Being happy to fail in our creative endeavours is an essential way to draw out the ‘artist child’ deep inside us all, Nicole Law discovered.
I was recently blessed to read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I did a little research and realised she was born Catholic and a filmmaker. Both those things interested me: the Catholic bit because I am one too, and the film-maker part because, well, wouldn’t we all have liked to be one?
I was sceptical about the book itself – it promised a ‘creative recovery’ to creatives.
I had been going through a creative block for some time and not addressed it, preferring to compel myself to draw/paint/write with little joy. I felt that the book was a nudge to me from God – I first saw it on a friend’s Instagram and was intrigued by the snippets.
Julia reminds us that we all have an inner ‘artist child’ living inside us but we might have suppressed any creative urges due to criticism or scepticism.
This coincided with what I was reading in another work, the Letter to Artists by Pope St John Paul II. I bet that surprised you: a Pope writing about art. Well, it’s actually one of the most beautiful things I have ever read on the relationship between faith and art. And he also speaks of the artistic potential each person has. Anyhow, back to Julia.
Her book illuminated my mind. Yes, we all have innate creative potential: art doesn’t have to be simply Art, with a capital A, understood as the reserve of talented geniuses. She pointed out that to cultivate our potential, we must ‘coax’ the inner artist child and allow ourselves space to play and experiment in a safe environment where we can ‘fail’.
I laughed at this statement as I recall the countless pieces of art I have thrown or stowed away due to the sketchy efforts I had made. It reminded me of the stories I have written that have not seen the light of day and my perception that I had no innate ability to dance.
Cameron insists that one should ‘Give yourself permission to be a beginner’ and I recall the feeling of being thrust into a Tango class for intermediate students and tripping over people’s feet. I also recalled the freeform brush strokes as I ‘spoiled’ one canvas after another (yes, I’ve got a collection of those).
There was a lot of fear to explore the creative side of myself – and lots of excuses not to. There is always the illusory ‘I’ve got plenty of time down the road, right now isn’t a great time’. But the thing is, when I started to say ‘there is no time like NOW’, that’s when I found myself much freer. Free to paint with mediums I hadn’t tried before, free to draw odd-sized human heads and features, free to dance artlessly and incur a corrective reminder from my instructors, free to write bad poems. Free to be God’s co-creator of beauty!
All these botched experiments have taught me that failure is an essential part of growth in creativity and indeed as a person in general. In fact, the only real failure is not to try.