There are a million reasons why you can’t/shouldn’t/won’t make your art visible in the world. There’s one reason worth your life, why you have to.
I’ve have many dreams for my art over the years. Some involved artistic vision. Some involved recognition, respect, and kudos. Some involved financial rewards. Some were only for me and my sanity, my vanity, and my little rabbit heart’s yearning.
Some have been achieved. Many probably never will be. Some are still in progress.
Some I never even imagined, until they came appeared, on their own, exclaiming, “Hey, you forgot ME!!”
We all hold dreams for our the creative work we do, whether we work with words, music, paint, stone, polymer clay, gold, clay, or glass.
It’s when we try to make them present in the world that we run into trouble.
I’ve encountered so many creative people lately, strong, intelligent, gifted people, who, quite frankly, have their head up their respective asses. (In all fairness, I can add myself to that list.) Filled with self-doubt, physical/emotional/mental/spiritual/temporary and permanent setbacks, they struggle to have even an iota of their creative potential in their life.
“When I have the perfect training/situation/schedule/studio/work place/support group/guaranteed income/show/companion/gallery/social media skills/presentation/experience/audience/community/website/skills/whatever-in-god’s- name-you-think-you-need-to-create in my life, then I’ll exercise my creative talent!”
This is beginning to sound like the SCOTUS nomination and Congress situation. There is just no work-around when you have so many conditions on how–and when–your creative self will engage with the world.
It’s easy to buy into these situations: When can I call myself an artist? How will I make a living with my creative gifts? Who will buy it?? What is a successful artist? Am I good enough to be an artist? These are just a handful of the mind-numbing and soul-petrifying doubts and questions that block so many of us from doing what we love to do.
I’ve been writing about this since my very very first blog post in 2002. I’ve felt all of these ‘conditions’ and ‘restrictions’ personally, too. Examining my own caustic beliefs, working through them, and sharing that process with you, is a huge part of my own creative process. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I was born with an artistic gift, is so I could write and share this with you.
It’s so incredibly hard, for so many people, to hear my message over the little nagging voices in their own heads, I often can’t break through. (I’m learning that people can’t hear me until they are ready to hear me. Which helps me keep trying when I feel discouraged.)
So here’s one of my all-time favorite comic strips that explains, as only humor can, why the world needs your art. And why YOU need your art in the world… And why it doesn’t matter how much of it you put in the world, or how much money you make with it, why it doesn’t matter if it’s your vocation, your avocation, or your career, why it doesn’t matter how many people ‘like’ it (literally and figurative, thank you Facebook!), nor why it even matters if I like it or not….
In this Sally Forth cartoon panel from February 5, 2015, Ted is talking to his daughter Hilary, ten years in the future, about the real importance of her creative endeavors:
Hil, do you know why people play music? Or draw or sing or do stand-up or create?
Becauxe it’s through their art they can interpret the world. And it’s through their art they can add their ideas to the world. It’s not about having an audience, it’s about having a voice.
And if you don’t pursue your art, you may lose that great opportunity to have your say.
(And for a small reality check that every parent will recognize, Hilary replies, “Is this the very level of understanding why you never flinch when I ask for money?”)
Ponder that for a bit today.
Remember: I’m not telling you to give up your day job. I’m not telling you to sign up for American Idol. I’m not telling you what “real” art is, I’m not telling you how often or when you should make it, I’m not telling how you should do it, I’m not saying you should run off to Tahiti, abandoning your family, and lie on a beach somewhere with a umbrella drink in your hand. (Although, that sounds pretty cool, and Tahiti IS a magical place.)
And I’m not telling you it’s easy, or simple, or that there’s a right way to do it.
I’m saying you have a voice. You have just this one life to use it. And it’s NEVER TOO LATE to use it.
Okay, you have a job, a real job or role, one that you like, or even love, or a care-taking role, or anything else you simply do or have to do.
I say, you need the restoration, the sanity, the healing power you get by putting your own power out into the world, to support this other, vitally important work you do. (Think of your creative spirit as the gas you put in your car.) (Okay, the electricity you recharge you car with.)
Make room for it, even just a tiny bit of a room, in your life.
If not for yourself (although I firmly believe that’s the best reason in the world to do it), then do it for someone you love, someone else in the same boat, who holds the same fears and second-guessing and shame and despair that you do.*
Show them the real healing power of art.
Show them what it looks like.
*Yep, this is my super-sneaky strategy to encourage certain selfless folks to be a wee bit more self-ish. Did it work?