When I was largely pregnant with my first child, I took a writing class with the amazing Marge Pellegrino. She’d give us an in-class writing assignment and we’d have 20 minutes to complete it. It never failed that before we could even start writing, someone would ask, “Is it OK if I…?” and Marge would say, “You’re the boss.” And then someone else would chime in, “But what about…” and Marge would say, “You’re the boss.”
Hearing those words oft repeated, it didn’t take long for me to find a new feeling of ownership with my words (and my life). That doesn’t mean that I don’t look to others for authority to apply in my life. It just means I do it a bit less than I used to.
Recently, I’ve seen how harmful this feeling of not having authority can be to creativity. In my watercolor class many students are interested in having specific rules to follow. I understand this, especially when it comes to learning a new skill. However, this need to be coddled can be harmful when it comes to that really sacred time when we begin something new – whatever it may be.
That first week as I sat painting at my kitchen table I’d think about what a disaster of a painter I was and I’d feel so unsure about what I was doing. But, I wasn’t afraid: of messing up, of making a mistake, of doing something wrong. I knew there was no way I could fail if I just kept painting. The only failure on my part would be to stop painting.
There was a distinct moment when I thought, “Am I following my instructor’s guidelines?” And in the next instant I realized that I am holding the paintbrush, I am making the choices, I am the boss.
At our next class session, it was clear that some students wanted the teacher to be present while they were painting and lean over their shoulder and tell them, “Yes, that’s allowed!” or “No, that’s not allowed.” And the problem with that is then the painting isn’t yours. My instructor may as well just paint it. You should just put down your paintbrush (or pen or sewing machine…)
I must be my own authority. You must be your own authority. It is the only way a person can ever do anything original or creative. Dive into the depths of your soul and make something out of it.
And if you are impatient and don’t want to make mistakes, you may as well not even paint or write or sew or really live. Because we all make mistakes. That is how we grow and learn and becomes more compassionate and loving. So, I say, get started. Make as many mistakes as possible as soon as possible because time is flying. And don’t you want to become real? Become authentic? After all, you are the boss.