( 5 Year old me, working on my first masterpiece!)
When I was little I played the trumpet in my elementary school band.
I was never very good. But I kept at it because it was fun. My friends all played instruments too and our teacher always kept us entertained.
A few years later in middle school, I decided to play the drums instead. My parents went out and got me a beginner drum set. But I only played for three days before I gave up.
I loved it, but I was terrible…so I stopped. I didn’t even give myself a chance.
The creative instinct is within all of us, but it’s especially strong when we’re kids. When we made art just for the fun of it and didn’t judge ourselves. Think back to your childhood. Did you like to paint or draw? Maybe you played an instrument or wrote stories. Maybe you loved to sing or make crafts. Maybe you built sandcastles and snowmen…well, maybe not at the same time.
Somewhere along the way, you may have lost the spark. Your inner artist silenced by your inner critic. But art is so important. And while Meniere’s disease can make our lives miserable, inspiration can be found in our suffering. Art can give meaning to our pain. Art can heal us.
The image of the tortured artist exists for a good reason. Some of the greatest works of art the world has ever known were created in the face of adversity. Take Vincent Van Gogh for instance. While suffering from Meniere’s disease, mental illness, and epilepsy, he gave us his Starry Night. Or Ludwig Van Beethoven, a musical prodigy who lost his hearing in the prime of his life, yet went on to produce masterpieces that have endured for centuries.
When disaster strikes and the pressure starts to build, art is a release valve. Our creativity becomes a force of healing by transforming our inner pain into a physical form. And when our minds are filled with fear and uncertainty, art can clarify our thinking and bring us a better understanding of our situation, life, and purpose.
The act of creation brings us to the present moment and keeps us there. This immersion distracts us from the reality of our suffering. And it hints at something greater: a glimpse of your potential.
When I was in my late teens I suffered from depression and anxiety. I also wrote a lot. I still have a folder filled with my old poems and short stories. A lot of them are very dark, and most of it isn’t as good as I remembered it being at the time, but putting the pain on paper helped me cope. It helped me survive. The pain still radiates off the page ten years later. It still helps me today.
“The artist takes in the world, but instead of being oppressed by it, he reworks it in his own personality and recreates it in the work of art.” – Ernest Becker
Art also serves another arguably more important purpose. We make art to express ourselves, but we touch others in the process. And the emotions that pour out on to the canvas become an experience to fall into; a chance for someone to feel something, to be moved and inspired. We can make a difference with our art, one person at a time.
If you feel like it’s hard to make art, you’re right. Good art may seem effortless, but in reality it takes hard work. The award-winning science fiction author, Kurt Vonnegut, famously said, “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
The trick is to make art every day. Make it a habit. Sit down and make art even when you don’t feel inspired. In “The War of Art”, Steven Pressfield explains that by working on our art every day, we open ourselves to inspiration. “When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrue.”
But the author Neil Gaiman puts it best. In a commencement address to the University of The Arts 2012 graduating class, Neil instructs the students to make good art.
“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art.
Make it on the bad days. Make it on the good days, too.”
I challenge you to start today. Pick up a pencil or a paintbrush or a guitar. It doesn’t have to be good. But I promise it will help you. It will restore a part of you that you may have lost a long time ago. And it will transform your pain into something positive…into something beautiful. It will make a difference.
P.S. If you want an audience, send me your art! (Glenn@Mindovermenieres.com) I would love to see/hear/experience it and I promise to check out every single piece of art I receive. With your permission, I may even feature it on the blog!