creativity + fear

I have been thinking a lot about creativity lately. Creativity and fear, in particular. There are a great many things that I want to try, do, make. They burn beneath my skin. But I let fear keep them there. I would rather spontaneously combust from the collective heat of all of my undone projects and unexplored ideas than put something imperfect out into the world.

Above all else, I fear rejection. I fear being told that I am not good enough, that I am not worthy. That I do not deserve love. The idea of making art and having it not be good enough for other people, even for me, makes me nauseous with terror.

For our baby shower, I put out a giant canvas that I’ve had for several years. When I hold it in front of my body, only my head and feet show. I put it out on the island with a bunch of paint and asked people to create a communal art piece that we would then hang in our daughter’s room. A lot of people were overwhelmed by this small act of creativity (aren’t we all?). “But I’m not an artist, Jessica.” “But … what would I even do?” “But I don’t paint.” My dad practiced his birds on a scrap of paper beforehand; they were literally the M-shaped birds that we all drew as children, though my father is capable of drawing a pretty realistic tiger. My mother painted an off-kilter diamond and then waved at it vaguely, asking one of our friends, “Do something with that, maybe?” (It seems that creativity and fear go hand in hand for a great many people.)

In the end, more than half of our guests contributed and the end result was a colorful, chaotic creation that looked like it was made by a bunch of manic kindergartners. It was far from a masterpiece, but it was made with great love.

There was a lot of white space, though, and it was disjointed. Bryan said it made him feel anxious. I thought I would add to it, fill in some of the white space, balance it out somehow, while preserving what our friends and family had poured themselves into. Had overcome their fears to create.

I put it off, though. What, exactly, should I do? I was deeply afraid of ruining what had been made that day. So it sat on a table in the basement, where I never really had to see it.

I thought about it, though. A lot. It wrapped itself around my brain like some kind of strangler vine. My anxiety grew. The truth was that I didn’t like it the way it was. I liked parts of it and I liked what it represented, the idea of it, but the canvas itself? I had no desire to hang it in the nursery.

A few weeks ago, finally, I decided to do something about it. There was resistance; the effort it took to actually heave myself off the couch after I’d announced I was going to paint was monumental, even by third trimester standards.

I did a warm-up painting, which I ended up liking quite a lot. Then I turned to the big canvas. Still, I had no idea what to do. Still, my mind was a complete blank. I could not picture anything to do with it that didn’t involve painting over the whole thing and starting again from scratch.

So I decided to just…start. I squirted some purple paint onto my palette and I just…started. The more I painted, though, the more I panicked. The more I looked at it and thought, “Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck, I have really messed this up.”

After about ten minutes, I stopped. I took a step back to survey the work that I had done, and my heart sank. I hadn’t loved it before, no, but now…well, now, I really hated it.

I was frustrated and angry. See? This is why I don’t take risks! This is why I don’t make things! Because they end up looking like this.

I wish there was some great moral to this story. Like, “I took a risk and it paid off in spades and now I have this amazing thing for our nursery.” But it doesn’t. It didn’t. I don’t. I don’t know yet how I am going to fix it. If I am going to fix it. It is still sitting on that table in the basement, my palette abandoned beside it, some brightly colored tissue paper next to that which I thought I might glue onto it. Just to make the whole thing look a little more disjointed and chaotic. Bryan said he would try to help. And maybe that’s the point: failure is just an opportunity to try again. And again and again and again. So answer the call to make art, even if you fuck it up, even if it makes you sick with fear, because there will always be another chance to try again. The fear is our signal that this is something important, this is something worth doing. And really, what is the alternative? Spontaneous combustion. That’s what.

creativity + fear

one poem and three haikus

i. I am/not my body

it is me and I am it

but I am more

and less.

I am flesh and bone

and blood


heart and soul

and mind.

I think,

therefore I am,

I breathe,

therefore I think,


I think,

therefore I breathe.

I am hips

and breasts

and thighs

and labia.

I am loves

and hopes

and hatred

and fear.

I am

but I am not.

I am





I am/not my body;

I am so much more.



my mind is a cage

of monkeys, rattling

against my skull.


winter snaps in half,

parting to make way for

the stems of spring.


night ticks around me,

still but for the relentless

passage of time.





Which is your favorite? I think mine is #2.

one poem and three haikus

How Not to Be a Writer


  1. Never write. Anything. Ever. But if you do happen to break this first and most integral rule, make sure that you at least follow the next four without fail.
  2. Remember that whatever you write absolutely must be perfect. And brilliant. And stunningly original. It must make everyone who even glimpses the title weep over the emotional resonance of it. It also must make you millions, and very, VERY famous.
  3. Care, deeply and desperately, about what every single person in the world thinks about you and your writing. It is essential to your self-worth.
  4. Never try to be published. That’s so gauche. You must be discovered by accident, preferably by someone stumbling upon one of your throwaway, scribbled poems on a paper napkin. No name, of course, but they were so enchanted by your unusual way with words that they spent six months and a small fortune tracking you down.
  5. Give in to fear. Fear knows best. And whatever you do, never ever try anything new, for God’s sake.
  6. And play it again, kids, once more with feeling: the Golden Rule of How to Not be a Writer is never ever write. 
How Not to Be a Writer

Poem: The Fall Fade



Already, autumn has come to claim the year.

