On inspiration and coming back to art making

“Just starting is a great shift for me-I have felt paralysed, and having a focus, plus some inspiration, helps me begin now.”

A colleague recently contacted me to let me know she felt inspired by the artwork I had been making and posting to social media. She was inspired to take part in the 60 day art challenge ‘Index Card a Day’ which I am participating in this year for the second year (more on that soon). Marilyn is a counsellor and works with creative methods with her clients, so she knows the power and value of creative expression, but had been finding her own creative work had stalled.

She agreed to speak with me about it, this elusive thing called inspiration, and also being stuck, and why it matters.

J: You said you were feeling stuck lately, what does being stuck look like for you?
M: It is a familiar state, one I lived out of, for a time, I think, and one I still feel in at times.

Powerless, helpless, stuck, unable to move, paralysed, frustrated. Passive. It’s impossible, too hard.

When I studied Stan Groff’s work about how our birth experience might impact on us now, I felt that these sorts of feelings I get at times, seem similar or connected to my forceps birth-like I can’t move forward and need someone to ‘pull me out!’.

J: What are your fears about engaging in your creative work?
M: Ahhh, things like-I don’t have the time, energy, talent, space, the right.

All of these have a little cluster of ‘stuff’ around them!

Just recently I was frustrated because I had not unpacked my art materials and didn’t have the energy or time to do that.

No time for me.

J: What does it feel like when you are making art regularly?
M: Wonderful! Exciting! Freeing! Energising!

J: What was it about seeing my work that struck a chord with you?
M: Your work had these sorts of qualities about them for me-life giving qualities.

And apart from that, the very fact that you were doing it was inspiring. It felt like just witnessing you doing it, you making/taking the time to do it, gave me hope that I too would be able to do so one day!

When you posted about the index card a day, it seemed possible, manageable for me.Yes!

And coincided with where Barbara Sher’s course* was up to, where she speaks about ‘even if it seems only a small step towards an adventure, something new, your goal’ then do it! Take it! So I did!

It just fitted perfectly for me at that time in my circumstances.

I had set up easels, gotten paper out, etc etc, but now I realise they were too BIG. I had to do something more my size if you like.

J: What have you learnt from your work in counselling and art therapy, about the role of creativity in people’s lives?
M: A great deal. So many different things. For example, I think of one woman who was terrified at the very idea of even trying to draw and image.

She was an adult woman, but still traumatised by some comments as a child, made by her teacher, which cut off her creativity altogether. Very tragic. ( And I found this a common theme especially amongst women). I had to be very careful and patient. I could see she WANTED to try, but was terrified at the same time. And there was a parallel between this and other issues in her life, including her marriage. It was a very moving experience for me to witness the healing take place, the healing role art played in her wider healing.

I have worked with many children, and seen how fortunate they are to be living in a time and society which , mainly, does not impose such criticism and rules to creative expression (hopefully!). They were not self-conscious, were confident to use materials and just loved it. For many it was a more comfortable, less threatening language for them to tell their stories. So amazing to be part of. It gave them a voice.

I was surprised one day when a man, a working class man, jumped up and drew on the white board a bulldozer about to ram a brick wall!

He was talking about how he felt in his life and what he felt like doing about it! It was so powerful.

So what am I saying here? As a counsellor I can support them by having the materials on hand, using them myself to illustrate things if appropriate, and through this giving them the freedom and permission to do the same.

I spoke with Marilyn who I met while studying together and who is a counsellor and Professional Member of ACATA. She has a private practice, Wellspring Counselling, in Bellingen. You can contact her at mariwadi1@gmail.com

* the online Barbara Sher Book Club for the book ‘I could do anything…if only I knew what it was!’

Image credit: M.Wadick


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