Studio Musings

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ignore the Woman Behind the Curtain

I've been hiding out the past few weeks.  I'm in the middle of several larger projects and there isn't much to see right now, because they're mostly text & illustrations and it feels repetitive to write about the same things over and over.  Yep, I'm still working on my fish patterns - think I finally have a handle on them. 

That's a really good excuse, especially because it's true, yet the real reason I haven't written recently is fear.  Sounds crazy?  It's true, sad as it may sound.

I've had a lot of success in my artistic career in the past six or so months.  My work took first at the Uptown Art Stroll, a local art festival, in their 3D category.  I was invited to speak at the NW Bead Society's annual bazaar and won the people's choice for the Bello Modo challenge.  I wrote a guest post for The Book Designer on my experiences self-publishing Freeform Peyote Beading, and Cyndi over at The Beading Arts just did an amazing artist profile of my work.  I'm delighted to be teaching at Fusion Beads  here in Seattle (one of the best bead store in the country in my humble opinion), and have received word that I'll be teaching two of my classes at a national conference later this year (more on that later).  So things are looking brighter and brighter.  It's been an incredible journey and I am incredibly, incredibly grateful for my good fortune.

More and more often, however, I'm having to use all of my strength not to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.  I have a terrible history of taking artistic u-turns right as things start going well.  Because a little voice inside me warns, "Just wait, sooner or later they're going to pull aside the curtain and see the woman pulling all the gears and levers and realize you're a great and shabby fraud".  This time around, I'm determined not to flee in panic, but it's hard.

I've tried ignoring this fear, shoving it under the rug and into the closet and just keep forging ahead, telling myself that it will get better if I keep on keeping on.  But it's insidious, and rears its head not as fear, but as fatigue, or artist block or ennui.  It dries up my words; more and more often over the past month and a half, I've sat down to write on my blog and the words wouldn't come; nothing was there that seemed worth putting to paper, or computer screen. 

So I decided to write a post about it.  Because I'm guessing I'm not the only one out here with issues revolving around success.  Especially when it's personal success.  My husband is extremely supportive, but I don't think he quite gets it.  As far as he's concerned, I rock (thank you Joe!).  Talking with my friends here locally, it seems to be something that plagues more of my female friends than the opposite sex.  Why?  That I haven't figured out.

I've decided I'll take a multi-step approach to diffusing my fears.  The first, I've been doing all along; I've continued working, even if it's just small things.  Haven't been writing about it, but I'm still stitching, drawing diagrams and mucking around with instructional text.  The second step is right here - sharing this with all of you.  The next step after that?  I'm working on that - we'll see what comes up. 

Actually, I think the next step is asking - have you experienced similar problems?  And how have you overcome or worked through them?  How do we learn to own our own successes?


  1. Great post, Karen. Recently I’ve encountered several posts on this subject (I love synchronicity), and have started to think that maybe these fears, doubts and anxieties are a Spring-thing! At least they seem to be on the increase (growth!) during Spring.

    Anyway, you might be interested in a recent post made by Donna Zagotta addressing fear ( She suggests becoming a fear and anxiety” expert and shares some tips from Eric Maisel, a creativity coach, on dealing with this. It’s an interesting read and an interesting approach. It’s also reassuring that such an accomplished and successful artist suffers the same plights.

    Maybe we need to look at that woman behind the curtain. She just might reveal some great secrets.

  2. Karen, I have similar issues regarding success! Just today, something happened that was mildly irritating, and my silly brain tried to convince me that it was The End Of My Career. So I did what you're doing -- I decided to keep going, even if I just do little things.

    I can understand the feelings you have about the woman behind the curtain. I don't agree with them -- I happen to think you're fantastic -- but I understand. I have feelings like that sometimes, and for me, I know it's because I have really, really high expectations that I've placed on myself for everything I do. Which is probably a form of self-sabotage.

    Congratulations on all your success! In my opinion, you've earned it, and you deserve it. *Hugs.*

  3. Many people, not just artists, think that it is only a matter of time before everyone figures out that they are not that good, smart, talented, etc... It is what keeps us striving and honest.

  4. StlPainter - thanks for the link! Her words definitely resonated, especially that the key to a meaningful creative life might simply be choosing not to flee when the 'dragons' appear.

    I know I'm not alone in my fears, and worried this post might sound 'whiny', but it was my way of fighting some pretty ferocious dragons. And hoped it might help someone else too.

  5. KJ - I think a certain level of self-doubt does indeed keep us striving and honest as you say. But I wonder how many artists, writers, inventors, scientists, etc never let their works see the light of day because their fears grow too strong. I've quite effectively sabotaged my artistic career in the past due to fears - this time I'm determined not to let the fears win.

  6. Karen, I really appreciate your honesty in this post. That wanting to flee when the going gets good is a strong feeling in a lot of people. Myself included. Writing it out or saying it out loud a few times to those that believe in what you do has always helped me tremendously. Staying the course seems to be a constant work in progress.