Monday, August 13, 2007


Last night my thirteen year-old daughter had a meltdown...pretty normal for a thirteen year-old girl, right? She managed to annoy every single person in our house trying to convince them how important it was that she slept in a certain bed at my mother's house on Cape Cod. She had all sorts of rationale. If my mother sold the house, which she is considering, and she does not sleep in that bed, then she may never have a chance again. She called it first. She never gets to sleep in that bed......and on and on, with the emotional intensity that only adolescence can bear on such a problem.

This morning it occurred to me that her struggle is about attachment. Attachment to a specific outcome. Without that outcome, she will not possibly enjoy herself....and of course we all are mean to not understand!

And as I was able to separate from the moment and see what was going on, I could also see how we as artists can fall into this trap of attachment. We get an idea. We start working on it, and it doesn't go as planned. Or it doesn't look the way we hoped it would. We have become so attached to the idea, that we are no longer open to other possibilities. It is good or it is terrible. And if it is terrible, it means we are untalented and foolish. I suppose we could say we are adolescent artists when we fall into this trap. :-)

When I learned to let go of attachment to outcome, my work grew the most, and the ideas flowed more easily. I make crap, just like anyone else. Remember Art & Fear? There is a certain need for volume of production to get to the really good stuff. But not feeling too strongly attached to the bad....or the good... is what helps us be open to the exploratory process that is so critical to creativity. We invest so much of our emotions into each piece of work we create, that sometimes we can't just look at it for what it is.

When we are overly attached to an outcome we can not see that we have permission to veer off of our original path. We do not have to always go the same way. When we hit a roadblock, it is an opportunity. An opportunity to discover something you might never have thought about otherwise.

When we are overly attached, our work can be come stuck. Fixed in place. Immutable. We are not open to exploring new paths that reach out from where we are right now. Do you remember as a kid, how much of play was about "exploring". That is the same excitement and openness we need to bring to our work.

This morning, my daughter seemed to have gained some perspective, and her sister may have also responded to my suggestion that she could have a bit of flexibility. Whatever the reason, the drama of last night has evaporated. The car has been loaded, and they are on their way to the Cape for two weeks. I hope to join them for a day or two, later in the week. And then it will be off to Colorado for a computer, no e-mail.....a real change of scenery. I don't know what to expect, but I am open to the possibilities!


Melissa said...

Such a great post - I am a terrible perfectionist and it leads to paralyzing procrastination. About five years ago a pottery teacher told me that "98% of what anyone makes is crap", expressing the same sentiment, that you need to produce volume before the really great stuff materializes. Those were the most freeing words I have ever heard.

Judy said...

Hi Melissa, Thanks for your comments. I found that sentiment was hugely helpful to me as well. Just get in the studio and make "stuff"!

Loretta said...

Judy -
Good luck with your vacation! I'm worried about taking time off myself this summer. I keep thinking that even if I'm not "doing" my brain will still be cranking away.
I'm sure you'll have some great insight for us on the other side.


Being Thirteen is the worst thing that happen to kids and parents. Trust me I went through it 3 times. It just like they walk upstair and someone else come down who looks like your kids but you just don't know them anymore. It will pass and next year it will get better. I can feel your pain. :)

Judy said...

Loretta, the idea of a break, and a change of scenery is what is propelling me through all this drudgery right now. I am sure I will enjoy every minute of it. Do take some time for yourself as well. You have earned it!
And Ponsawan....I'll take being a parent of a 13 y.o. any day over being 13 again! She is a great kid, but she does have those occasional outbursts. But I have learned so much by being a parent....many things I am not sure I would have learned otherwise.