(A post for The Next Chapter’s current book blogging of The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women by Gail McMeekin)
Note: I’d meant to catch up all my 12 Secrets responses in one post, since I’d fallen behind schedule, but darn it if each chapter isn’t eliciting a strong—and long—response that I that can’t possibly keep in just one post, lol!
Wow. This chapter really drudged up a lot of emotions for me, and got me thinking about things. My first response as I began the chapter was, “Oh, I value my abilities and can give the finger to critics!” But then as I read, I remembered things, and started to think about them…and realized oh boy, I’ve got stuff to deal with.
This chapter helds lots and lots of gems for me. I loved naming the problems “gremlins,” and I loved this quote: “To become a woman who expresses her creativity, as opposed to a woman who just dreams about it, mastering these nasty gremlins becomes an essential competence.”
I’ve not yet mastered mine yet, but I’m working on them. Well, I suppose I’ve conquered one so far, the one that said I’m not an artist so why bother trying? Well, I’m trying. And *I* like what I’m doing, and I think that’s a foundational key. In this chapter McMeekin talks about having a firm base from which to work from, to better withstand all the tulmultuous ups & downs of a creative life, and I think truly enjoying & loving my work is a great first step. My hope is that if someone ever says to me, “Wow, that’s crap!” I can calmly shrug and say, “To you, perhaps, but who cares? I love it!” This will be part of my “self-defense” that McMeekin mentions.
While reading this chapter I also started to remember some of my own old wounds. I remembered being humiliated at a riding clinic ages ago (I used to ride & show horses) by an internationally-renowned instructor/rider, who had been one of the riders I looked up to. He had good things to say about my riding, but qualified them with blunt comments about my size! (I wasn’t overweight, but my legs were a bit “larger” than other riders, and to him correct form/style included thin thighs; without them/the correct look, I wasn’t a serious rider.) I remembered being so crushed, so deeply hurt that I don’t think I rode much after that, and soon stopped altogether.
Another memory was of being harshly criticized during a fiction-writing class in graduate school—not because my writing was bad (she never even got around to discussing the actual writing), but because I’d dared to write “genre” fiction in a graduate class. Furious and stunned, I got a bit lippy in my anger (“‘Genre’ fiction isn’t appropriate in grad school? And just what do you call a book like Frankenstein?!”) and stormed out of the class, slamming the door, never to return.
Dealing with really bad responses? Obviously not my forte.
I also recall a former “friend” who tried to discredit me while I did my first informal discussion about Reiki. I was able to somehow keep my cool during the talk, while inside I was screaming, and afterward the others at the talk were beyond kind and had nothing but good things to say. That time I was able to process it better and realize the episode was about her issues, not mine, and it was a very clear signal that the “friendship” had been a farce.
The “vulnerability to the judgements of others” as McMeekin writes about is foremost in my mind as memories of these past events roll through my head, not unlike rumbling steamrollers billowing black smoke into my soul. Joanne Rossman’s quote rings particularly true: “There’s a strong voice inside me that says, ‘Who do you think you are?'” My mind continues with, “Just because you are a good rider, a decent writer, a developing healer does not mean that you have the right to put those things out in the world—no one cares about those things, they’ll rip you down for everything else!”
This is the gremlin I’m wrestling with these days. In this vein, a couple of quotes by McMeekin are particularly important to me:
“When we put ourselves out there, we open ourselves up to possible attack. We have to defend ourselves, make sound decisions, and hold our stance. …often [other people’s] unresolved shames dictate their response to [creative work]. Saboteurs are potentially everywhere. What’s different about the women profiled in this book is that they transcended those voices of criticism, humiliation, and sometimes cruelty. Mastering the fear and proceeding in spite of it is the best revenge against society’s thrust to keep women voiceless.” (Emphases mine)
Or in my case, mastering my fears is my best revenge against my inner gremlin’s thrust to keep me voiceless.
It’s a continuing but essential battle I know is part of my creativeness, and I’m getting better at it as I get older. (For the record, after I move this year I plan to start riding again, I’m slowly gaining nerve to start putting my fiction out there—storytelling on this blog is me dipping a fraction of my little toe into the vast ocean of “out there”—and I’m also slowly building my Reiki practice. I have identified these three things as something to move forward with no matter what anyone says about it now or in the future, so I’m also working on building that strong base/firm groundedness/rootedness that will help me when I next need it. Sooo easy to write, so much harder to actually do…)