Hummingbirds belong to the bird order Apodiformes, which is Greek for ‘footless’. This is a slight misnomer, because hummingbirds do have feet, but it is accurate in that hummingbirds cannot walk due to the placement of their legs on their bodies. They will land, sometimes, but they are nearly always in flight; their breath, their heartbeats, and their wingbeats rushing at an incredible pace. They are at once determined and frenetic. They dart in and out of view, hiding, then being seen, then hiding again.
Creative work can feel like this. For me, it has meant darting from medium to medium, needing to create work but sabotaging myself by overthinking it, tacking meaning about who I am and what is my worth to everything that I endeavor to create. Letting silence or disinterest or another’s fear of connection be an ultimate judgment on the softest, tenderest parts of me. Taking constant inventory of the but why, the for whom, the to what end, yet being borne along by something that doesn’t exactly reside in the coherent world of the mind. Hiding, then being seen, then hiding again.
There is so much art that I’ve made over the years that I would never publish or show to anyone outside of my closest people. Much of it is work that I’m extremely proud of, but it’s too personal. I still haven’t figured out how to unhook my fear of not being accepted from these pieces and let them stand on their own.
This is what makes creating feel torturous. Creating and sharing your work can feel like deciding which is most important: your work or preserving your self. The best work is the work that’s closest to you, closest to your body. The best work is also the work that asks you to let the world see those tender places, come what may.
Ultimately, this both is and is not about art. At its heart, it is a struggle between the voices we internalize and the drive to inhabit the soft animal of our true selves. It is about offering ourselves up to be seen clearly by other people, to ask for connection, to speak and have your words affirmed. It is frightening to be seen. It’s scattershot. It’s messy. It takes a long time.
It’s also all there is.