Healing Through Art

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From Ravenous Butterflies

We do not escape into philosophy, psychology and art — we go there to restore our shattered selves into whole ones.

— Anais Nin


You know, they straightened out the Mississippi River in places, to make room for houses and livable acreage. Occasionally the river floods these places. “Floods” is the word they use, but in fact it is not flooding; it is remembering. Remembering where it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was. Writers are like that: remembering where we were, that valley we ran through, what the banks were like, the light that was there and the route back to our original place. It is emotional memory — what the nerves and the skin remember as well as how it appeared. And a rush of imagination is our “flooding.”

–Toni Morrison

Creativity is open to anyone if they want it, male or female. For me the process involves a lot of emotion, a lot of guessing and intuiting, a lot of feeling my way forward. At least that’s how I paint. So far, my writing seems to come from a completely different place, a place of reflection and making connections, of trying to understand something.

I wait, and when a sentence or idea shows up, I write it down. The next sentence is suggested by that one and so on. Again, I never plan a piece. I just go with what needs expression in the moment. I’m surprised that what seems to need expression is so ideational. I think of myself as an emotional person. My painting is very physical. The style naturally tends toward the expressionist. My writing has very little of that energy.

So, I’m not the writer I thought I would be, but as usual I’m going with the flow. I’m getting curious about what’s going to come out of my fingers next.

I started writing on Medium a year and a half ago. I set myself the task of one piece a day, which is a nice little discipline. Over time, my writing has mutated. I think it has slowly organized itself into a way to discover connections and communicate them.

Still, this is just preliminary to learning how to tell a story that has both meaning and emotion. That’s where I think I’m going. I don’t hear the gods laughing, so maybe I really am going there.

My initial training in painting emphasized analysis and knowledge, so it took me years to get my bearings. I happened upon a teacher in Italy who very quickly opened up a better way for me to work. I apply some of those lessons to writing too. It mostly entails having confidence that there is an intelligence in you that wants to express itself, but you have to get out of the way.

That involves self-listening and patience, the assurance that even if your mind is blank, something will stir in the depths and you’ll know what you wanted to say. It’s in there, but it can’t be forced.

Courting the inner muse is a form of self clarification. That’s why your art and philosophy can help anyone else who also needs to touch their basic nature. We help the world by healing ourselves this way. Creativity heals us. Beauty heals us. Putting our arms around our essential nature heals us.

We need ideas, insights and inspiration to know who we are and what’s important. That’s what’s behind my writing. Will it mutate? Probably, how could it not? The seed has been planted. Now I feed and water it, wondering whether it’s going to be a tree or a rose bush.

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