I talk a lot about art journaling as a creative habit. As all habits, creativity needs cultivating. How do we handle our creative habit when we go through emotional pain?
I have a confession to make. Recently, I had let my creative habit suffer immensely as a result of debilitating emotional pain. In the wake of a bad breakup, I simply did not feel up to it. Creativity needs inspiration, playfulness and a certain courage – none of these are attributes that come easily to us when we’re hurting.
If you’re in emotional pain that is keeping you from creating, know that you are not alone. Also know that it’s okay to take your time.
Sometimes, all you can do is take a break
Truly, as much as I advocate incorporating daily creativity into your life, there were a few weeks this year when I couldn’t walk the walk myself. Art journaling felt like it would have been a chore, rather than a release, let alone fun. In all honesty, for a few weeks, I didn’t think I knew what the word “fun” meant any more.
I wrote an article a while back about the importance of allowing yourself to take a break, breathe and ask yourself: What do I need right now? The past weeks and months have been a journey of asking myself that very same question every single day.
Know when art journaling will help
In every emotional turmoil or trauma, you will come to a point when art can help. It may not be during the very first days, but it always comes. Sometimes, it’s precisely in the middle of the pain – especially when you find you need to work through something to come to a decision – and sometimes, it comes later. For me, this last month has been about getting back to myself. It’s been about coming to terms with changed circumstances, and understanding myself as a full person outside the context of the relationship that had defined myself for years. The relationship has been over for quite some time now, but it is only recently that I have found my way back to art journaling.
Getting back to art means three things right now:
I get to express that I am an artist and come back to understanding this as a core aspect of my person and my being.
I get to fail at pages again, get to feel inferior, like my creativity isn’t worth squat because nothing comes out on paper the way that I wanted it to look in my head. But at the same time, I get to be happy and proud about the pages that turn out unexpectedly well. I have to let emotions in again, emotions about myself and my worth as an artist and a person. I’ve only recently felt strong enough to cope with those emotions again.
Last but not least: I get to work through the leftovers of grief, anger and hurt. They are fading, but there are still occasions when they want and need to be heard and dealt with. I can do that again with my art now.
If you’re unsure you’re ready to create again…
… I will suggest the same thing I often say about dealing with a lack of inspiration. Get out paint and paper and just do something. Anything. And if it’s just covering the page in blue or black or yellow paint, then do just that. You’ll feel it if you want to do more than that.
You’ll know when you’re ready to create again.
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