Any Self Doubters Out There?

green man or red

I expect so, especially if you operate in the creative world.

Our heads are littered with quotes from literacy giants – “the worst enemy to creativity is self- doubt“, Sylvia Plath. Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.” William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure. Mm, here lies a problem as self doubt is a trait strongly linked to the artistic temperament. However, I think there is some good news surrounding self doubt.

I recon a little bit of self doubt can be a good thing. It forces you to work right at the margins of what you can achieve. It pushes you to the edge but in doing so it can unleash some of your best work. It demands you to analyse your work very carefully and in doing so it may lead to improvements. It will be uncomfortable but the giddy roller coaster of emotional highs and lows is in itself is a creative process.

A disappointment which leads to self doubt can be motivational. I am speaking from experience here. I’ve been riding high since my linen ties were successfully launched in Brooklyn, New York last month by Scot Street Style. Then, boom, two shows I applied to exhibit at knocked me back. They of course had every right to and had good reasons for their decisions but they were big local shows and ones I really wanted to be part of. It scuppered my plans in one fell swoop. Scunnered.

So I wallow for a few hours in the murky pool of self doubt and ask myself, is it time to change direction? My ego is low and I’m wondering if I was kidding myself attempting to carve out a career in surface design. Self doubt casting its long gloomy shadow over me. But the gloomy shadow prodded my pride. I acknowledged the nagging self doubt, that’s vital – meditation  taught me to acknowledge negative thoughts, we must recognise them, allow them to exist but then put them aside, step past them.

I decide to aim even higher. My new mantra was in place and painful as it was that trusty old self doubt had served me well as my designs were scrubbed up and ready to go. And as it happens, perfectly timed for something rather wonderful that I am very much looking forward to sharing with you soon. So, I say to Shakespeare and to Plath, yes, self doubt can be destructive but it also serves a useful purpose, just give it respect but make darn sure to contain it and push it aside.

Are you a self doubter? If so, how do you deal with it?

A Foray into Mindfullness and Meditation

Ever fancied trying some meditation or learning about mindfullness? Well that’s just what I’ve been doing. You may well ask what this has got to do with colour or form, quite a lot in fact.

path

I will not attempt to describe all the techniques I’ve been learning, far from it, as there are experts who will do just that. I wanted to tell you about three things which really stood out for me which I thought may interest you too, who knows?

1. If you suffer from a lot of ‘chatter’ whirring around in your head when you are attempting to get to sleep, Tara Brach‘s  book, True Refuge, has a brilliant technique to quieten your mind. She asks you to visualise outer space. Most of us will think of a vast and empty place especially compared to our own more solid world. However, she points out “the atoms that make up our own bodies are actually 99.9% empty space and the distance between atoms, and the space within atoms, compared with their mass makes us as spacious internally as the universe we live in” Now visualise the space behind your eyeballs or the space between your ears while thinking about all this space between your atoms. My head which had previously felt ready to explode with a massive ‘to do’ list, suddenly feels quite empty. Voila! Please try it, it really works.

2. Mindfullness and remembering to live in the moment. This isn’t a new concept or even a difficult one and I think most of us are good at this while on holiday but tend to get caught in the rat race as soon as we get home. It’s not difficult to live in the moment while standing in one of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet. These snaps were taken (without any filters or photoshopping) last summer while on holiday in the Plitvicka National Park in Northern Croatia. A stunning natural wonder where I would defy anyone not to live in the moment.

Plitvicka lakes

So, remembering to notice, absorb and appreciate things around me even in a seemingly ordinary normal environment, these pictures were taken looking out of my kitchen window at breakfast time – not one of my best times of day (!) and a time when we are all flying around with tight schedules. However, it was certainly worth pressing ‘pause’ and looking at the sky in Edinburgh last week (again no filters or photoshopping)

Edinburgh sky

3. Visualisation during meditation. My meditation teacher gave our group many different techniques to help ‘let go’ but the most successful method for me, surprise surprise,  involved colour. She told us to imagine our bodies were a transparent glass statue, completely empty inside. She then said ‘scan’ the body with your mind exploring from the head to toes all while visualising it as an empty glass statue. Then she told us to imagine a coloured mist entering our bodies which would gradually fill the empty glass space with colour. The mist would reach and fill all parts from the finger tips to the back of the legs and around the skull. At this point I had a very clear mental picture, and colour (aqua in my case), flooding through my body. After a while we were to imagine the coloured mist sink down through our body as if it were getting heavier and it would flow down our legs (taking with it any negative thoughts) and out the soles of our feet leaving behind our empty glass vessel again. It cleanses your mind. Really.

Ok, so at this point, I might be loosing some of you and you may well be thinking, oh dear, poor niki, she has lost the plot, but fear not! I was a sceptical as anyone else and having been brought up in a purely scientific world which needed proof and results, I didn’t hold high hopes of benefiting from any of this but I was curious and willing (which is all it takes).

So having finished the course and finished Tara Brach’s brilliant book, I admitt I have benefited in several ways. Apart from meeting some highly interesting people on the course, it has unleashed a torrent of new designs – oddly enough, very different from my previous work, so much so, I may well set up a new range with it. The new textiles are not printed yet but I look forward to showing you them soon – they are watercolour and pastel designs which I plan to print onto a fairly heavy 519 gsm linen.

One last thing I really liked from Tara’s book. A group of students were shown a photo, something like this,

gull

and were asked what they saw. Of course they said ‘a bird’ but the spiritualist leader said, ‘sky’ . A  great example of keeping an open mind and looking past the obvious. I liked that a lot.

If you do try any of these techniques, I would love to know how you get on. Training your brain to use slightly different neurological pathways can be pretty interesting.