Home Feminism and Finances The Unknown Creative and a Box

The Unknown Creative and a Box

by Bethany

The Box

I recently read the book “A Year of Less” by Cait Flanders. I had pre-ordered it when I was diving head first into minimalism and creating a space to be creative in.

I decided to do yet another purge of the house throwing out a half used and terrible smelling candle, emptying kitchen cupboards. I did it all, except the one room that housed boxes of my creations. The office was a daunting task. I had oh so neatly packed things away into the closet. Everything was as it should be, collecting dust in just the right places.

Cait has a line in her book where she says she moved the same box from place to place without ever even opening it. From one closet to the next for years. I had done that exact same thing. I had moved the same 4 giant boxes of art work from place to place. I gingerly stacked and unstacked those boxes for 5 moves.

This thought marinated for a few days and I finally decided to tackle the room. Of course I started with every shelf and drawer I could find before opening that closet and sliding the boxes out. I pulled out large expandable files filled with notes and sketches from college; none of which made any sense or had any sort of value. I promptly added these to the recycle pile.

Deep breath. I could do this. Not too bad.

I continued to sort through some paintings my parents dropped off from when I was a child. Cute and sentimental, but as I do not plan on a family and my fur babies could care less to look at the disproportionate horse I had drawn, these too could be recycled.

I started to sift through the boxes from college. Pulling out paintings, photographs, block prints, drawings…you name it and  I had experimented with it at some point. A thick and twisted knot began to form in my stomach. I realized no one had even looked at these except myself and the occasional professor.

The anxiety and tension grew as I attempted to sort through what I should keep or how to decide if all this creative energy had been wasted. If it was all just crap stuffed in a box.

I sighed. One of those long and terrible sighs that are filled with self doubt and pessimism.  I was an unknown. These things I created had lived their lives in boxes.

I realized two things as I gingerly set the boxes in the goodwill van…watching them be moved for one last time. I was a creative. I had been creating everyday since I could remember. This was the upside. The second conviction was really a flaw of sorts, I was terrible at sharing.

The Narrative

I thought about this too for some time. Sharing that is. I wondered why I had opted out of sharing what I had created? Why had I not given the work away as gifts? Why had I not shared my TedTalk on my Facebook page? Why had I not shown my partner or friends any of my drawings or experiments?

The excuses were abundant but all stemmed from the same place. Fear.

My boding fears led to the following narratives which have all taken their place in my inner chantings at some point over the years:

  • The work was not good enough
  • If I shared it, what would they think?
  • People will think I am too proud
  • People will think I am vain
  • No one wants to see it anyways
  • People will not be my friend (how does this make sense?)
  • Why would they want to connect with it?
  • It is just something I made

From belittling the work to being petrified of judgement it seems only natural then to store the work away in the closet. That was all the respect I was giving it after all.

As I continue to work on myself, these narratives have started to fade. Especially  since I started a blog for my phone photography, updated my artists website, opened a new Instagram and of course continue to work on this blog as well. I dived into things like TPT, Skillshare and Etsy to see how sharing work on those platforms could develop.

Sharing does not come naturally to me. While the above platforms are ways of sharing, there is still a component that is creation. Opening websites and starting stores, that is sharing and creating. I think I had this idea that putting everything out there online would be enough.

I know…take a moment to laugh at my ignorance, which was bliss by the way.

I had done almost the same thing as the box. I had created something, put it where it belonged and carried it with me in my online presence. I had shared it with myself and the occasional friend who felt inspired enough to click on whatever I put out there.

I was entirely lacking in building a community.

The First Shares

Considering most of my fear driven narratives were centered around people, it may be of no surprise to you that it was the community part I was struggling with. While I am an extrovert, I am an extrovert with social insecurities.

As a child I was always trying new things or learning something new and I wanted to tell everyone about it as most children do. This optimistic sharing was slowly tampered after a series of unfortunate sharing in the wrong communities.

I learned about sex at a young age (10) because I had picked up the anatomy book and asked questions. I happily shared this information at my friends 12th birthday. Not too big of a deal, except that in a highly conservative religious community I might as well have burned a Bible. I shared what I had learned to a group of people who taught women their worth was in virginity and attempted to convince young people for as long as possible that God put babies inside of people. Not a good choice. It was the last sleepover invite and the girls quickly turned their disapproving glances they were mastering in my direction every Sunday.

Again, at 12 I had been in charge of bringing treats to an event. So excited to share my baking ( a new skill I had learned) I made a two tier cake, cupcakes and ginger bread. While I made sure it was delicious, comments included how over the top I was….how much I had wanted the attention. In this community it was a bad thing to shine a light on you, it needed to only be about God. Needless to say I was not asked to bring anymore treats.

The Pride

These two instances stand out to me more than the many others that occurred in this community I was raised in. However this pattern of sharing and quickly loosing connections and admiration left a mark on my personality that has directed how often I share and with whom.

These experiences are not directly stopping me from building a community, instead they set up social insecurities early on that I now am working on shaking.

It is certainly a challenge to shake these as well. This is my current self improvement objective. Build a new community of like minded people. Focus energy on groups of people who could benefit from your creations. Create with value, authenticity, and quality in mind.

