Second Time Syndrome

It is a trait I’ve noticed before. One that trips me up easily, reminding me of how delicate and fragile, as well as rigid and pernicious, my ego’s need to look good.

I call it my “Second Time Syndrome”.

The first time I try something new, I am generally very patient with myself. I allow myself lots of latitude for learning, stretching, messing up and not doing it ‘perfect’. The exploration of the craft becomes a vast playground of possibility where I am both awakened and alive within the expansiveness of the creative process and the joy of stretching and tuning my creative muscles.

First time out, there’s no critter hissing about ‘getting it right’. There’s only grace dancing with me in the playing field of creativity.

Second time. It’s a different story.

Somewhere buried deep within my little reptile brain that sits at the base of my skull, the voice of fear awakens and whispers, “Ain’t no room for mistakes, lady. You get it right or you gonna fall flat on your face.” As if, come the second time, there’s no room for learning and definitely no latitude for mistakes or even playfulness and joy.

Second time. I gotta ‘do it right’. supersedes my soul’s craving for being within the creative process and its beguiling flow. Which, in ego terms means there’s no room for growth. There’s only space for ‘perfection’ – and given how my ego already knows I’m going to fail anyway, hopelessness and fear shadow my every move.

Once fear awakens, looseness, ease, grace fall away as I fall into the “Get It Right” trap. Suddenly, focussing on ‘the outcome’ becomes my point of reference. “Forget about savouring the moment and being in the flow of the creative process” the critter hisses. “You gotta focus on the final product. You gotta make it look good! Or else…”

It’s the ‘or else’ that gets me every time. The critter speaks in innuendo. He never defines, the ‘or else’. He leaves that to my imagination — and when I’m listening to the critter hissing, my imagination can go to some not so pretty places!

Case in point. On the weekend, I decided to work on eight more collage pieces using the techniques of the series I worked on last week. (See – Out of the Box)

Again, I used a limited palette (four colours + white – Ivory. Yellow Oxide. Red Oxide. Payne’s Grey). I painted on pages from old books for the collage pieces and painted watercolour as the substrates for the pieces themselves. I drew and doodled and cutout and tore up the painted book pages. And then, I started to assemble the pieces.

I felt stiff. Awkward. Tense.

My head was busy with thoughts of ‘do it right’ and ‘don’t mess up’.

And then, I remembered. Oh wait! This is my second time. I’m worrying about doing it instead of breathing into the pure delight of being immersed within this creative moment.

I had to remind myself to Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

A lot.

Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

Which also brings me front and centre with my ego’s need to protect me from criticism. “Give ’em the caveat,” the critter hisses vehemently. “Tell ’em you know they’re not that good. You’re just practicing…”

Pause. Breathe. Get Present.

“It’s okay, Louise,” the voice of wisdom deep within my belly whispers gently. “It’s not about judgements or making good art. It’s about expressing yourself fearlessly and stretching your creative muscles with grace.”

In grace, self-compassion gives rise to fearless creative expression and the art is not measured by the final product. It’s found in the joy of being within the creative process, allowing, expanding, growing, learning, creating.

I created eight new collage pieces in my ‘Liminal Spaces’ series.

The critter had a lot to say about the process.

My soul slipped lovingly into silence, breathing deeply of the essence of my creative nature.

And I am reminded once again how art, like life, comes alive in all its living colours when I let go of my expectations of getting it right and breathe instead into my soul’s desire to be fully present and embodied in this moment, right now.


19 thoughts on “Second Time Syndrome

  1. Thank you for sharing, Louise!

    “stiff. Awkward. Tense.” I’m in a different circumstance, and for different reasons, but I feel the same way. Mine is not a creative process. It is a learning process. I made a career transition about a year ago, has nothing to do with what I did before. It seems like an endless learning process. I enjoy the learning part. But when it’s something new, something that requires my brain to rewire itself, or to un-learn something old, there is this loud voice inside my head that keeps saying ” you can’t do it, you’re too old, you’re done, you’re stuck in your ways.”
    The first, second, third, and maybe fourth time, I’m crippled with fear. It takes so many attempts, then suddenly all the clouds clear. It’s not my ego, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your voice and my voice should get together and have a party on their own Sawsan and leave us alone to get on with the learning and unlearning, the doing new and doing undone part!

      And I hear you re the ‘suddenly all the clouds clear’ — it is always amazing to me. Sometimes, it’s as though I have to push through the doubts and fears simply to prove to myself the doubts and fears are all in my head! Once I get out of my head, it’s a beautiful path of grace and ease — ok. well almost grace and ease. πŸ™‚

      Hugs – and congrats on such a big transition — art-making, while not a new stage in my life, is in a new phase in sofar as I retired from the formal work place a year ago – high high stress, lots of responsibility, yada yada. And now… calm and peace and tranquility. Learning to live without stress has been a huge challenge!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! My colour palette was very limited (ivory, payne’s grey, yellow oxide, red oxide and white) It always amazes me the colour creations that are possible with just four colours! It’s fun to experiment.

      I also appreciate your description — ‘the promise of living, growing things’. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Bernie! As I mentioned — I only used four colours + white — so not a huge investment.. πŸ™‚ I also used a black and white posca pen for the details and the tip of a skewer for some of the lines. πŸ™‚ It’s fun! I cut the water colour paper (130lb) to 7 x 5 to fit in a passepartout within the frames. They look lovely framed.


  2. isn’t it funny how our head/hear/soul/body can wreak unnecessary havoc? Then again, maybe it’s necessary for us to push ourselves further… Maybe we need to have that little discussion with the ego to continue to grow.
    And they are all beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Louise, I like the way you shared your process here and the barriers that showed up for you. It’s easy to let her thinking get in the way. It sounds like a shift away from product to playing with the process made a big difference for you. Sending you love as you continue to play in the world of art making.


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