I saw a lot of bad art this weekend. And I was moved to tears by it.
I was crying from the moment I walked in to the San Francisco open studios exhibition, because what I found there, inside a nondescript warehouse, was twenty or so brightly lit artists spaces, full of music, happy artists, and quite mediocre art.
These people were making art to make art, I realized. They know that they aren’t likely to be put in the Met or be remembered as defining artists of their time. And they are making art. That brings tears to my eyes.
This is a tender topic for me. After years of being told how special and talented a writer I was, it became clear that none of that praise was helping my creativity. It had actually hindered it. It had lowered my ability to take risks. It had made “normal” seem like a standing ovation and anything less feel disappointing. It made approval the important thing. I didn’t write for ten years.
I’ve learned this: if I am attached to my work being well received, if I am looking for validation that I am a “good” writer, I can’t write.
Eventually, only because the pain of a suppressed spirit grew so large, I decided once and for all to write for me. To write because I am not sane or happy or loving without writing. Because, at the end of the day, all I want to do in this life is bow down at the alter of creativity and worship.
I started writing for that reason. That’s how I got creativity back. After a few months, my writing muscles warmed up. The great ideas that hang out there in the air had reason to trust I would treat them respectfully and stay with them.
Ironically, now I know I am “good writer.” I waited 32 years to feel that, and what made it possible was completely letting go of caring about being good.
When I go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I get one kind of inspiration. I well up with tears there because of the sheer miracles of creative genius and emotion that comes through the works.
When I go to my local open studios and see mediocre art? I cry too. I’m over the moon with inspiration. These people have bucked the lies, slayed the dragons and are doing what they love to do.
In their presence, I get it: no matter what the grown ups said to us, no matter what we said to ourselves, the truth is: we are free to play and create, play and create, play and create. We are free to reclaim our art, to create lives in which we are comforted and lifted and changed by it. That’s the life I want to live.
Want to start unleashing, reclaiming, playing more in your creativity? Visit some of my favorite resources on this topic:
Jamie Ridler — Jamie’s work is all about helping people live creatively. I love her free podcast with remarkable creative people, so much juicy inspiration.
Leah Piken Kolidas — a remarkable artist in her own right (check out the gallery at her site), in November (yup, coming right up) Leah is hosting her 8th annual “Creative Every Day Month” challenge. I just love the idea of turning to daily art practice in November, as things get dark and cold and wintery.
Susannah Conway — STUNNING photography, and ecourses that “help you heal the way you see your self and your world, using photography and journalling to access hidden thoughts & dreams and encourage personal realizations, all in the safe space of a like-minded community.” Sounds delicious, no?
Treat yourself to one of these experiences. You deserve it.
And play and create. Play and create. Play and create.

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Leah says:

    Tara, what a beautiful post. It moved me. Thank you! And thank you also for the mention!

  • Trece says:

    I am so AMAZED by the synchronicity of things!! I love your blog and now we are both loving art jounaling and creating our own kind of art! I already follow Leah and Jamie; have you seem ihanna.com or aisling.net? I finally discovered Flickr, too.
    Today’s blog post has more: http://wp.me/pPQtT-39

    I am looking forward to Art Every Day Month next month!!

  • Paula says:

    Such a marvelous and inspiring post—thank you!!

  • I love that all that mediocre art inspired you! I get totally inspired by all the people writing blogs, some fantastic and some not so much–but how great is it that we’re all putting ourselves out there? I think it is the best.

  • Jamie says:

    What a gorgeous affirmation of our freedom to create! Thank you for including me as a resource. I am truly honoured 🙂

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