Analyzing the road less travelled or your creative process
When living your life as a creative, maker of dolls and little people, self-doubt always creeps in. In the long hours of doll-making tasks, you start a lot of ruminating or mulling of ideas, at least I do. Always with notebook close by to write down things I must do and don’t want to forget, measurements of something I’m working on, or beautiful new words I listen to in the audio books or podcasts that are usually percolating the sound waves of my studio, I mostly write it all in there. I was tidying up said notebook this week and noticed a few ill-scribbled thoughts: anxious, craving new, self-confidence, anguish.
I immediately knew the time of the day and the particular circumstances that prompted said words, albeit they were written down on very different days and for extremely different reasons but they all had the same vein in common: self-doubt as a creator. Wether you make dolls (like me), or photographs (like me), or write stories (like me), are a mother (like me), etc. self-doubt plays a very important role on your creative path. The constant questioning sounds something like this: Will I create a doll next that I am proud of? will I ever take another photograph where my doll and her beauty comes actually through? will I write another story from the heart again? am I doing the best I can as a mother?
I’ve received a few comments here or there where people assume I do not have crippling self-doubt about what I create. They think that because I create the dolls I make I must therefore sit in a very comfortable armchair where I am allowed a cushy point of view of my doll domain. Furthest thing from the truth I tell you. Doubts and pain are the thoughts and emotions of the day whenever I create a doll.
I work very hard to pull someone from that wool and fabric, someone I’ve never seen before, something different, new and exciting every time, that I am physically exhausted not just from the actual doll making (which is hard on your back and hands), but from the constant emotional ride. I choose to see it though as a path for self-knowledge. Analyzing my responses to the stimulus received from the world, which miraculously materializes in doll form but also examining motivation. Always examining the motives behind the doll I'm creating. What is it I saw that sparked this face? why am I making this doll? what or who am I trying to convey? what memory is locked inside her or him?.
Doubts and the brainstorm they create are beneficial to me, on so many levels. They motivate me to pay attention to my environment, my actual home and roads and views, to notice the beauty that surrounds me and draw from that. I do not wish to create dolls fashioned after trends (even though my work has to stay current to an extent) or other people’s ideas, I much rather strive and always have, created dolls after my own tune. This is much easier than it sounds, although the other road is pretty comfortable and therefore much travelled. It is so easy to see a doll and be inspired by it, to re-create the eyes, the mouth, the outfit, the posing, the way the knees pop or even the world of the doll maker that inspired it. But is it really your work? where would I be in that creation, other than my hands made it? The two things are not the same. Creating dolls to your own tune is easier because you don’t have to look around, to what anybody else is making, but you have to look within.
Another dialogue forever in the burner is one that goes like this:
Is the doll I am creating, will she be loved? appreciated? nothing you can do about that, you just have to put it out there and let it go.
Is he or she going to be well made? we can work to the best of our skills, always trying to learn new things and master new techniques, to ensure our work is of the topmost quality. Put a doll out there that you are incredibly proud of, then let go and make another one.
Is this doll going to leave a mark in the world? In the world at large? probably not. But you are creating a body of work, you are leaving a trail behind of your journey as a creator, and that is worth celebrating I think. Paying attention to the steps and where they are taking you. Only you are responsible of such path. You choose where you are headed.
I constantly examine the provenance of the things I make because I strive to see patterns, and mostly I want to see the thought process that took me there. I find it so inspiring to read a book to my girls and taste the words in my mouth, and let the adventures and characters dance in my head. Months later I see some of that content in a dress, a smile or a word I used. So yes, I do use it as a spring of ideas but not to re-create, but to origin. Online visual stimulation though is overwhelming and I discourage it as much as I can. Comparing yourself to what other doll makers are creating is the death of your creative well, creating after what other doll makers are producing turns you into a follower. I rather go my own way, although sometimes that can be lonely, scary and full of doubts wether the changes you are making are well-thought of, how will they be received and is your direction the right to move forward.
Creating of any kind brings forth a lot of emotion and this is not always welcomed. Neither by you, your family or your customers. Doubting every step of the way is unhealthy too. A good dose of self-doubt though can align your purposes, your intention, and take you by the hand to create from a place of humility in which wonderful things do and will happen. Instead of creating by comparison, use your imagination to make something different. Not for difference-sake, but to nurture those things that make you unique, the things that interest you, that make you who you are.
In a world addicted to instant gratification, doll making is almost an act of rebellion. You are choosing to work against that river, though mostly feels like an ocean. Creating one of a kind “articles” that become people. Instead of mass produced, or produced in bulk, you create one by one. With your two hands. The satisfaction from doll making takes long, long hours of creative work. The emotional struggle of being creative can be crippling, yes; but it’s also the means of analyzing your own path, or at least the process of your work.
Thoughts are very powerful. While doubt is there, have a little faith in you. That’s what I try to do anyways. If your work is needed, it will have a mark, leave a mark. If not, you will eventually find your way. Are you someone who struggles with doubt, like me? How do you cope with it when you are creating? when you are making changes necessary to your growth but that are new and perhaps a little scary to venture in?.
I hope this was not too depressing to read, I just wanted to bring a little light into my creating process, and for you to understand that I do not feel certain of my creativity, I just keep trying, drinking it all in and letting it all seep through.
I hope you have a sun-filled weekend, perhaps where you challenge yourself and your self-doubts.