I’m trying to force these rhymes

to illuminate these grey-washed streets

and the ache in my chest at the death of summer.

The slow fade of the childish glee of sun-soaked

days and languid nights, of all the time in the world

to do whatever we please. Autumn heralds crisp winds,

shorter days, the contracting of time and the slowing

of my blood, preparation for a long hibernation.

I love the sparkle of fresh fallen snow, the deep, sweet

comfort of being warm indoors while frost steals over

the world outside, the crack of a fire, and the rest

for my bones, but I long to be alive, and part of me

fears the deep stillness of winter. It fears that I will never

wake up. So I walk these damp fall streets with wistfulness

and joy and not a little bit of dread.

Poem: The Fall Fade

2015 Photo Project: Portrait of the Artist’s Husband as a Young Man

This month’s theme is portraits. I have much more of an interest in this, and a subject that I love putting in front of my camera. Last week, Bryan and I took a walk through the river valley on a lovely, cloudy day (perfect light for pictures) and he allowed me to prop him in front of various things and take pictures from a thousand angles, yelling awkward directions like, “Uh, could you not hold your head like that?” and “Stand up STRAIGHT, you look like an old man!” (Yeah, my photography bedside manner could use some polishing, haha.) It was really fun and I got a few shots that I am quite happy with. I am looking forward to doing it again soon! Maybe with a different model this time? (Any volunteers? I promise I won’t yell at you!)

[FinalTilesGallery id=’10’]

I can’t believe the project is halfway done and I didn’t even realize it!

(Find the rest of the photo project here.)

2015 Photo Project: Portrait of the Artist’s Husband as a Young Man

2015 Photo Project: Night Life

This photo project has been a bit of an after thought for me in the last few months. In the waning days of the month, I look out the window and think, “Oh yeah. I need to take those pictures.” And then I shrug, and go about doing whatever I was doing before.

Perhaps it is that the themes aren’t particularly inspiring me at the moment. Or perhaps it is that my creative energy is being put to different uses. Either way, I think it is useful, in its way, to have a creative project that I am not really invested in. It is teaching me to do it even when I don’t really want to. Doing the work, even when it doesn’t exactly excite me.

That being said, while the project was an after thought, and I didn’t even manage to get a shot of the river valley (AGAIN, I know, I know), I did get some images that I really, really like in June. So there’s that.

Without further ado, I present you with: Night Life.

[FinalTilesGallery id=’9′]

What about you? Have you been flagging on any projects lately, or have you in the past? Did you pull out of it, or just grind your way through?

(Find the rest of the photo project here.)

2015 Photo Project: Night Life

my cure for writer’s block

I have started three different blog posts in the space of ten minutes and backspaced each one of them into oblivion. The words I want to say won’t come. I can’t seem to delve into any topic of actual substance. All I want to do is curl into a ball on my couch and watch eight straight episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, nursing my borderline-insane crush on Andy Samberg.

So … that is what I am going to do.

I’m not going to force myself to write something. Sometimes, our creative souls need a break. I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself lately; with Bryan away on business, I have had a lot of time to myself, which I feel should be full up to the brim with productivity. I even made myself a list of things to get done entitled Things to Accomplish While Bryan is Gone. I knew it was a mistake the minute I did it, but I did it anyway, because I’m a slave to the to do list.

So for tonight, I am cutting myself a break. I’m not going to sit down at this computer and force myself to bleed all over the keyboard for the sake of an essay about something deep and meaningful, because chances are that the resulting words would be anything but deep and meaningful.

For tonight, I’m going to allow myself the simple pleasure of curling up on my couch with my favorite NYPD precinct and a late dinner, and I’m not going to worry about having five blog posts written for next week, or about writing at all.

I’m going to let myself rest. Then perhaps tomorrow I will come back to the keyboard, refreshed, and ready to create once more.

my cure for writer’s block

2015 Photo Project: The Macro Challenge

What is the macro challenge, you ask? This: figure out a way to make a bunch of close-ups of random stuff look interesting. Step number one was making sure that I took photos of more than just plants. Step two was … well, I didn’t really have a step two.

Originally, the theme for May was portraits. But when May 22 rolled around and I had taken only one (blurry, badly composed, defiantly subpar) photo, I knew I needed to change things up. I’d been falling behind on this project for a while already, and I didn’t want to continue that downward spiral. So I made the executive decision to switch the themes for May and July; I’ll be doing those portraits in the summer instead. May is a fabulous time for macros anyway: spring is in full swing around me, and all I want to do is bury my nose in all the delicious details anyway.

So here are a few (if 26 can be called “a few”) from the photo walk that I took last week! It felt so great to get out of the apartment and just wander around with my camera. I forgot how creatively liberating that can be.

[FinalTilesGallery id=’8′]

Also, here is my river valley photo of my favorite bridge, from a slightly different perspective. I dig this photo pretty hard.

ISO 100  ||  28 mm at f/10  ||  1/125
ISO 100 || 28 mm at f/10 || 1/125

And two portraits of Bryan. Haven’t decided which one to officially include in the project yet.





Check out the rest of the photo project here. I think May macros has been my favorite so far. What about you? Do you have a favorite from this series, or are you working on a year-long project of your own? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

2015 Photo Project: The Macro Challenge