Push, Slam, Rip, Crumple – Finding Your Authentic Creative Self

Article by Make The Days Count Contributor Marie Monroe


As an art therapist, I have been in the business of creativity for 25 years.  My job has been to help others, typically non-artists, to engage in creative work.  What I have learned long the way is that all of us can become “artists” in our own lives with our own brand of creativity … no matter what our calling is or what we do in life.


To understand the benefit of creative work for the average person, it’s helpful to consider how artists behave and what happens along their life journeys.  This gives us a snapshot of creativity in the extreme … a caricature, if you will, in which we can see some interesting detail. 


A look at artists can deflate some tough, lingering myths about creativity that scare many people, even the interested people, away.  The chief boogie man – standing at the gate of creativity – seems to be the notion that an artist is born an artist, that talent is first present and then work is produced.  This is, with the exception of prodigies and savants, typically backwards.


An artist practices.  Talent is a goal, not a given.  Talent can be cultivated.  I am tempted to say that talent is mostly sweat and perseverance.  There, I’ve said it!


Another misconception about art and artists is that a certain skill level is important.  Along these lines is the belief that raw, unskilled art is not only ugly, but useless and worthy of ridicule.  I have a friend whose life as an artist can debunk these misperceptions handily.  My friend is a very successful sculptor and cannot draw even the proverbial straight line!  When push comes to shove, she doesn’t need to draw a straight line.  Straight lines can be drawn with rulers.  She does something far more interesting than that anyway.  She is selling yet another piece, probably as you read this.  She doesn’t care that she can’t draw.  Furthermore, her work is very raw, full of slams and pounds and rips and tears.  She has never been in an art class.  She says she is glad to have skipped class.


My friend once tried to go to art school, but the committee took at a look at her portfolio and suggested that she find another focus.  She did.  She focused upon proving the committee wrong – not for very long, though. 


She soon moved on to her studio and became very busy, but at first she was angry and she took it out on paper, then on fabric, then on just about anything she could find.  She crumpled and ripped and smashed her way to a career.  She tied rope in sloppy knots.  She sewed tree bark to paper bags.   She burned her work and displayed it burnt.  She even left her work out in the rain to discover later that the rain had colored it just right.  In the end, she supports herself with her very raw, ‘unskilled’ art.  She found her own techniques and to hear her tell it, not getting into art school saved her career. 


Many successful artists say they have to unlearn what they were taught before they break through to their own authentic work.  My sculptor friend says she trained herself.  She trained herself to keep going and to learn from her journey.  She trained herself to listen inwardly instead of to naysayers and critics or even to those who heaped praise upon her efforts.


As she puts it, naysayers and praisers both distract us from our true creativity.  We begin to listen to them instead of to ourselves – and doubt ourselves in the process.  My friend is grateful to have missed that misstep to artistic success called training.  Somewhere in here is a lesson for us – a lesson not only about art and artists, but about how to do what we really want to do in life.


My friend says that she believes the lesson in all of this is that we must listen to ”the calling” and that the calling will bring you gifts.  She says if we listen to the inspirations – the seemingly random thoughts and ideas – that pull at us, we will, in the end find our gifts.  These gifts are inside us and retrievable if we honor “the call” whenever it comes.  We simply need to listen inside for the ability to create. 


I must say that I agree.  This is what I hope to help my clients do:  listen inside for their remedies, for what calls them and push them along the way to meet it so they may create the lives they want. 


Artists are gifted, but don’t be fooled by the usual sense of this word.  Artists are gifted because they go inside to retrieve the gifts of the creative self.  What separates the artist from the non-artist may only be if we retrieve our gifts frequently and consciously or not. 


What is fortunate, however, is that at any moment we change this.  We can become artists in our own lives, listening to the call of our own inspirations and going inside to find what they want to give us.


In this scheme of things, we have to believe that our personal creativity and our personal calling are inside us to be found.  In doing the work, we may push and slam and rip and sew.  We may sing or dance or write or act.  We won’t know until we answer the call and listen for its instruction – the only training we really need.


“I will master something, then the creativity will come.”
-Japanese Proverb


“I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”
-Leo Rosten


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Posted on 21 November, 2008 in Career, Goals, Happiness
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2 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Judy
    November 21st, 2008 at 9:26 pm #

    It does feel difficult to find your calling. Often times because it may not look like what people expect. And, sometimes, your calling may feel like it goes in too many directions. But, I like that you made listening to yourself as the point. When you listen, your calling will come inevitably.

    Great article.

  2. tony
    November 22nd, 2008 at 9:19 pm #

    Agreed. I see the process in ourselves and the clients we serve. None of this is easy but we do have to have a crtain amount of trust in the cosmos and that all will be as it needs to be. Very well written. Congrats!

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