Fears and art and the fear of failure

“Sometimes you just have to jump out the window and grow wings on the way down.” –Ray Bradbury

In less than a month, I’ll be selling my paintings and prints at Silicon Valley Open Studios. I’ve been preparing. I’ve been painting. I’ve been printing. I think I have a nice body of work to show. Everybody in my life, from the fiddler to my day-job boss and colleagues, has been excited and supportive.

And yet…

The first day of Open Studios, May 3, is my own personal “Follow your Fear Day.”

There are days when I’m nearly paralyzed by fear of the Open Studios experience. Fear of selling my work, fear of meeting the public, fear of competing with other artists.

There’s nothing new about these fears nor are they my fears alone. The Skinny Artist has a post that does a good job describing the 5 fears that can destroy an artist, and I have to admit, I suffer from all of them.

What, exactly am I afraid of? Well, it’s sort of a nebulous, nameless fear that involves people sneering at me, total failure, and a recurring nightmare of showing up at prom in curlers and pajamas. So let me break these things down and try to dispel them, if not for you, than at least for me.

Failure is a state of mind

Michael Jordan famously said, “I accept failure…I can’t accept not trying.” But my wonderful fiddler puts it another way:

“There are no failures, only experiments for gathering data in order to learn.”

I can do that. I like science, and although I’m not a scientist, I appreciate the scientific method. So I’m trying to be a dispassionate observer as I work towards May 3. I tell myself, I’m simply gathering data. I’m taking notes on the whole process of setting up a tent, sitting with my work displayed, and meeting people. Watching people’s reactions, learning from other artists, practicing my talking skills.  Since, like many artists, I’m shy, meeting and greeting people is the hardest thing for me to do. What will people think?

Who cares what other people think?

Let’s be real here. I do. You do. We all care what our fellow humans think about us; it’s part of the pack mentality. We want to be accepted into the tribe because that’s where our safety rests. And if we don’t belong to the troupe we see coming over the hill,, well, that group of folks may be hostile.

Except I know that most people aren’t hostile. Most people wish others well. And I’m not sure I should care about the ones who don’t wish me well.

Art is a personal choice, and people may not like what I do. That’s fine. That’s got to be fine, because I only can paint like Margaret Sloan (me!) paints. And wherever I am in my particular artistic journey, that’s where I am.

“And then I discovered I was at the dance wearing my pajamas!”

Yes, I’m afraid of forgetting something, of being caught out, of looking stupid. A friend once said to me, “Don’t be afraid of the future. Be prepared for it.” And so I’m spending all my free time getting ready for Open Studios. And when I have those embarrassing dreams, well they’re my dreams; I’m dream-hiring the band Pink Martini to play  “Tempo Perdido” while I shake it like there’s no tomorrow. Because damn it, I look pretty good in my pajamas.