With few, fortunate exceptions, many of us are discouraged early on from making serious financial or career commitments to our youthful artistic yearnings. These messages often come as dire warnings, from parents, teachers, and even our culture (think of all the grim clichés attached to the concept of “artist”).
So the first step in our recovery process is to restore a sense of safety, or at least entertain the possibility of “what if,” without the fear that the Universe will rain pain down upon us for daring to do so.
Julia admonishes us, “Remember, your artist is a child. Find and protect that child. Learning to let yourself create is like learning to walk. The artist child must begin by crawling. Baby steps will follow, and there will be falls – yecchy first paintings, beginning films that look like unedited home movies, first poems that would shame a greeting card. Typically, the recovering shadow artist will use these early efforts to discourage continued exploration.”
In my many past years as a corporate trainer, and even now, when I teach workshops, I find that most adults are their own worse critics and have little tolerance for their own learning curve. If not guided gently, they easily get frustrated, defensive or give up.
So when it comes to exploring your creativity, I encourage you to revert to your stubborn five-year old self, who would not take no for an answer. Especially if it was something that might just possibly, eventually, be delightful.
Julia is crystal clear about this, and I hope you’ll post on a sticky note someplace where you can remind yourself each and every day: “Judging your early artistic efforts is artist abuse.”
“This happens in any number of ways: beginning work is measured against the masterworks of other artists; beginning work is exposed to premature criticism, shown to overly critical friends. In short, the fledgling artist behaves with well-practiced masochism…
“In recovering from our creative blocks, it is necessary to go gently and slowly. What we are after here is the healing of old wounds – not the creation of new ones. No high jumping please! Mistakes are necessary! Stumbles are normal. These are baby steps. Progress, not perfection is what we should be asking of ourselves.”
Julia notes, “In order to recover as an artist, you must be wiling to be a bad artist. Give yourself permission to be a beginner. By being willing to be a bad artist, you have a chance to be an artist, and perhaps, over time, a very good one.”
I know, I know. Our ego does not like this. It’s all or nothing, we tell ourselves. Or else our inner perfectionist chides, “I am too old to start with baby steps, because I don’t have forever.”
I love how she responds to the question, “But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to really play the piano/act/paint/write a decent play?”
Yes. The same age you will be if you don’t.
So over the weekend, start playing with some journaling and your morning pages. Think of it as a snapshot of where you are, as you set out on this discovery journey. And if you haven’t had an artist date for yourself yet, set it up. Next week, we’ll be doing some Spring cleaning, sweeping away the negative beliefs from our past.