Isolation is a bad thing. At least that's what you feel like when you're being isolated. But what about when you isolate yourself? It never seems so bad then, in fact, to me it feels a bit comforting. I've been used to keeping my own company. As a child I did it for eight years before my brother came along. I don't fear being alone. In fact, I sometimes fear having to share myself for longer periods than I want. Because let's face it...people confuse and over stimulate me.
Still, when learning a new skill or craft, there is much to be gained from getting out in the world and talking shop with your peers. And unfortunately, my pottery network is fairly small and local. In fact, it doesn't extend too much farther than the studio where I throw and a few really wonderful potter pals I've found online. I'm not shy, not by any means. I connect with folks, share, learn and sometimes support when I can. But my bigger issue is a crisis of confidence.
I'm four + years in on this craft. And the only thing that impresses me more than the ground I've covered during that time, is the fact that there is SO much more I don't know. When I do venture out beyond my comfortable inner circle in Texas, I feel insecure when I meet people who have such a depth of knowledge about pottery that it makes me feel like the village idiot. As I interact with new potter pals on facebook and twitter, I wonder if they judge me because I'm in my pottery adolescence. Are they scoffing at what I share online? Do they look at my body of work and roll their eyes with disdain?
The short answer is, probably not. But the thought still nags at me. And then I want to learn everything there is to know to escape that feeling of inadequacy. And I want to make that happen in ten minutes or less, so I can feel "entitled" to share links to my stuff and offer feedback. In an effort to cure my potter insecurity, I'm taking more workshop oriented classes in the coming year, to learn more of the science behind glazing and firing. I'll be learning the ins and outs of maintaining my own studio - as I've decided it's time to make my plan for having one. It's time to get empowered and the only way I know how to do that, is to not linger too long in my own ignorance.
But there's a spiritual exercise in this for me, that goes beyond pottery and extends into other areas of my life. I've always possessed a healthy confidence in my professional abilities, but it falls off in other areas. Part of my reticence as a potter (and as a person) is this underlying and often exaggerated belief that I'm somehow not good enough. It's far too easy for me, in some areas of my life, to count myself out, to assume that I'm still that kid in second grade getting picked on for her frosted pink glasses and scruffy oxfords.
Art and my self esteem are directly related in that sense, because they are both an expression of my creativity. My inner self. My feelings, aesthetic sense, emotions and thoughts all find their way into my work. I feel they will be rejected or mocked, because I've believed that about myself.
It's why I reject compliments, even when I know I'm actively seeking them. *cringe* It's why I hide in the shadows on "shop" conversations among my potter pals. It's why I have avoided shows and competitions. It's why I hide my paintings and never actively pursue more publishing opportunities for the fictional work I've done. All of these roadblocks, stemming from one source. I've gotten better, much better...but it is still there. And no matter how hard or fast you run to try and distance yourself from your perception of self at critical turning points in your life, you will always come back to those touch points and feel they define you. In your minds eye (if you don't reprogram yourself) you're stuck in a moment of your life that you determined a long time ago would represent the way the world will always see you. For some kids, it's that shining moment on stage at a dance recital. For other kids, it's winning the state spelling bee. For other kids, it's being the prom queen. For kids like me, it was being ridiculed for not being in step with everyone else.
I made that awkwardness a coccoon and it's been my comfort for periods of time where I've felt disconnected from everything around me. I chase myself into the corner with thoughts of inadequacy, reminiscent of that moment in the movie Carrie where her mother torments her with pointed finger screeching, "they all gonna LAUGH at you!" Poor, poor Carrie. Poor, poor me. My inner gremlin is a 1970's, Christian cultist, stringy-haired, reclusive abusive curmudgeon. Greeeeaaaaat. And something (besides being aware of it) MUST be done.
Creatively speaking, I'm never going to be in the center of a room pontificating on about anything and everything. That's just not me. But clinging to the corner with my face in the wall isn't exactly working either. So, time to turn another corner. Learning? Check. Chasing off the curmudgeon? Woooorking on it.