As we are discovering, many of us carry hidden grief, where our fragile young creative self was shamed and wounded. When this happens enough, we become conditioned, and the original source of our pain goes underground. All we may see are the symptoms: being blocked, becoming indifferent to our incomplete work, and a mysterious emptiness, cynicism or ambivalence about our attempts.
“Often we are wrongly shamed as creatives,” Julia writes. “From this shaming we learn that we are wrong to create. Once we learn this lesson, we forget it instantly. Buried under it doesn’t matter, the shame lives on, waiting to attach itself to our new efforts. The very act of attempting to make art creates shame.”
So unfinished novels become kindling or sit in drawers, student films are never sent off to festivals, actors, singers and dancers don’t ever actually audition. “Why try?” we ask ourselves. “I’ll never be any good. It’s ridiculous to even start at this late stage. What a laugh they would have if they knew. What a cliché this is!”
Our old antagonists may be long gone, but their voices playing in our heads are still loud and clear. And even worse, by now, they may sound like very much like our own voices.
“Art requires a safe hatchery. Ideally, artists find this first in their family, then in their school, and finally in a community of friends and supporters. This ideal is seldom a reality. As artists, we must learn to create our own safe environments. We must learn to protect our artist child from shame. We do this by defusing our childhood shamings, getting them on the page and sharing them with a trusted, nonshaming other.
“By telling our shame secrets around our art and telling them through our art, we release ourselves and others from darkness.”
As many of us are already discovering, just coming here each day and sharing our experiences with one another is shining a light onto long-hidden shadows. And our morning pages, which I hope have by now become a regular habit, have a way of awakening epiphanies that would not be otherwise reached. There is something magical about our hands moving across a page that invites our deep, authentic self to speak to us, in safety.
Starting tomorrow, we’ll have lots of exercises to help heal our sense of ourselves as strong, healthy creatives, as well as a word or two about the difference between criticism and shaming.