Guest blogger: Barbara Muir
For artists, making art is life’s main goal, so what happens when we quit producing?
When my 13-year-old dog died in September, I thought I’d hit the depths of sadness. Then my mother died in October, and I was suddenly sidelined by my own grief.
The direct result of losing someone or something you love is profound grief. And that hollow, meaningless feeling that accompanies loss does not lead to art. Yet we know art is the answer.
Here are eleven ideas that helped me work through my grief. Perhaps they might help you feel your way back to your studio.
1. Don’t do anything—push the pause button.
When you’ve suffered a serious loss, take a break. Take care of yourself and trust that the urge to get back at it will resurface.
2. Open your eyes.
Loss hurts. But let in some beauty.
Fill your senses with music and the sights and sounds of nature. Visit museums and art galleries to get focused on the type of art you’ll make when you’re ready.
Whatever touches your heart will help you heal. Being moved by what we see, hear, and feel leads to inspiration, and that gets us back to creating again—even when the darkness is so profound that we can’t imagine it’s possible.
3. Forget the rules.
Lose the rules about how to be a real artist. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to Michelangelo, Marina Abramovic, Georgia O’Keeffe, or David Hockney. Making art of any kind makes you real. Your creative process and your own style are what matters.
4. Tempt your inner artist.
Buy new supplies. Treat yourself to all the colors you love. Stopped by the cost of supplies? Shop online for bargains or trade with other artists.
5. Find an artistic space that’s safe for you.
To get back to work we need physical space that also feels right emotionally. Give yourself permission to start small. If working at home doesn’t work anymore, join an art club where you can make art every day or share a studio.
6. Dedicate time to making art.
Block out chunks of time. Make an appointment with yourself and then show up. Stop telling yourself you have no time for art. You can finish your big ideas by grabbing ten-minute time slots.
7. Rely on your lists.
Lists are your lifesaver. Start lists of art you’d like to make. When a piece is giving you trouble, make a step-by-step list of what you want to do next.
To help you move beyond the current moment and start thinking about the future, make lists of places you’d like to show and artists you’d like to show with.
8. Lose the guilt.
Don’t waste time feeling guilty for not making art – make some. As Neil Gaiman said:
Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do.
Make good art.
9. Be your own BAFF (Best Artist Friend Forever).
Praise yourself for each small achievement. When you’re using a list, cross each completed task off and feel some pride as you do. Being kind to yourself helps you let go, relax, and get creative.
10. Recognize that you’ve changed.
Whether it’s a month, a year, or 10 years since you produced your last piece of art, you’re not the same person. You don’t have to make the kind of art you used to make.
Moving in a new direction may be the inspiration to get going again.
11. Remember the bigger vision.
When you are ready, remember the world needs art and the world needs you. Gently—at your own pace, and always paying attention to what’s most important to you—realize that people want to see your work. Your loss isn’t any less, but art can be the path out of the darkness.
About My Guest Blogger
Barbara Muir is known for her portraits and positive life view, which she enjoys sharing through exhibiting her work, public speaking, and teaching English and psychology.
She gained recognition on the international stage through the images and stories on her upbeat blog, Barbara Muir Paints. This earned her a spot on the Oprah Winfrey show drawing Oprah via Skype.
This post was first published January 24, 2014 and has been republished with original comments intact.