It is true now, that in the scheme of blogs, YouTube, Instagram, etc I am an unknown. I am an unknown creative, except now I no longer have a box of crap because I am giving the work I create respect, and that changes everything. That has allowed the doubting social anxiety voice to fade.

When I pose a question on Twitter that voice will occasionally whisper to me. When people play the follow and unfollow game on Instagram, that voice will whisper again to me. It is a battle I will fight because I am done carting around a box of work I created from closet to closet only to develop a following of dust.

Thanks Cait for writing about your boxes in a closet so I too could have the courage to look at mine.

Fellow creatives, unknown or well known, do these narratives of social anxiety speak to you?


Captain DIY February 28, 2018 - 7:51 am

I have a big box of art stuffed away in my basement, and my 7-year-old son is fervently creating his own big box of art as the days go on. So far my wife and I have been pretty good about getting rid of some of the billions of drawings he has done, and we sift through and hang on to the really good stuff. I think the biggest problem for us is, where is the line between the really good stuff and the less good stuff? This article is a great exercise in introspection!

Bethany February 28, 2018 - 4:02 pm

Yes! That is really the ultimate question…and the “good stuff” is it only good for conventional standards of what art should be right now? Is it me who determines the worth or has society given me ideals of worth for art already?? The questions run deep.
I am so glad that you all keep and cherish your sons work. One day he can sift through it and maybe good will be a whole other thing.

Thank you!

C February 28, 2018 - 2:00 pm

For me, my boxes are full of journals and artwork I’ve kept since age 6 and books I’ve been reading my whole 28 years of life. It has become half of a 10×20 storage unit that I really must tackle. My journals are definitely something I’d like to read through and take excerpts/write from… the artwork is less likely to be loved or shared. I also really want to share/re-home the majority of my books. I have such an emotional connection to them though. They were my friends when I had none and still feel like safe spaces to go relax in, if that makes any sense. Thank you for sharing, I have Cait’s book on my To Read list and this helps solidify that choice.

Bethany February 28, 2018 - 4:05 pm

It is comforting to hear about the other boxes of art that creatives have collected. I have never been dedicated to journal for long periods, but the ones I do have are precious to me; so I understand keeping them. The cherished perspective of my art vs. my writing is really so different and I wonder what lies in that?

I do hope you read the book. Her voice is sounds familiar, like talking with a friend.

As always, thanks for reading.

Tread Lightly, Retire Early March 3, 2018 - 10:45 am

This resonates so deeply with me. These reasons are exactly why I’ve held on to my blog so tightly and only how am starting to share with people in real life. It’s been such a rewarding experience so far though, so I’m not exactly sure what’s held me back.

Bethany March 3, 2018 - 11:16 am

I am so thankful this spoke to you. I honestly think it has so much to do with vulnerability and courage. Your blog is amazing and doing so well, plus your efforts to unite women are evident of this courage! 🙂

Tread Lightly, Retire Early March 3, 2018 - 1:48 pm

Thank you! And vulnerability and courage – dynamic combination there.

Bethany March 3, 2018 - 2:14 pm

Secret: Those make an appearance in the future Women Rock Money post… 🙂

Tread Lightly, Retire Early March 3, 2018 - 2:18 pm

Awesome! Can’t wait to read it 🙂

DocG March 3, 2018 - 10:53 am

I’ve never felt comfortable in the social space. Although I have blogged in one form or another for the last ten years, only recently have I started to feel comfortable. I feel you on this one!

Bethany March 3, 2018 - 11:18 am

Sharing work in a social place (blog or otherwise) is scary! I am so glad you have started to feel more at peace with it. Thanks for reading.

kiwiandkeweenaw March 4, 2018 - 1:41 pm

I definitely relate to this post, and have only recently been sharing my blog with friends/family. I give so much time and energy to this pursuit, but keep it’s name/topic vague to those I’m closest to. It’s a slow change, but I’m glad it’s happening now.

Bethany March 4, 2018 - 3:09 pm

That is amazing! I am so glad you are able to start sharing it with those around you. We have done the same and slowly shared it with our loved ones…it has been received well so far. I hope the same is true for you.

BusyMom March 8, 2018 - 6:46 am

That was so touching. And I identify completely. I have kept just two of my paintings, got rid of the rest a while back.

Bethany March 8, 2018 - 3:10 pm

I am so glad it resonated with you. I suppose the best part about being a creative is that we can always keep creating. 🙂

Lee July 8, 2018 - 2:25 pm

It’s an amazing feeling to finally come across another artist/personal finance blogger! So much of what you have said here and in other posts resonates with me. I find the struggle with sharing to be a particularly strange one as I always have the clear intention of creating to share, exhibit and sell, but after the initial rush, I start to dread the idea of sharing anything at all. It’s a cyclical motion, and probably the reason I need to have umpteen projects on the go at once.

Bethany July 8, 2018 - 4:43 pm

Yes! We are a rare bunch as I often feel like art and money have such tenuous relationship. Granted, I do not make my money from art, but from teaching it instead. I glanced at your site and I have to say the art about money was intriguing!
I too work on several things at once in terms of writing…it is helpful to have multiple outlets I think. Thank you for your insights and sharing!


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