Like so many children, I liked to make art. I painted and drew, pasted and sewed. I also wrote, at first allowing one of my parents or grandparents to transcribe my stories and then scribbling and pounding keys all by myself.
I did all this, but never thought myself an artist or particularly creative. I think lots of children are encouraged to break themselves away from the idea that they could be artists, makers, and creators. Perhaps not by their parents, but by the world, society, their schools. How, after all, would one become a productive worker if they want to spend their days making art?
It’s taken me many years, still taking me, actually, to begin to feel comfortable with calling myself an artist or writer. Yet I make art all the time. I write and I sew and I draw and I cook. For so long I associated the idea of making art with making money (because this is what we’re taught — nothing is worth doing unless you will make an income from it) that I forgot that the point of art is to make joy and to please your soul. Most of all, I forgot that I don’t even have to be particularly good at it.
In the last year or so, I began the art of journaling. I had always kept some sort of written record of my life, tucked away inside a spiral bound pad of paper or saved as a digital file on a computer or thumb drive. But this year, journaling became a much more visual thing for me. Hand lettering, sketches, and collages began to fill the pages of my daily agenda, my bullet journal, and even a Bible I had picked up on a whim, unsure of what my generally agnostic tendencies would take it. I worried when I found myself drawing and copying down pictures or coming up with my own designs. I worried I would become frustrated and then deflated, because I knew my skills were limited. I have long been the type to give something up if I feel it’s not going to be up to snuff, dreading that feeling of failure. Even as I write this, that nasty feeling of doubt mixed with performance anxiety is knotting up my stomach, and playing with words is something I feel good about.
But I pushed passed the worry and let myself create and instead of feeling frustration and failure, I felt pleased and a bit buzzed. There is a sweetness is pressing your fingertips to your medium and fleshing out whatever is inside you. Sometimes, what comes out of me is a beautiful thing, and I love it with ease. Other times it’s a bit mangled and ugly, but just as mothers love their little babes in whatever sort of post-birth state the come, I have learned to love my art regardless and glory in its labor.
Since I have given myself permission to create, I have found my mind alive with creativity. My cooking has changed. I am constantly marveled by how certain ingredients can come together and deepen a dish’s flavor or texture. In a fit of ambition one afternoon, I strode into our local fiber shop and came out with all the equipment necessary to take up embroidery. My home (and belly) is filling itself up with art made by my hands and heart.
This willingness to let my creative inhibitions go has allowed me to enjoy so much more in my life and to engage all the senses of my being, from sight to touch, smell and taste. I suppose all that is missing is to hear…and I do have my old clarinet collecting dust in our upstairs closet.