Do you value your art?
Do you treat it with the appreciation and loving kindness that it deserves?
Do you consider each and every creative endeavor, even the total flops, to be vital to your well-being?
When you were little, your mother or father might have proudly displayed your preschool finger painting on the refrigerator door. You might have had someone take pictures or videos of you dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or doing any number of artful activities. If you had a particularly enthusiastic grandmother, like I did, you would have had wall hangings and pillows hand embroidered with your very own drawings used as the pattern.
Sometimes the message is very, very clear. Art is valued and encouraged, and the art maker is nurtured.
Much of the time the message is clear, but not in a positive way. It’s true, many of us have felt judged for our art—really good, really bad, better than, worse than. In these cases, unfortunately, our worthiness was correlated with the value (or lack thereof) that someone else placed on our art. It’s very common to lose touch with the liberating excitement ushered in by any art making endeavor as a result of this kind of experience. It’s a reasonable decision then, not to pursue creative expression. In these cases we write it off the list as a waste of time or entirely avoid it because of the sure judgment and criticism it will bring.
When you broaden the definition of art and extend it beyond the visual and performing arts, you can start to label anything that requires creativity (including therapy) as art. And then the question of value, appreciation, loving kindness becomes even more important. If your very vocation becomes your art and you judge it in the way that your worst middle school art teacher did, how are you supposed to show up as the emotionally vibrant, compassionately courageous human you need and want to be? How can you keep doing what you love to do, and criticize or devalue it at the same time?
This is really an important question.
Sometimes it takes a shift in perspective or a purposeful, mule-like determination to value your art.
This happened to me at lunch today. I was complaining to a friend about the technical difficulties I was having in completing the video content for my new e-course, Artfix. I was on edge about it and threw out the comment, “I don’t have to do this. I could stop and just not do it at any time.”
She lovingly asked, “And why do you do it? Why do you keep at it?”
At that moment, I was able to turn the dial enough to see my work through an artist’s eyes. I told her, “Because it is my art, and if I was a kindergartener my mother would put it up on the fridge.” That was all I needed to remember how much I valued the creative endeavors that feed my life. Without the creative challenges in all aspects—work, relationships, visual arts, writing, speaking, parenting, etc., etc—my life would be nothing. The being creative and the act of creating is life affirming, period.
Sometimes it’s not as easy as declaring your challenge art and being able to shift to a more loving stance with it. Sometimes I think you have to intentional work it through.
My friend Hannah Hunter re-purposes only slightly exciting art quilts into new and interesting collage inventions. She could just throw the “failures” out, but she knows that they will feed another creative endeavor someday, so she values them for what they are—potential beginnings.
Anne Lamott treats her “shitty first drafts” as small children and with an endearing curiosity, she writes them down so they can have a “romp” around. She knows that the act of letting them out to play will lead to something, and rather than criticizing their rowdy havoc, she loves them into being.
Rodin kept his tiny clay maquettes on his desk so that he could get inspiration from them. They were rough little nothings, but his fingers obviously craved them into doodley shapes. He let it happen and valued them enough to keep them around. The Legion of Honor valued them too and included them in his retrospective as vital pieces of information about his grander scale creative endeavors.
What can you do to value your own art?
Slather on compassion
I truly believe you deserve as much compassion for your own undertakings as you would bestow on another. If you would put your toddler’s scribble on the fridge, you should try allowing that same sense of celebration for your scribbles (no matter what form they come in). If you would excuse mistakes (or perhaps not even notice them) on someone else’s concerted effort to create, then please feel free to excuse your own.
Creativity is stifled by expectations. If you expect that your first draft will be elegant or your third painting will land you a spot in a gallery show or your e-course will go viral or your success with a client will make you a great therapist you are going to kill your creativity. Instead, change your expectations. Ask yourself, “Did I experiment? Did I engage? Did I stay curious? Did I take a risk at some point along the way?” If you expect yourself to answer yes to these questions, then you are nurturing your creativity.
When you celebrate you are sending the message that your creative endeavors matter. Small creative successes add up to creativity confidence. When you feel confident you can dive in and make art without the filter of fear holding you back. Yes, you might make a mistake, but even then, it could lead to something remarkable. A sketchbook or journal is a way for you to keep track of your creative efforts. Make notes, take pictures, comment, record, express excitement, cultivate gratitude for your commitment to be creative. Remember, your art doesn’t have to be visual art. Imagine if you had a “sketchbook” that records conversational snippets that captured times of your most creative dialogue flow. Or if you made notes of moments in your work exchanges when you stepped into something entirely new—something you and your client or colleague had never thought of before.
Share with others
Think of something you did today that was particularly creative and share it. Not just the good looking creative moments—even the disasters that helped you get to the next step, the next new amazing creative step. Post it here in the comments section (below), share this post on Facebook and add your creative moment, tell a friend, tell a tree…..every time you share you are inviting others into your creative process and inspiring them to be more creative.