Art and Creativity Coaching Articles
A couple of weeks ago, a very close friend of mine died. He was buried this week. As the funeral approached, I found that my subconscious began to chew over past losses – not just people, but opportunities. Regrets and losses. Life is short.
Grief is one of the most complex conglomerations of emotion – emotions that either battle to the surface and explode or become sublimated into ominous stillness. I tended, as is my wont, toward quietness, a withdrawing where my heart is wincing and shrinking back from the world as just too rough and brusque for me right now.
When grieving, it feels like the world stops. Certainly in that no-man’s land between death and funeral, I couldn’t give myself permission to move on; and by that I don’t mean tuck it all away as a bad experience and forget about it. I mean move on with the banalities of living, continue doing what we do while muddling along between birth and death. I paused within myself and pondered … everything!
The only thing that pulled me back into the present was doing art, specifically my textile art. I had a hiatus in my dry felting over the summer, primarily because I find it too uncomfortable to work with felt and rovings in hot weather. A practical concern that makes sketching and painting better suited for the summer months, and textiles for the winter. But here I was hunched over a piece of felt, stabbing away and embroidering; hours and hours would pass as I sat hunched over my work, aware of the tiny, single fibres of wool, the French knots that barely measure 1 millimetre, the teensy seed beads that so easily skitter away under my fingertips. This microscopic level of focus brings with it an exceptional calm. It’s not for everyone. Usually the reaction I get when people observe me doing my textile art is, “I couldn’t do that! I just don’t have the patience!” I am not so expansive as to be the kind of person to work with a life-sized canvas and a bucket of paint. Instead, my creative expression is a meditation on the small, a coming inwards, a return to the self … it helps me to tap into the never-changing centre of my self, the true self, not the ego. It is a way to be without being overwhelmed and buffeted by the waves of the world; the atom does not mind the hurricane…
I was asked this week to consider the difference between dream-making and reality-checking, to wonder if I err on one side or the other. After much contemplation, I realised that my dream tank was actually pretty empty because I have a ferocious inner critic who squashes my dreams under the pretense of giving me a “reality check”. Isn’t that something we have all experienced both internally from our own voices, but externally from friends and family and supposed well-meaning others? Don’t you realise how hard it is to be a writer? Don’t you know you won’t earn money being an artist? Isn’t it self-indulgent to focus on art when you could be doing something that makes a real difference? What if you get rejected? What if people hate your art/writing/music? What if they laugh at you?
It’s tempting in the face of such an onslaught to roll over and die, certainly to give up on my dreams as too risky and too scary. But as a coach, I recognise from working with other creatives that this is intrinsic to the process. We are mavericks because we choose to go to those areas of the map marked “Here be Dragons!” … so should we be surprised to find dragons once we start exploring?
But the creating of the last week has not been about accolades or achievements. I was driven by a need to create in the face of grief and death. It made me realise that needing to fufill the need is paramount! That was justification enough and this need stands resolute and separate from any argument another person, including my inner critic, might throw at me. This is what some people might call “a vocation”, a calling: the muse calls, and like Odysseus hearing the sirens, I must listen and surrender my fate.
©Mav Kühn 2016
© All written material (whether designated copyright protected or not) and all images designated as © Mav Kühn or by MavK are copyright protected Mav Kühn 2016-2018. If you wish to use any of the material from this blog, please submit a comment and ask for permission. Feel free to live-link to any of the posts.