If you had a pair of X-Ray glasses that would magically reveal people’s art wounds, you might be surprised to discover just how many of us have them – including professional artists!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a casual conversation about the work I do here in the studio that resulted in a sudden eyes-welling, voice-trembling story about a relationship with art that was lost long ago. Sometimes the tenderness of the topic comes as a surprise to the person sharing their experience! Even artists who feel confident in one medium, like drawing, may hold heartfelt pain around other arts, like singing or dance.
Often our wounds come from cutting comments by a teacher, parent or friend and even though these words may have been spoken ten, twenty, thirty years ago, the sense of hurt and loss is real, immediate and palpable. Art wounds can also present rather subtley. Someone may lightly describe themselves as not having a creative bone in their body. With a laugh they share how they discovered years ago that artistic pursuits were not for them. Without your X-ray glasses you might not think there was a wound there at all but then they say something like, “But you know, I’ve always wanted to try photography but that kind of thing, it’s just not for me. I don’t have an eye.” “Try it!” I’ll encourage them. “Oh, no, I’m not the creative type.”
Everyone’s the creative type.
I’m not saying that the arts are everyone’s favourite pursuit (though if you’re here, chances are they rank pretty high) or that everyone has a hidden desire to be a professional artist (though, again, you might). What I’m saying is that the arts are for everyone. All the arts. Everyone. Movement, music, stories, images, colours, words, line, shape – these are incredible gifts for each of us to enjoy, experience and embrace. Singing is for everyone. Dancing is for everyone. Drawing is for everyone. And that includes you.
If you have wounds that are getting between you and the arts, let the healing begin.
Four Key to Healing Your Art Wounds
1. Do Your Art
The single most useful thing you can do to heal your art wounds is to give yourself the gift of the art that’s been taken away from you. Sing. Paint. Dance. Draw. Drum. You don’t have to take a class. Just dip your toe into the art or arts you’ve loved and lost. By yourself. Now.
This step is simple but not always easy. Be as gentle as you need to be. Make the step into your expression small enough that you will actually do it. Today.
For 2 minutes take your pen and doodle on the corner of your page. Draw a bird. Write a poem. Turn on your favourite song and move your body to the music or sing along. Let your spirit remember what it is to be connected to the art that it loves.
2. Be Brave
As you return to your art, you might re-experience the hurt and rejection that wounded your creative self. You might find yourself getting angry at whatever or whoever drove a wedge between you and your expression. You may find tears welling up as you mourn the years that you and your art have been apart. We all respond differently as we reclaim this lost part of ourselves. When I found Nia after years of not dancing, I cried in every class for a year. A year! Yes, it was uncomfortable but I stuck with it and it healed my heart. I nurtured my way through with rigorous self-care and deep love. How can you tend to your heroic self as you brave the return to your art?
3. Be Loving
Many of our art wounds stem from insensitive comments. We were told we weren’t good enough, that we didn’t measure up, that we had no talent or skill – and we believed it. As you start to create, you may discover that you’ve internalized those voices, that you are the first to label your creations “crap.” You may find yourself taking anything you perceive as a shortcoming in the work as proof of your lack of ability, re-wounding yourself in the process.
This is your chance to find a new way, to stand up for your wounded creative self and say, “No more! It is not okay for anyone to discourage my expression – not even myself!” Be the change you want to see in the world; nourish your creativity the way you wish it had been nourished in the first place. What words of encouragement do you need to hear? What do you love about the art and what it’s showing you? What will bring you and your art closer together?
4. Do More of Your Art
Art is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become.
Let your wounded creative self stretch a little. Give yourself room to breathe, a chance to work out the kinks and build some strength. Give yourself a chance to enjoy the process itself: the feel of pastel on paper, the taste of exquisite words in your mouth, the freedom of moving your hips.
Make something. Then make something else. Learn from what you’ve made. Learn and make. And then learn and make and learn and make again and again and again. The more you make, the more you prove the naysayers wrong (including yourself) and the less pressure there is on each piece to serve as proof of your ability.
Build your relationship with your long-lost art and together you will heal those wounds