Last week I let a deadline to apply for an art opportunity slip past. It was something I had planned on applying to. It was a date on my calendar, something I'd talked about with other artists who'd encouraged me to apply. It's an opportunity that's been on my radar for ages, one that I'd thought I really wanted to go for, and one in which I had ample opportunity to develop a proposal for.
On the day before it was due, when I still hadn't made a note or put any thoughts to paper about what my proposal should be, I realized I actually didn't want to apply after all.
At first this felt like a harsh reality to me, feeling that my procrastination was simply par for the course, that I'd surely come through at the last minute. That I really wanted this and it would be foolish and self-limiting not to push forward, not to stretch my imagination in this direction, not to piece together a proposal that would be formed of partially considered details and particles of dust. I was afraid that by not applying I'd be denying myself a chance for artistic growth, that I'd be capitulating to unknown fears, and most importantly, that I'd be letting people down.
But why, I began to question myself, if I really want this, have I not had more than flickers of inspiration for the project I'd be proposing? Why have I not had a burning need to flesh out the fleeting, disconnected ideas stuck in my head. Perhaps I'm not ready?
It's truly not a matter of passion, because I have that. I feel as if there's an idea burbling deep in my heart and guts that will someday, maybe even soon, come forth. (There's that volcano imagery again.) But I have a history of talking myself into jumping into things I'm not ready for. I always land on my feet, but that's not what I'm asking for. I want to dive into a project for the undertow to suck me toward the sea bottom, smash me into the sand while waves crash overhead. If I'm going to undertake a project, I want to be ready to engage it, grapple with it. I want it to require me to acknowledge it, fight with it...I'm not there yet.
And I can't force it.
And I also can't spend energy toward work I'm unsure of. At the moment I feel sure, confident, and proud of the work I'm making through Tiger Food Press. I feel like I'm building a foundation. Or maybe a diving board. And I'm confident this work will lead me to the next stage of work, whatever that is. That's the way it goes, I have no reservations.
I'm writing this as a bit of a cathartic exercise. A confessional. But it's also a reckoning. I missed this one opportunity. I've missed countless others, as well. At the same time, after this missed deadline, two unexpected and exciting new opportunities presented themselves. Both are challenging and both feel really welcome and in-line with what I want to work on right now and I'm going for them.
So dear friends and colleagues who are always on my side (thank you!) and who encourage me to do my best: I'm sorry I didn't apply to that thing. For now I'm going to watch you do the thing instead and appreciate how good you are at it. I'll apply next time. :)
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P.S. The image at the top of this post is a detail of page one of the new coloring book I'm working on, which will be finished sometime later this week or early next.