Week 8 of the Artist’s Way program discusses how to nurture hope and the courage to create despite the pain and loss of failure. I’d say, “Non illegitimi te carborundum*” pretty much sums it up; the chapter title is “Recovering a Sense of Strength.”
Many Kinds of Artistic Loss
Julia Cameron considers artistic survival to be the equivalent of a primal task, in that artists inevitably face so many losses along the way: loss of hope, loss of face, loss of money, loss of self-belief. And each of these losses cause pain and can cause us to block, unless we are able to recognize and acknowledge the loss and then reframe its energy so we may ultimately gain or learn or grow from it.
These kinds of losses are emotional losses and they can’t be ignored because they are truly painful when they occur. But to survive as artists and creative people we need to learn how to keep moving forward despite the pain.
Painful but Helpful Criticism
Sometimes we can learn from a loss or failure relatively easily, such as when criticism is valid and true and so we learn from it in a constructive way and use it to improve. This type of criticism leads to clarity and actually eases the path forward by showing us how to proceed.
Far more destructive can be the criticisms doled out in an intellectual or academic setting, where the approach is so often to criticize and deconstruct work, emphasizing what is wrong with the work without acknowledging the genuine accomplishment, or the creative effort and learning that went into it. This kind of criticism can be so disheartening and discouraging that an artist may not recover from it.
We can also inflict wounds on ourselves, for instance when “we are offered a chance we balk at, sabotaged by our fear, our low self-worth, or simply our other agendas.” I’d put the self-inflicted horror of perfectionism here loud and clear, too.
Feel the Pain, Begin to Heal
Cameron counsels: “In order to recover our sense of hope and the courage to create, we must acknowledge and mourn the scars that are blocking us. This process may seem both painstaking and petty, but it is a necessary rite of passage.”
If you ignore these types of pain, you will continue to block. Recognizing these wounding losses, or being able to “give yourself the dignity of admitting your artistic wounds” is the first step to healing. Healing of course is being willing to risk unblocking!
Begin to Unblock
Next time, more about finding hope and courage, finding gains inside loss, so you can unblock and move forward in spite of the painful emotional feelings.
*In the meantime, remember: “Non illegitimi te carborundum” Basically, don’t let the bastards keep you down.
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