It’s likely no one else has noticed that it’s actually been two full weeks since my last portrait. But oh have I noticed… and been acutely aware of the growing length of time passing by. And still no portrait. The frustrating part is that I’ve actually had the idea for well over a week now… this really powerful visual about the tension of being stuck between two worlds… but still I’ve done absolutely nothing but expertly avoid it. So instead, I decided to share the sketches for the next image and talk a bit about that really freaking annoying thing called resistance.
In every long-term project, resistance will rear its ugly head. Logically, I know this. I’ve done other long-term projects in the past, so I know that there will be points along the road when I will just plain get TIRED of doing it and want to drop everything. I also know this is totally normal and happens to everyone. Yet somehow, I still get completely frustrated with myself when it happens. Which just makes me resist and avoid it more of course. The worst thing about resistance is that I don’t usually know why it’s there or how to make it UNhappen. But I’m thinking what it boils down to is a mixture of exhaustion and fear.
Exhaustion is definitely a big part of it. A long-term project requires a lot of stamina, discipline, and focus. This one in particular is also requiring more and more depth of emotion from me the further I get into it. Mix in a few other variables like commissions and more marketing and trying to locate a publisher for the photo book of the project next year, and it’s easy to start stumbling around and losing focus. This is really the first time on this journey as an artist that I am having to juggle other variables more heavily and also stay committed to the project. And I gotta say… it’s SO not easy!
I’m also flat out TIRED of feeling and examining every last raw emotion that goes through me on a daily basis. This really isn’t anything new. I’ve been feeling exhausted from grieving for two years now. The difference seems to be, that for the first time since my fiancé died, there is beginning to be some room in my heart for things that are not my grief. My counselor has told me this is a huge and awesome shift, that all the hard healing work I’ve been doing all this time is beginning to allow me to embrace more of life again. And it’s a beautiful thing. It means there is suddenly space for new friendships that aren’t focused around grief. It means there is room for new aspects of myself to begin developing – like being a mentor and guide to others, and challenging myself to become healthier and stronger physically. And it’s all really exciting and beautiful – but it’s also pulling me in two very different directions and leaving me exhausted on whole new levels.
And then there is fear. Fear that I won’t finish out the project (despite knowing myself well enough to know that I will NOT allow myself to quit on it). Fear that I’ll run out of good ideas and good images. Why does this keep nagging me? For nearly six months now I’ve proven to myself that the ideas continue to keep flowing – yet still, that fear persists. And of course the fear that once I finish this whole thing, I won’t be able to find a publisher to back it and it will end up in the pile among the myriad of other forgotten projects. And the other side of fear too – fear that it might just blow up into this huge and well-known project and that suddenly there will be all these expectations on me about what I will do after it is done. I think getting so close to the halfway point of this thing is what’s really setting in the fear, because I’m so far in, and so much closer to my end goal, but that’s also where all the pressure lies. Momentum is building, and as it does, it requires more and more energy to harness this beast.
Looking at all of that, it’s no WONDER I’ve been resisting creating my next image. I mean hell, who wouldn’t be? If you were to ask me what the single most important tool is for working past the walls of resistance, I would say to sit down and talk to someone about it. Just discussing this with my counselor for an hour yesterday helped me to see that even if I didn’t get a portrait made this week, I could still create something of value out of this experience and share it here. There is always another way to look at a situation, and sometimes we need another person’s mind to help us out with that. Talking or writing it out also helps it to lose it’s power over us. It gets the block out of our heads which will begin to leave room for us to feel creative again. Somehow just writing this gave me a lot more gusto too… I’m feeling ready to get out there today and make this shoot happen, no matter what. And I’m reminded to not give up. To keep on pushing and challenging and growing and trying. No matter how much resistance might get me stuck sometimes… it’s not the end, its just another part to learn how to work through on this crazy creative journey. Thanks for listening.
"Still, Life" is a year-long self portrait series of living with loss. Based on my own personal journey after the death of my fiancé in 2012, my goal is to explore visually and through words my own internal world of grief and share it as a means of healing. You can find the full collection of images within my Portfolio.