You know you’re gifted, right? You can feel it in your bones. You’re an artist of some kind, and you can access it to some degree, but the level of the real power of your gift seems to be just out of reach.
I am fascinated with the creative process, with how we get better at what we do. As a visual and literary artist myself, and as a coach for dozens if not hundreds of writers, I can see how truly gifted a lot of my clients are. And I can see them struggle to access that talent. How can we more easily tap into it, live our passionate selves to the fullest in our work? This deeply fascinates me.
I witness that practice evolves one’s giftedness to some degree. Show up at the keyboard or the easel day after day and you will get better. But what is a quicker path to our soulful creative genius? Is there one?
I started therapy at the age of 29 in London. I was a journalist then, not a visual artist. I hadn’t done art since I was a little girl, and I’d completely given it up. Recently, I was going through some old boxes, and found a couple of sketches I did when I started therapy oh so many years ago. I drew this picture of me (above). Lost. Skinny. Smoking. Afraid. What fascinated me about it was that in the intervening 20 plus years, I’d become a visual artist. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the line drawing, and how far I’d come.
I painted the above in early 2015 as part of Operation 365, one painting a day for one year. Now, my art had color, form, and movement. I’d healed some of my fear and it was showing in the texture and abundance of my work.
But I still felt there was a deeper talent that I wasn’t accessing. I knew I was more gifted than what was showing up on the page.
This month, I went to see a metaphysical healer, Judith Laxer, when I was in Seattle doing a literary reading of my second novel, AIR. My two novels EARTH and AIR were published in 2015 and getting out there with my truth drew up all sorts of chaos that was ready for healing. Judith worked her magic — shamanic healing and tarot — and to simplify it all, what started happening afterwards was a healing of the heart.
I resisted it. I’d been hurt WAY too many times. I didn’t want to open my heart. I felt like healing the heart meant I’d have to love people who had hurt me, that my life would become some politically correct nicey-nice game that I just didn’t want.
What’s funny is, the opposite happened. I did a meditation and was given the message that healing the heart didn’t mean what I thought it meant. I was told that it simply meant “feeling my feelings”. So if I was pissed off about something in the past, I was allowed to be pissed off. If I was resentful, I got to be fully resentful. If I felt profoundly upset about world circumstances, I was allowed that. Healing the heart simply meant feeling my feelings whatever the feelings.
BOOM! My art exploded. I’m working on a new painting-a-day series called Outside the Lines. I throw down swatches of watercolor on 9×12 watercolor paper, and then spend time looking at the stream of consciousness colors to see what emerges.
On the left in the above picture is the swatch of color, and on the right is the painting I saw emerge from that swatch, which I painted in. With the paintings a day, I have less than an hour to finish the entire piece. I run a coaching business and am writing my third novel, FIRE, so I don’t have a great deal of time to sit with the work. But I love the painting-a-day process because it forces me to just create and not think, and my hope is that it bypasses the critical mind.
After the healing with Judith, after my heart began to open so that I could feel what I was really feeling, I noticed an immediate difference in my art.
The dimension, color and form deepened. A soulful energy blew through each piece in a way that never happened before. Besides the artistic process, my feelings opened up in other ways, too, of course. I would drive and listen to music and feel so passionate about life, so righteously angry, or glorious in my grief or mournful in my empathy. I felt good. Really good. I had a dream where I stepped on to a platform, and stood in a beam of light, and this powerful art energy swirled around me. A group of people said to me: “Welcome home.”
All of this from opening my heart. All of this from being allowed to feel what I’m feeling. To be angry because I have a right to be, to be annoyed, fretful, worried.
Being nice all the time keeps us in the shallow end of the pool. Trying just to be positive forces us to push down how we really feel. We get depressed. We should be happy, and we’re not. Everyone keeps telling us just to be positive. Look at all the social media posts about this. Hey, I’ve got nothing against positivity, but there’s got to be a way to stay positive and not deny our real feelings, right? For the sake of our art…for the sake of living a passionate life.
What emotions could you allow yourself to feel to deepen your connection to your creative work?
Caroline Allen is a visual artist, novelist and coach. She is the author of EARTH and AIR, available on Amazon, and at other online booksellers in both trade paperback and e-book. Visit her website at www.carolineallen.com.