“The only unique contribution that we will make in this world will be born of creativity.”
I don’t know about you, but I love me a good podcast. Two of my favorites, Magic Lessons by Liz Gilbert and Dear Sugar Radio by Cheryl Strayed, have both, coincidentally (or not so?) featured the great Brené Brown. Yes, the author of Daring Greatly and, more recently, Rising Strong. That Brené Brown.
Apart from the epic quote that floats above, another incredible notion that Miss Brown has plummeted out into the ethers – and, subsequently, into the brain of yours truly – is that no creative work, no piece of writing in particular, on which our own personal healing is requisite should be shared. So, she’s saying if we’ve written something – or created something, period – on which our own heart’s wellbeing and mending and healing and transformation is hinged…it is not ready to be shared with the world.
This was a touch cringe-worthy for me to hear. Though it rang true, like, cathedral bells true. I, for one, have been seriously guilty of sharing material on which my deep and personal healing process rested, with its full weight. A fragile and, when you think about it, flimsy support system on which to place such a profound experience, no?
The opinion (read: APPROVAL) of others. Of strangers! The horror. It makes me think of Jenga…that game with the wooden blocks where you build and stack and carefully place, and the higher the tower gets, the more wobbly it becomes. Until it all comes crashing down.
That’s the mental image conjured up when I think of sending a raw, fresh, vulnerable piece of my own heart (which is, ultimately, what our art really is) into the cruel world to be either devoured lovingly or torn to shreds. Noooooooooo, thank you. That’s one I’ve learned through the School of Hard Knocks, if you will. I’ve done that, from the very get go, and I’ve been showered with the ego-stroking praise, and I thought wow, neat, I’m going to keep wearing my heart on my sleeve and using my writing as a place to work out the kinks of my own inner psyche and come to blows with my inner demons!
That was so early-twenties of me.
It worked, it did, for a minute. But when the internet trolls and the blessed hearts who just see the world a different way caught wind of my bloody raw creations, that’s when I buckled. Now, let me elaborate on Brené’s brilliant concept; it’s not to say one should never share this raw, vulnerable, just-born work. No, not at all. Quite the contrary. What she stipulated was that we, as artists and creators, are advised to be thoroughly “worked through” of whatever story we are sharing. To be selective with the stories we tell is an art form in and of itself.
Working through the mess, down in the trenches, through therapy, conversation, soul-searching, and good ‘ol time passed, is the only way we can really heal our wounds and learn from them. Then, and only then, can we share the vulnerability, that is our own process of transmutation on this earth, from a place of neutrality.
Neutrality. What a concept! “Nothing to defend,” as Liz Gilbert, the podcast host, pointed out as Brené painted the finishing touches on her idea. When are healed of a particular ache, when we have come to a place where we can stand outside of it rather than sinking into its depths, we are in a place of power to remain [more] neutral to its reception.
Because, if we’ve worked through our shit, if we’ve taken it to God, the yoga mat, our therapist, our friends over bottomless mugs of coffee, the pavement, our journals, what-have you…we move through our vulnerability into a place of reserved awareness. There is a roundness to that particular story, a softness, buffed smooth by time and, more often than not, obsession. We are no longer in the jagged, sharp-edged, uneven space of pain or suffering. That ship has sailed, and safely docked at port. We have already been our own greatest critic…and we came through to the other side. So what could anyone else’s rejection possibly do but slide indifferently off the glossy surface?
Now, I must add, I am a real believer in our own fragile humanity. I don’t think stories are ever, for the most part, “over.” I think what we struggle with will come up again and again in our lives, even disgusted as different experiences altogether, but for having learned how to dance with our demons, we are able to cope and persevere and emerge from the dark tunnel relatively unscathed. More and more so with each journey underground. It is more and more brilliantly sunny with each emergence.
That said, I don’t believe our healing has to be “stick a fork in me done” for us to be able to share it creatively. We know, intuitively, in our own hearts and bodies when we have reached a place of strength within a certain vein of our lives. When the blood flow is smooth and unblocked, when the air is circulating freely; when we are no longer suffocated and pummeled by the sheer freshness of it all. As I said before, sometimes time is the greatest healer for our stories. Sometimes much more work is required. Sometimes creating around that struggle is the only therapy that works. And it’s therapy that should always be practiced. It’s so incredibly healing. It’s just that it doesn’t necessarily need to be shared…right that moment.
What a positively fascinating notion. The idea of creating just for the sake of creating. The idea of pouring blood, sweat, and tears into the creation of something so beautiful, that you keep it just for yourself. That it is not something for public domain. I know I am a breed of creator who is hungry to share with the world. Yes, I keep a personal journal, and those entries are sacred. I would never dream of scanning them onto this blog, or any other public forum, in a million years. But do I often end up writing about the same stories that have graced their confidential pages? YES, of course. I just am learning, as I grow more familiar with this earthside existence, that timing is everything.
There is a time, and a place, to share our boldest creations. There is a very specific time in which to share the stories that have tugged at our hearts and minds. When we are ready to invite the unsolicited approval and rejection of outsiders, able to remain rooted in the truth and sacred origin of our expression, we are ready to share our most vulnerable stories.
But what does this mean for the eager creator? The innocent, and perhaps naive, invincible artist? Share. Create. Keep to yourself. Listen to your own heart. But know, as someone who was once naive and overeager to work out my own healing in public print, there is a potent and almost Holy nature to withholding. Because, in doing so, we are forcing our own hands. The stories we want so desperately to share, because it serves our work and our readers and our own integrity, must be shared only when we have done the harder work…journeying through the healing process. When we make that a stipulation to our sharing, to our expression, the resentment and fear that coexist with noble creativity melt away. Or are at the very least muted. And when we emerge from the tunnel, when we rise back up above ground, we can share our creations proudly. Confidently. And in the glimmering light of day.