To Bliss Who Says She is Stuck
I’m not buying it. I don’t think you’re stuck as an artist. I think you are either angry, afraid, or bored. My guess is you are all three, and the bolus that is choking the free run of your energy you call a block. You think this ball of confusion is preventing you from becoming yourself. I have news for you, but first, this:
If you put a little kid in a room with paper and crayons and, maybe, scissors (!!!!), something’s going to happen that is worthy of being stuck on the refrigerator or put in a frame and hung on the wall. I mean, come on, there are hand stencils in Indonesian caves that are dated to be about 39,900 years old and we still look at them. We do more than merely look at these works of art, these proclamations of I exist,: we honor and protect them These childlike works would go for a lot more than your annual salary (even if you were Donald Trump, maybe) if they could be scraped off the wall and carried to Sotheby’s.
How do you know if what you are creating is great or not? How do you know it’s worth the time to create when you are just a person on the planet trying to pay her bills? How do you know you won’t be mortally disappointed in yourself if you wholeheartedly play with the crayons and the paper and end up with something you feel is inconsequential, ugly, meaningless, or stupid? What if you are such a bad artist you want to hide or shoot yourself in the face when you see your best effort?
What if all four year olds went looking for guns or cliffs or knives every time they drew something they felt didn’t reflect the glory they initiatively knew radiated from their heart, their soul, from the tops of their feet? What if the very light we carry is what makes us terrifying critics of our own work?
I am filled with fury and sometimes this keeps me from writing. The fury comes from many things, but primarily it is the pent up frustration of a child who does not feel understood and who packs self hatred deep into her guts so that deep breathing becomes a concept and the one I run from becomes myself.
I am so afraid that if I let this fury out, people will hate me. I will be all alone in the world, and I will die.
I wrote a book, though, and I said the things I’d been packing down for all my life, and I survived. So I know it can be done. You can write through hate and confusion and tears and still find love. And breath. I can’t say the fury will disappear, because mine didn’t, but it lessened, and what happened was the loving community of people around me grew larger.
Dear Bliss, I want you to draw a line that goes from A to B. A is your desire to create and B is the creation. I want you to make the line crooked, marking each bend in the line with a reason you can’t get to B. No reason is too petty. Maybe you have no time. Maybe you lost your pen. Maybe you are afraid you have nothing to say. Maybe you are afraid you will have no audience. Maybe you are already bored with the project.
Here’s the best part: those kinks are not your problem: they are the flaming doorway to you. Turn the kinks into art. Write about them—draw them—do collage. Everything you think is a problem is actually an opportunity to see into the mystery of you.
It is the things we hide, the secrets we keep, the shame we swallow that make our art magical and true when we have the courage to show up as we really are. It’s the whole the cracks let in the light thing. Our best selves are often the parts we keep most hidden, only we are like a little kid hiding just her head thinking her whole body is covered, also. People know who we are and they are waiting, the people who are important in our lives, for us to see our own beauty and to open the petals of ourselves to the light. The people who can’t handle the flowering? That is why the EXIT door was created.
Sometimes we think we need these people, these people who don’t fully approve of us, because we have voices in our heads that tell us bad things, tell us we aren’t all that great, and these people mirror those crazy voices and we feel at home, our outside world the same temperature as our inside world. We feel safe. Sort of. In an awful, sick, I want to kill myself or you way. In a, I’m going to shut down and not say anything way.
The kinks in your line of energy are your power points. They are your way home. Describe them. Let them run around. Let them make a lot of noise and see what happens.
You work less than a mile from the ocean. Take a walk to the beach and watch the water move.
That is you.
Then go home and get to work.