The Deep Swamp of Despair / by Cynthia Lait

Getting Out of your Own Way

emotional journey.png

I was once told that I tend to get in my own way.  What on earth does that mean?  How can I get in my own way, there's just one of me and I only have two feet? How is this possible?

It took me several years to understand that this was a reference to anxieties and self-doubts.  We all have them. Some of us handle them better than others. I'm still learning, but stumbled across this diagram ( published by John Saddington) and found it to be very reassuring.

The theory is that any idea will go through several stages, each one being a normal part of the process.  What I love about this is this: all great ideas are supposed to feel like they're terrible ones during the development process. It's normal to get discouraged and want to quit.  

As I've worked on paintings and my art business, some ideas barely skimmed the deep swamp of despair, but several ideas have gotten lost there.  I've found myself wallowing about in the muck, having my own personal pity party.  But the strength of any work, or of any person, is the will and perseverance to get back up and out of the swamp.  To keep moving forward, even when you're not sure where you'll end up.

In my work, a painting only gets really good once I successfully negotiate the swamp of despair.  Every time I stick it out, I come out the other side with a new learning, a new way of creating work and more confidence.  

It's a great lesson for many other areas of life: building an exercise habit, changing eating habits, growing a business.  Just knowing that the dark swamp of despair is part of the journey and not a call to quit makes it a little easier to get back up and keep working. 

I keep this emotional journey diagram in my kitchen where I can see it.  When I'm procrastinating and binge-watching Netflix, I look towards my pantry and see this reminder: step away from the computer, it's time to get back to work!