"Your work has a naivete to it."
I vividly remember being really hurt by this comment written by one of the course tutors on my latest project back when I was at university. There was a lot of praise there, but of course I honed in on what I presumed was a damning comment..
Immediately I jumped to the conclusion she was saying I was a bit stupid and my work was childish. Cue incoming shame storm here. That 'naivete' word shone out light a beacon highlighting my own lack of worth and talent. It didn't feel good.
A week later (yup, I let it fester in me that long) I gathered the courage to ask her exactly what she meant by that comment. Her response surprised me (and I've never forgotten it).
"Well, I could see that you had been on a honest journey. A number of your class seemed intent on bending the project towards something they considered trendy and deep. Yours was refreshingly true to you - it was led by your questions, and you followed them innocently wherever they took you."
I must've looked a little gobsmacked, because she then gave me a crinkled half smile, pointed at the comment with a long fingernail, and said "By naive, I meant, without contrivance." Then proceeded to chuckle to herself as she walked off.
I find myself thinking of this conversation as I near launching this website. I wonder how I got here, finding the courage to do something like this after years and years of wishing to. And I think I now realise.
It was because for once, instead of pushing for the outcome I thought I wanted and beating myself with negative self-talk, I followed my questions. I moved without contrivance.
I innocently followed my curiosity.
I gave myself permission to just give up on the presumed end product, and just MAKE. And got really curious about what I liked, what I didn't like, what I thought I should like and why I thought that. Each piece I made created a new question, a new direction. I didn't ever get stuck, because I could just look at the step I'd just taken, and say to myself - what would the next small step be?
It's incredible where that light-hearted curiosity has led. This isn't the kind of art work I expected to be making, but I know that it's truly, at this stage in my life, exactly what I want to be making. And with that conviction, the courage has followed suit.
I'm finally able to put my work out there, despite the usual lack of self-esteem and fear of ridicule, because I'm honestly loving what I'm doing and enjoying what I'm learning along the way. If someone out there likes it enough to want a piece of it, that is pure cream cheese icing with caramel sauce on the cake.
Curiosity focuses on the process. The journey becomes far more important than the destination, because despite not knowing exactly where you'll end up, you'll know you were always meant to be there all along. And that knowledge breathes courage into your actions.
Curiosity begs the question - what if? It's a small voice saying that there's something worth looking into, something quietly tugging at the strings, pulling you forward.
And for me, it's pulled me to share my creativity in bolder ways than I thought I had in me.
So I have questions for you.
Where would your curiosity take you?
What would happen if you focused on discovery instead of accomplishment?
Where would you end up if you stopped forcibly hacking yourself a path, and instead followed the breadcrumbs left for you by parts of yourself you had forgotten?
What questions would you follow?
Whatever your answers are, I hope that you follow them innocently wherever they take you.