Bad Days, Imposter Syndrome, and Joy

Last Friday I had a bad day. Accumulated tiredness from coming home from Dragon Con and getting back into the swing of our daily routine, I guess. I wanted to go to lunch with friends to help shift my mood, but no one was available on short notice. I tried to make some postcards because I needed them to send as thank you notes, but I ruined an expensive sheet of Mixed Media Paper and was utterly disappointed in the second page I made. I spent the remainder of the day poking around on the internet and playing with a new pile of yarn my mother-in-law shifted from her stash to mine. Nothing went horribly wrong or was life threatening. Some of the day was even pretty enjoyable. It was just a day full of not-so-great things happening one after the other.

And then there’s Impostor Syndrome. A friend on Instagram mentioned experiencing it recently and I flinched in sympathy. I think there’s always a low hum of “everybody knows you don’t know what you are doing” when you’re an artist. At least, it’s always been there for me. Over the past three years, I’ve learned to flat-out ignore it most of the time. I mean, I don’t listen to it. AT ALL.

Except when I do. I’ve had two particularly bad seasons of Impostor Syndrome since I started my Make Something Every Day project. The one I had last year was so bad and lasted for so long that I started the process of getting rid of my art supplies. Why would I need all of that stuff when I’m not any good and no one cares? I would sit in my studio and look at the work on my table, crying. Existential crisis, much? It was awful. My friend’s experience last week reminded me that it will happen to me again, probably many more times.

So why keep showing up? I mean, there are plenty of hobbies that I could be enjoying that don’t require such a large chunk of my soul and self-esteem. I’m a decent cook. With a little practice I could be really good. I’m a super fast crocheter. I could spend more time doing that. I’m a novice at yarn spinning, but if I dedicated myself to that, I bet I could finish some yarn to use. Instead, I wake up every day excited to get to the studio, excited to make something, excited to preserve this year’s unbroken streak of 258 days of making something every day. (Note: I wrote this before my gall bladder surgery on day 255. So I’ve missed one day in 258 days.)

As I’ve worked over the past few years, I’ve discovered a few things about why I keep showing up:

Who I am and what I’m making are fundamentally tied together. I honestly think that if I didn’t have access to any supplies, I’d be drawing in the dirt with my finger, stacking rocks in designs, and braiding weeds together to have an outlet. Making has taken so many forms for me over the years: making clothes for my Barbie when I was little, writing, painting, graphic design, cross-stitch, collage, crochet, spinning, art journaling, and book making, just to name just a few. So while showing up is sometimes hard, it’s impossible to keep myself from creative activities.

There is so much joy in the work for me. I have a list of projects a mile long. I’m working on three traveling art journals right now and there are half a dozen more headed my way in the next few months. I need to make postcards so I have some on hand for swaps and to use as thank yous. I’m pondering ideas for my next series on canvas—two new possibilities are in the works!! I’m looking forward to the next season of Get Messy Art Journal that starts in two weeks. Plus, I want to do a few more pages in my Season of Music altered book before the new season starts. I’m waiting to hear back on a grant I applied for and about a gallery show I’m pitching. I’ve been accepted to be a part of the DecoArt Blogger Outreach Program and I need to plan a few projects for that and order my supplies. I’m writing blog posts now for an appreciative audience. Guys, this is all amazing stuff that I’m kinda shocked that I’m a part of. I love it all so much.

I play with paint, paper, and glue for big chunks of the day. I get to experiment with tools and supplies and make cool things. Every once in a while I surprise myself with something so cool, I wonder who made it while I stepped out for lunch. Then I share it on the magic box and people all over the world think it’s cool too, and some of them are inspired to go make their own cool things in their studios. That’s a perfect day right there. Perfect. Day. No question.

Let’s talk about the people that have cropped up in my life since I’ve started this journey. Some are old friends. Some are new friends. Some inspire me. Some I inspire. Some send me cool things in the mail. Some I mail cool things to. Some tell me about cool opportunities to shoot for. Some I pass along cool opportunities to go for. It’s a community, and I am so thankful for the people who make it into something beautiful.

So yeah, there are bad days—and occasionally bad weeks, too—but the joy that’s there as well! The joy of making and sharing is what I’m addicted to. I’m going to keep showing up, even if some days are hard or things don’t go my way.

What keeps you showing up day after day?