“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art, be it acting, writing, painting, or living itself, which is the greatest art of all.”
― Ray Bradbury
“Self-consciousness has been my enemy when…”
Self-consciousness has been my enemy when I have too much time to think. This applies not only to my writing or studio work, but to all areas of my life.
Most days, I blast out of the house to go to work ten minutes or so later than I should have. I am clean and presentable, wearing one of several stock outfits that form my workday uniform. I don’t think much about clothes beyond being sure to choose slacks with pockets on freight days. Sometimes a glance in the mirror before I go out the door elicits an “Ugh!” but that’s the end of it. When I get to my job, there is plenty to keep my mind busy.
A different engagement – a meeting, a funeral or a dinner out – can be almost completely derailed by my self-consciousness. When I have time to think about what I’ll wear and how I’ll present myself, nothing is good enough. This makes me look fat, that accentuates my [lack of] height, that makes me look jowly/bow-legged/pigeon-toed/old/trying to look too young/like a stuffed sausage…the list goes on. I will tear through all possibilities, leave the house with rejected clothes covering bed, dresser and chair, and stress all the way to town about how I am really not yet ready to be seen in public.
When I work regularly in the studio, I concentrate on the job at hand. There are specific steps to complete any project. One idea leads to another, so there’s always something to do next. I’m not stalled by waiting for paint or glue or varnish to dry; there is another task to fill the time. I don’t have time to worry about who will like it or who won’t, whether it is “art for the ages” or just a whim. I’m occupied with the work in from of me, and that’s all that matters in that moment.
When I don’t get into the studio for a week, or longer, the story changes. No project seems worthy of my time or attention. My mind fills with doubt. I pull out books, so that other artists can inspire me. They have the opposite effect. The more I look, the more I think, “now that is real art…” and the more I wonder what ever made me think I had something to offer to begin with.
Hurdles like this are difficult, but not impossible. The trick is to ignore the self consciousness long enough to get past it. Soon, whatever event I was heading to will take my mind away from my appearance. Before long, whatever problems I am solving in the studio will become more important than the finished product, and how the world will judge it.