Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where Does Confidence Go?

I overcame a major hurdle today. I've been "circling" an idea for a week and a half, brainstorming to determine what technique would best help me represent my idea. Actually, I came up with 3 or 4 ways I could approach the design, and of course, the one that seemed the best was the technique I have the least experience with. And that became the hurdle. For two days I found ways to keep me from beginning, everything from trying to find the "perfect" background fabric to running errands. Today I had no choice but to begin or admit defeat, so I plunged ahead. So what if I've only had one class in free motion embroidery, and that was ages ago? So what if I "ruin" this piece and "waste" fabric and thread? I'll never learn and get better if I don't give it a try. The first few stitches were shaky, but each leaf got better and I became more relaxed and focused. Why had I spent two days lacking the confidence to begin, doubting my ability? No, these are not perfectly done, but they are better than no leaves at all. The jury is still out as to whether I like this method and will enjoy doing more of it, but by the time I finish all of the leaves, I should have enough skill to consider this one more option in my arsenal of design solutions.

When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, I rifled through my mother's box of embroidery floss, found a needle, and stitched very crudely "Surprise! Happy Birthday" on a small scrap of fabric. I was insufferably pleased with myself, thinking it a great piece of work. My mother did not let on otherwise, her pleasure and enthusiasm evident when I presented it to her. She announced that it was perfect for polishing her rings and she promptly placed it in her jewelry box. Many times I witnessed her using it and carefully returning it to its place. She nurtured my confidence.

A few years later, I started sketching - animals mainly. I got pretty good at it, I think, and when I ended up in the hospital several times, I whiled away some of the hours drawing. Several of the nursing staff were young and showed an interest in these, leading me to believe that maybe my drawing was better than I thought. They nurtured my confidence.

So when did I lose my confidence in my ability to draw? For surely I did. It has only been in the last couple of years that I started sketching again to work out some quilt design ideas, all the while telling myself I can't draw so these are only rough sketches. That mentality has kept me locked into other people's patterns when it comes to realistic work. Yet when I push aside the grown-up voice saying, "Who do you think you are?" the child is there reminding me that once I thought I was great. and I was unafraid to try. These stitched leaves are from my own hand. I am nurturing my confidence.

There is a rather dreadful and embarrassing recording of me singing "The Yellow Rose of Texas." I was probably 4, and I thought I was hot stuff. My older brothers were laughing hysterically, but I couldn't understand why. I'd done a fabulous job. Years later when I listened to that record, I was astounded to hear that the only words to the song I knew were "The yellow rose of Texas is the only rose for me!" The rest was just la, la, la and off-key at that...not at all what I remembered. At what point in my development did the laughter sink in and I stopped taking risks to avoid the chance of it? I need to get that little girl back, because I am beginning to realize that creative talent is nothing without the confidence to act on it. We must learn to nurture that.

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