How can I get “unstuck” from a rut I’ve been living in for 50 years: feeling unworthy of living a creative life. I remember the exact moment I fell head-first into the dark abyss. Small town, USA. Fourth-grade geography class. That day, a wonderful guest artist from Mexico was visiting and teaching us about Mexican culture through the art of drawing. After getting everyone started on our own pencil drawings, the teacher and guest speaker strolled from desk to desk, peeking over our shoulders and offering heart-warming “oohs” and “ahs.” When the teacher reached my desk, she initially passed by without stopping. I remember feeling nervous and excited as she approached–hoping to hear her say, “What a beautiful drawing!” Instead, she stifled a giggle, and said,”Oh, my dear! You will never have to worry about being an artist. You don’t have a lick of talent in that department.” Immediately I felt my heart drop, and I wanted to crawl under the desk. To this day, I am deathly afraid of trying anything remotely artistic. Is there any way I can get past this horrible childhood memory?” – Sincerely, Frozen in Florida
Let’s begin by agreeing that your fourth grade teacher should have been banished from the classroom…permanently. Not only was her comment thoughtless and unkind–it was downright destructive and unworthy of anyone in the teaching profession. Young minds are so impressionable. And no adult should EVER stunt the growth and development of a child.
Yours truly just finished reading a FABULOUS book by Danielle Krysa, titled Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk and Other Truths about Being Creative. (Consider purchasing your own copy, post haste!) With deftness and humor, Ms. Krysa addresses the roles that parents and teachers play in nurturing (or destroying) the creative spirit, argues successfully that “everyone is creative,” and teaches us how to “tame our inner critic.” Three of my favorite chapters are “Labels Are for Canned Peaches, Not People,” “No One Can Wrestle the Pencil Out of Your Hand,” and “Blocks Are Meant to Be Broken.” (Who could possibly resist reading a book with such clever chapter titles?)
Based on my reading, I would recommend beginning with an honest, candid conversation with yourself. Are you interested in trying your hand at writing, painting, or photography? What about pottery, basket weaving, wood working, or jewelry making? (After 40+ years of dreaming my own dreams about being creative, yours truly is trying blogging and furniture painting.) If you find yourself feeling queasy about taking a first step, talk with others about how they got started in your particular area of interest, or take a one-day class (UNGRADED!) offered through a local community college, college, or university. Or be really bold and daring: visit a local shop where your Artistic Tribe purchases their tools of the trade, and make a small, inexpensive purchase for inspiration. Then, commit to taking one small step toward overcoming your fear. Read a how-to book or magazine. (Barnes and Noble’s is a great place to browse.)
Visit a local art museum and closely examine the brush techniques of five different artists in paintings that strike your fancy. Or head out for a hike with your camera in tow, and capture close-ups of nature in varying degrees of light and shadow. Whatever you do, do NOT go out and spend a ton of money at the outset. Test the waters and assess your enjoyment level. Then, over time, you can slowly immerse yourself in the nuances of your art or craft. That way, if you aren’t enjoying a particular creative venture, you can try something different, without having invested heavily at the outset.
In short, my darling Frozen, the only way to move forward…is to move forward. – Always yours, GiGi