I have a problem with confidence. Self-confidence. I became aware of it recently, when I noticed myself explaining over and over again to people (other artists) that I hadn’t done this, or that, I hadn’t, I wasn’t, I couldn’t… because I don’t have the confidence. The first time I said it, I noticed it, and as I continued to explain about my art (about all the things I haven’t been doing), it began to stand out like a sore thumb. ((Coincidentally, I have a sore thumb, too. I sliced open my thumb on the sharp edge of a can of soup late Thursday night, and managed to re-open it Friday night at the art walk. A very friendly artist got me a bandaid when, while talking to her about art/stuff, I began bleeding all over.))
A large piece of that has to do with marketing and self-promotion; it’s a real requirement of effective self-promotion that one displays self-confidence. I know it. I know it, and my self-doubt gets in the way of marketing my art.
There’s more to it than that, though. There’s not having enough confidence to attempt certain types of art, certain subjects. There’s not having the confidence to create large works. There’s not having the confidence to price my art high enough. Even my not having the confidence to do readings, whether poetry or prose, in front of an audience managed to come up Friday night.
I’m sure that, to a certain extent, this relates back to another thing I kept having to explain; I’ve painted 3 things in the last year, and two of them were book covers. The other is a commission I got week before last (which has been a series of headaches, lately; I have damaged & had to re-paint part of it several times, now, in several ways)… though tonight I managed to begin work on another new work of art, and as I keep saying (but hadn’t been doing), I want to get back to creating art again, this year. I had meant to take some time off last year, but not this long… I had meant to study some new art techniques (actually, to finish a correspondence art course I bought years ago and never finished going through – I can’t turn anything in anymore, but I got them to send me all the materials & books) and then get back to creating my own art when I’d got through, but that didn’t much happen, either.
In a way, that last intention was borne from my confidence, or at least my capability; I had reached a point with a painting (or two) where, even before the paint was dry I knew I had mastered my technique (with the tape/knife/paint thing I do, to create crisp intersections between very specific fields of color) and could go no further with it. I’d worked on it in most of my art for about 12 years, and now I execute it as though it were simple. Easy. I’ve mastered it. So I knew I needed to work on learning some new techniques. New things to start from scratch with and work on for years until I began to be happy with the results, then more years until I mastered them, integrating one skill with another and another until, someday, decades from now, I hope to be able to really begin to create art I can actually be fully confident about. So there’s a thing. Even my confidence (in my mastery of a particular technique) just serves to reveal a gaping void (of everything I don’t yet know and can’t yet do) where I only hope to be able to someday begin to fill it in with confidence a spoonful at a time.
I don’t know what to do about it, or whether much ought to be done about it. I know (and see in that last paragraph a reminder of same) that without self-doubt I might not grow, as a person, as an artist, into who I might someday truly be. That I have lived many years being accused of condescension to others, of seeming to believe myself to be superior, and that I don’t want to end up in that place – a place too much confidence can easily lead one to.
Alternatively, perhaps my lack of confidence has been holding me back from some kinds of success. The assumption that my books would never, could never, wouldn’t have ever sold more than a handful of copies … it’s built right into the foundation of my life, now. It’s a core concept behind my decision (years ago, yes, but ongoing with every book, every format, every hour, day, week, year poured into this) to start my own publishing company. It’s like gravity or electromagnetism or love; it’s something I feel all the time. I’m less convicted about my art’s destiny – I don’t have as deep a belief about the audience or market for the paintings, sculptures, and other visual arts I create, though I certainly have my doubts. Either way, these beliefs and doubts have led me along certain narrow paths in my life. I’ve never submitted, or really even seriously considered submitting, my art or my words to galleries, agents, or publishers. With my books I genuinely believe there is no good, Capitalist reason for a publishing company to take on my writing. With my art it feels more like … ignorance? Like I’m floating in space an uncertain distance from a world I can’t quite see, and I don’t know how to get there, or how to find out, or whether I’d be welcome if I tried, or really even what the point would be, if any – so I just pretend the art world isn’t really there, and when I create art I don’t even bother pushing it in their (still really unknown) direction; I just let it go, adrift in space, like me. I just let it go, and I hope.
I’m rambling. I’m writing this after sunrise, but not because I got up early. My sleeping has gone off the rails a bit; fully nocturnal tonight, though shifting by as much as 8 hours (at one end or the other) from day to day. I’ve been feeling pretty low, lately. Thinking about death. Mostly about my own death, which I’m not afraid of, though some thoughts about my wife’s death, which terrifies me… and always seems to lead back to thoughts of taking my own life; I don’t think I’d make it very long if she were gone. For so many reasons. In so many ways. I guess that means that right now I don’t really even have the confidence to live. I don’t have confidence in my own life.
Ugh. I’m going to bed, perchance to sleep. If that doesn’t work, perhaps I’ll go to church in a couple of hours. I’m not happy when my insomnia/insanity puts my schedule at odds with Sunday morning services. But there’s always that question: Is it God’s Will that things happen this way, or was it God’s Will that I choose, and His hope that I’d choose to do things another way? I don’t know. I’m going to bed.