the less that fear is. But if I don't paint for a few days (which life has a way of doing) then I'm back to the pacing, fretting, doing laundry, dishes, straightening, ANYTHING to keep from facing the white paper. Yike! Anyway, it's nice to know it hits others too!

Cathy Holtom said...

Nancy,your post came just as I was sending off my entry for an exhibition and I'm so full of doubts I even wake up in the night worrying about it! But I know if I don't do it I'll regret it, so I make myself even if I don't like the results. I think you just have to keep on making art even when you feel you're not going anywhere after all its the'doing' that gives me the most pleasure.
You have been missed but I hope you are well again and... Have a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! xx

Anonymous said...

No way are you an art fraud Nancy!!! You're a tremendously generous and talented artist.
I too was a nurse in my previous career- I relate totally to your post.
Happy Birthday my friend!

Roadchick said...

Happy Birthday! I hope that your day is wonderful!

I'm sorry you're going through a rough patch right now, but please know that I certainly consider you to be an artist. Your pencil portraits are amazing (and intimidating!!!).

I run into my "inner critic" from time to time and she tells me, "You know, those doodles of yours are not art. Look at what Nancy does. Look at what Alex does. Blah, blah, blah..." I've learned to smack her smartly on the back of the head and keep right on with what I'm doing. LOL

You will be just fine. I promise.

debra morris said...

Wishing you a very Happy Birthday Nancy...we all get blocked at times and have good days and bad....I always find it easier to draw organic things when getting frustrated with drawing
Hope you have a wonderful day!

Timaree said...

Glad you are back Nancy.


And I hope it is a great year for you with being healthy enough to play with art and have fun with it. Have you played with it lately or have you been trying to learn, to push yourself to do more, to ACCOMPLISH something? Give yourself a gift this birthday. Let go of expectations at leat one day a week and just play. Do some collage or scribble with the crayons like we did as kids to see what you can find in the scribbles. Don't consider this as doing "art". Think of this as playtime, relaxing or unwinding time, maybe even just a warm-up for the real stuff. A girl's just gotta have some fun! And if you can do this maybe the excitement will return and you'll have fun again. I don't know if Laure's class is full yet but for
$100 you can take a journaling class just for the fun of it not for the skills although you may pick up a point or two there. I know her class is almost full and might be by now but sometimes something like that will get you loosening up again. When you have little spots of happy, fun art it's easier (at least for me) to stick with the harder challenges of a "real" painting or project.
Good luck. Waiting to see what you post. Go have some cake and ice cream! Draw a balloon and paint it your favorite color. Set it where you'll see it often to tell your own self Happy Birthday!

Bénédicte said...

Happy birthday, bon anniversaire, Nancy. You are very talented and your talents are multiple, art, nursing ...(the one I know). You also have the ability to write and talk about it. Your posts are always interesting and i love your creativity. So, have a great day tomorrow, you are an inspiration and I will be reading when ever you want to write.

Shirley said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY - have an absolutely wonderful day. I loved reading your post, because it is so honest and so true to many of us. I relate so much to these topics of "fear of failure" and "perfectionism" that I save notebooks full of advice about how to get past it. Tomorrow we will look forward to seeing that you overcame your block - even a few marks on a sheet of paper!

Revelle Taillon said...

First, Happy Birthday to a fellow Gemini! We are notorious self critics. Every piece I do I feel I could do better, every piece of art I see looks better than my own. It's dreadful. But I have learned through EDM to just keep doing it every day and miracles can and do happen! Dying to see what you pst! Maybe something you actually like! It DOES happen once in a while... don't give up! Just keep at it!

Unknown said...

Just look at this response! All your friends out here in blogland supporting you! I do hope you have a terrific birthday and that you find your way back soon! oh, and I struggle with this all the time! I feel okay thinking of myself as an artist when I'm sketching, but as soon as I pick up the watercolor brush, I feel like a fraud. Mostly because I have no idea what I'm really doing! I do miss your updates!

lyn said...

Awesome! Your right "just do it" Arn't we all just a work in progress? Every day, every line, is a lesson or at least an exercise. Often at the end of a 2.5 to 3 hour figure drawing session I just start to feel coordinated and things start to go togather right. The struggle leads to at least some satisfaction. Often its the energy or "life" in a drawing or painting that makes it wonderful... not the perfection!
Continued success!

K said...

Nancy, Happy Birthday! You had great weather yesterday. Hope you spent part of it outside or doing something else you love.

I think everyone can relate to having doubts as an artist. Sometimes I'll post something that everyone will rave about and I think to myself, "Why do they like it? It's crap. It's the worst thing I've ever done".

Perhaps like the old adage of smiling when you're down and eventually you'll feel better, if we continue to refer to ourselves as Artists, we'll start to feel like one and we'll have a sense of validity about ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I hope you had a wonderful, wonderful birthday Nancy!!
There is no way in this world that you are an 'art fraud'!! I practically drool over your drawings and the talent behind them. So many of us have these doubts about making art and feel like we aren't real artists (I sure know I feel insecure at this). I wonder if it has anything to do with having other careers and not being formally trained in the arts? Maybe we are identifying and labeling ourselves by our training/schooling. I know in my mind I think of myself as a biochemist even though I haven't been in a lab for years. Just something I've been pondering.....

Lesley Purcell said...

Gosh, reading your post and reading all these amazing comments I just wanted to add a little message too. Yep, I'm another who feels, generally like a complete fraud with the artwork. More often than not when someone complements a piece I believe they are just being kind. I have moments of confidence but they do seem to be overbalanced by the negatives. I'm not really a negative person in any other aspect of my life - but it's art isn't it? It's so very personal. Good on you for confronting the problem and I'm really looking forward to you posting regularly again. Because it will pass, your muse will return.
That's why the EDM group is so fantastic too. I couldn't wish for a better group of people to give such supportive comments. It has helped me tremendously over the past few months.
Stick at it girl!xx
Oh, and happy birthday!! :o)

Anonymous said...

Amazing story! Your success as an ER nurse is commendable. If you can handle that kind of stress, you can easily diffuse your monstrous inner critic in short order & reap the benefits & joy of art-making! Banish those fears! The process of expression is wonderful, the outcome is inconsequential (in my humble opinion). And I'm certain that the more art you make, the happier you'll be with your outcomes anyway. It's a win-win.

Living proof: I started taking piano lessons at 43. I sucked, still do, but less now. But I love it :-) Sometimes, when I balk at trying a new piece on-the-spot, in front of my piano teacher, he says "What's the big deal? Jump in, it's just music. Nobody dies." Same with art.

In the ER however, well... doesn't that make art seem easy in comparison? Happy belated birthday!

Sorry about the long comment-reply, HA!