Sorrow © Brenda Bowen
Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.
— Arthur Golden
Today we start Chapter Eight, Recovering a Sense of Strength. I want to let you know that we are back in a bit of rocky terrain, so let’s all hold hands and we’ll take it gently. No, not as rough as some of the money discussions, but that topic is likely to come back up here in this chapter’s work, as well as some of our other hurts. But where there are hurts, there is powerful potential for true healing.
This chapter tackles a number of the difficulties that we must face as artists, including that huge stumbling block: time. And we’ll also be dealing with an inevitable problem for artists, and all humans, for that matter. We will learn to work through our setbacks and losses.
In Recovering a Sense of Strength, Julia explains that as artists, we must learn to survive loss. “One of the most difficult tasks an artist must face,” she writes, “is a primal one: artistic survival. All artists must learn the art of surviving loss: loss of hope, loss of face, loss of money, loss of self-belief. In addition to our many gains, we inevitably suffer these losses in an artistic career.
“They are the hazards of the road and, in many ways, its signposts. Artistic losses can be turned into artistic gains and strengths – but not in the beleaguered artist’s brain.”
Such losses are seldom acknowledged openly, much less shared and grieved. We may feel that our setbacks and disappointments are trivial, compared to the Big Suffering in the World; or deeply humiliating on some level; or even silly. To the extent that our baby artist self has or lacks confidence, we can feel that such bumps prove we are wasting our time, too old, not talented enough, etc. etc.
“If artistic creations are our brainchildren,” Julia admonishes us, “artistic losses are our miscarriages. Women often suffer terribly, and privately, from losing a child who doesn’t come to term. And as artists we suffer terrible losses when the book doesn’t sell, the film doesn’t get picked up, the juried show doesn’t take our pantings, thebest pot shatters, the poems are not accepted, the ankle injury sidelines us for an entire dance season.
“We must remember that our artist is a child and that what we can handle intellectually far outstrips what we can handle emotionally. We must be alert to flag and mourn our losses.”
Has anything like this happened to you yet, in your artistic ventures? It will. It happens to the best and worst of us. It eventually becomes our rite of initiation, but how to cope as we are undergoing it? That’s what we’ll be talking about in the days ahead.
So stay tuned!