I had the pleasure yesterday of seeing a photograph, taken by my daughter, on display at a D.C. art show. Pleasure is an understatement; I was bursting with pride. Both of my children give me reasons to smile. My daughter’s art. My son’s grades. The thoughtfulness and generosity of both.
And yet. As I was driving home from the art show, I found myself wondering if my daughter’s growth as an artist might one day find me feeling proud, yes, but also jealous. Perhaps more jealous than proud.
I’ve never met a creative who didn’t, on some level, suffer from self-doubt. I think that the doubt we carry within us can, at times, drive us to improve our craft. But it can also paralyze us. And it can take us to dark places.
I know a writer who is enormously talented and hugely successful. Yet she has, at times, reacted to the more modest creative successes of her adult child by turning the attention back to herself, seeking assurances that her creative output is unparalleled. Such behavior defies logic, but insecurity isn’t logical. It is a hunger that can never be satisfied; feeding it often makes it more hungry. Is it possible, however, that she needs her insecurity, that she wouldn’t be so successful if she wasn’t consumed with self-doubt?
I’ve heard some creatives say they struggle when a friend or spouse achieves a creative success that has eluded them. A bit of professional envy is natural, and may be intensified when it involves a loved one. But Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne were each other’s editors, cheerleaders, and lovers. Surely there were periods where one was producing more, selling more, inspiring more. And yet their marriage lasted. More than that, it worked.
We never know the future, so I can’t say for sure that I won’t, someday, find myself feeling more envy over my daughter’s creative success than pride. But, speaking as a father, I would love to reach the point where I learn how I will respond. That will mean she has reached the level of success that I can see in her future.
This is one of those silly posts I find myself writing, a post where I have a question but lack an answer. I don’t know to what extent insecurity drives creativity, and when insecurity actually undermines creativity. But I’ll keep reflecting on it, and keep monitoring how my insecurities interact with my muse.
I welcome your thoughts.