Standing in Your Own Light

First: Thanks to all of you who have said kind, supportive, wonderful things about my 1,500 blog posts. It feels big and I’m proud. There would be no blog without readers and those who leave comments.

For about 12 hours yesterday, WordPress was not accessible to me–I couldn’t get to the blog or read the comments. So I’m a bit behind. Yes, there will still be a drawing, it will still be tonight (if I can get to the blog) but it will take a few days to answer all the comments.

*   *   *
Many of the people who leave comments are artists. All of them are creative, even if they don’t believe it. My first reaction, when I finally could read the comments, was to explain to everyone who said something nice that they were wrong, that I don’t have a lot of energy, and I’m just a creative stumbler with a sense of humor.

And that would be a mistake. The same mistake many artists make. It’s hard to admit to your creativity. Hard to live up to big ideas. Strenuous to live up to your own expectations. But it’s important that you stand up and represent your own creativity. That you stand in your own light.

Never say “just” when you explain how you do your work. If you are a photographer you don’t “just” use a digital camera. If you are a book binder, you don’t “just” stitch folios together. Those are skills you learned and got good at over time. Don’t diminish your skills. You worked hard for them. Explain them with dignity. Your soul deserves that.

When someone offers a compliment, don’t talk about your mistakes. So many artists I praise, immediately show me the mistake in the piece, the error in their plan, the flaw in their thinking. Those mistakes, flaws and error made that piece the thing of beauty (is a joy forever, thank you John Keats). You did all the work–from concept to final polish. The mistakes you made are your private learning tool, and don’t need to be shown to everyone who likes the final product. Knowing your mistakes doesn’t enhance their experience.

Work deeply, learn about yourself, and be proud of what you’ve learned. That’s the difference between an artist who keeps going and one who quits, disappointed in life.

Quinn McDonald is a writer who is working on her second book, The Inner Hero Art Journal: Mixed Media Messages to Your Inner Critic.

35 thoughts on “Standing in Your Own Light

  1. Great bit of advice, especially since I just spent my whole night working on a collage for someone special. When I woke up in the morning I realized I hated it, while others made positive comments. It takes some effort to just accept a compliment without allowing your inner critic to answer negatively for you.

  2. Thanks for the great advice, Quinn! Like April, I too used “just” as a softener but now, after reading your post, I realise it diminishes. I think I used it to avoid coming across like I was full of myself. I also point out my failures when receiving compliments. A re-think is definitely in order.

  3. That simple thank you to a complement can be very hard! On the occasion of your 1,500th post, I want to say how much I enjoy and rely on your writings. I may not always agree, but you make me think and you make me feel good, both rare and valuable things. Thank you.

    • No one agrees with me all the time, Marjorie, in fact, I’ve change my mind on several things throughout the years. Which can be a good thing. But thank you so much for the nice compliment. It made me feel cool and appreciated. (No feeling warm today, it’s still too hot!)

  4. I want you to know that I quote you all the time lately- almost every day, I’m passing along your amazing wisdom in a recipe, an art process, a book, something funny, a common frustration. It’s like I’m having a great conversation every morning with a good and whip-smart friend, then I’m sharing that conversation with everyone else I come in contact with the rest of the day. Thanks for all those blogs- I’m looking forward to lots more!

  5. I had to get out my own way, always comparing my creation to others, and learn how to accept compliments and criticism. If a conversation ensues I enjoy sharing and if not I move on. But your words make me proud to create and share. Thank You.

  6. Quinn, you brought me out of lurking. Yours is the first sight I actually left a comment. I really enjoy and respect your writing and your art. Thank you!

  7. we also have “it is better to give than receive” drummed into us as children . . . but when we turn away compliments we are shutting off someone else’s opportunity to give . . . so when the urge to deflect a compliment arises I try to reframe it as *giving* THEM a chance to do something kind . . . and I try to remember that when I deflect their compliment I am questioning their judgement — how rude is that??

  8. Love your response to a compliment- and so agree with you by the connotaion of the word “just”, I think it’s a huge diminishing word and unless it is really meant to be so, we need to eliminate it from our everyday vocabulary with one exception. Perhaps, it might be kept to the framework of time- getting to the bus stop ” just” in time- before the bus took off… I made a deadline- “just” in time before the window of opportunity closed. But even then, some say- if you missed the
    “just in time” framework, then maybe it wasn’t meant to be! Thanks so much for your continued insights that you share with your readers.

  9. I find it is always easy to notice somebody else saying ‘just’ or trying to tell you they aren’t creative, or turning aside compliments. It is not so easy to notice when we do it ourselves. I wonder why we have such a hard time accepting complements and acknowledging our own work? I have been learning to say thank you when somebody says something about my art, and leave it at that. No explanations about what I did (unless asked) or pointing out why it isn’t as good as I wanted or showing the mistakes that are bound to be there. A simple thank you is enough.

    • You are so right–a simple thank you is plenty. I think we turn away compliments out of several reasons–we feel we don’t deserve them, because we know our weaknesses; we were brought up to not brag; we don’t want to be responsible for our future greatness.

  10. You wrote “it’s important that you stand up and represent your own creativity. That you stand in your own light.” Thats a very hard thing to do-since I’m a pretty shy person-and I don’t necessarily like being the center of attention. But displaying my art makes me have to be in the “light”-and that’s a scary thing! 🙂 It is hard to receive a compliment or even harder to explain what I do and why I do it, or the style I do– but I’m learning, slowly, to be in the light… 🙂

  11. You know, I use “just” a lot. I always felt it was a “softener”. But no, it’s a “weakener”. I learned that in a poetry class; “just” weakens the sentence. Now, you have made this lesson stronger in my mind.

  12. So, WordPress kept you away for 12 hours. I noticed as I am sure you did too.! It is SO unlike you not to respond. As a matter of fact I learned the art of virtual conversing from you. I KNEW something was up. Take your time in responding now. After 1,500 posts, it will all be fine. Thank you!

  13. Sometimes, when I get that compliment where people say, I wish I could do what you do, make things like that, etc., I say thank you and I try to point out to them something that they are good at, better at than me, not necessarily creativity related.

    • It’s hard to receive a compliment without turning it aside or immediately saying something nice back. But when we say, “Thank you, that made my day!” we are allowing someone else to be kind, and that’s a gift to them, too.

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