What’s Your Metaphor?By Sarah
I grew up in a very athletic family.
My dad was a football coach for 50 years, my mom golfed, my brother always played 3 sports, and my younger sister and I were swimmers when we were young, and then I played basketball in high school.
Sports was the dominant theme in my house growing up. And we were pretty much always going to practice in some way, shape, or form.
In truth, I kind of wish sports was a little less central to my childhood than it was, but I did get a lot out of it.
The best things I got out of it were:
- experiencing the benefit of practicing even when I didn’t feel like it;
- experiencing the reality of doing something hard and having it get easier;
- finding out that my best was a moving target–because every time you do your best, you have a new best;
- living through the discomfort of being at my edge and getting to the other side–pushing myself farther than I thought I could–because a coach demanded that we do that.
Being bossed by a coach to your limit may sound sort of awful, but really, those experiences have carried me through many everyday challenges in my adulthood.
I could always suck it up and meet hard deadlines at work because I had to do that all the time as a kid–I knew it would end, I knew I could do it, and I knew I just had to keep my head down and finish.
And it helps me with my artmaking. Because I don’t just believe certain truisms about process, I know them. For instance, I know that practice will improve me.
I know that I’ve been very, very bad at games or techniques that I wanted to do, and I got better by trying and practicing.
And this trying and practicing by playing team sports is usually a public sort of struggle–you can fall on your face in the gym in front of all your classmates, and life goes on.
And more importantly, you go out the next day and do it again. You experience, first hand, the integrity of trying, failing, and coming back for more. The season isn’t over just because you feel disappointed.
And then you find out that disappointment is temporary. (This is huge.)
And as an adult, it helps me work out at the gym. I know the difference between good pain and uh-oh-I-better-stop pain. I know how to mix it up, how to set mini-goals to relieve the boredom, and how to push myself to get the results I want.
I also know that crappy workouts are an unavoidable part of having great workouts.
And I know if I stop for a while altogether, well, I have to get back in shape and I might be uncomfortable as I do that.
So, strange as it might sound, sports is actually a metaphor for my art-making.
My sports metaphor helps me keep trying when I think I suck.
It reminds me that a few minutes is better than no minutes.
It helps me be patient with my progress on this project or that.
And the truths that I laid out in the list above–knowing my best is a moving target for instance–is a physical, visceral knowledge for me. I don’t know it intellectually, I know it in my body.
So that’s me.
What about you?
What experiences or challenges in your life can you draw on to support yourself and your artistic goals and desires?
What’s your metaphor?
Sarah is an artist and creativity coach in the NY Metro Area. She started makegreatstuff.com to help busy creative people start living their lives as the artists they are. You can view her artwork at sarahbushartworks.com