There is always ~ always! ~ a moment, right before I step into the studio, where a wave of self-doubt washes over me. "Who do you think you are believing that you're an Ebru artist?" is what usually runs through my head. Or, "You do not have what it takes to bring this medium to the next level." Or I'm suddenly seized by the terrifying thought that I have NOT ONE, SINGLE creative idea left in my head.
I know I'm not alone when it comes to thinking this way ~ other artists, writers, performers, and humankind in general have the same insecurities and fears when it comes to their creative work or doing something that means something to them (like raising kids or starting a business or running a marathon) but that has never brought me comfort. Believe it or not, embracing failure has been key to me moving beyond the fear and self-doubt; learning to be okay with things not turning out the way I wanted them to ~ even when they are a complete and total bomb. The little mantra I tell myself (and my students!) before I begin to marble is that there is no such thing as bad or ugly or wrong in my studio ~ just things I would do differently the next time.
There are many reasons why I left my last job in Corporate America years ago but as I write about this I realize that one of the main ones was that there was NO ROOM for failure. Not even a little wiggle room. (Most of that attitude permeated my department not because of my direct boss but because of her boss.) And when you can't fail, you don't try. You don't put effort into anything at all. You instantly cringe at the slightest hint of a new idea, and you become a zombie cranking out exactly the same bland things you did the day before because they didn't upset the apple cart. I vividly remember on my last day, I damn near sprinted out of that building, I could not get away from that feeling fast enough. I may not have known consciously why until now, but deep down on some cellular level, there was a knowing: without failure, I could not thrive.
I have learned a lot in the marbling studio these past few years. Not just about the art form, but about myself too. When I do my demos, I tell the audience that marbling is not for the perfectionist. There are so many variables and you are at the mercy of things completely out of your hands ~ like the weather or even something as seemingly innocuous as the air moving when you reach for a tool. To be a good marbler, you have to let go of control in order to be in control; you have to learn what NOT to do, in order to learn WHAT to do.
Failure is a tool. Don't be afraid to use it.