Doing as healing.
When I hit burnout six years ago and abandoned my puppetry practice to travel and nurse my creative wounds, I unconsciously enlisted myself in a faith-building process. After seven years of honing my skills as an artist, I walked away from my craft. I believed that if this was the work I was meant to be doing, then I’d find my way back to it. And while I did return to puppetry eventually, I couldn’t have predicted how my creative hiatus would shape my current practice.
Healing our creative wounds is not about returning to the way things were. Like our bodies, the injuries that our creative selves endure change how we make our art. Sometimes, the creative pain we’ve experienced influences our practice in really dramatic ways. Like scar tissue and reset bones, these breaks affect how we move through the world as creatives. And if we include and transcend them, they become essential parts of our work.
My fine art degree shattered me. And I spent the six years that followed collecting all the pieces and gluing myself back together again. What I initially thought of as a gross inconvenience became a necessary rite of passage. I would not be doing the work I am doing now were it not for the fact that I hit creative rock bottom and had to climb my way out of that hole. Looking back, it’s clear to me that doing was what saved me and my work.
Sometimes we need to edit as a way to heal. Other times, it’s doing that will allow us to find closure and move forward in our creative practice. When your wounds are still fresh, the doing might run parallel to your art. Or it might be completely unrelated. A large portion of my doing in those early years involved convincing my inner creative that it was safe to come out and play; that there was still reason to delight in the world.
When I finally started filming my online course earlier this week, it felt like the final step in my doing-as-healing process. I am back to working with puppets and have found a way to incorporate all the residual quirks of an extensive and intensive creative rehabilitation process. I feel relieved even as I take my first few wobbly steps. Far from the creative glory I had longed for before everything fell apart, my work isn’t perfect and it’s good enough.
The more I write about my creative process, the clearer it becomes that how we make our work as artists and writers and performers is just as important as the work itself. Our world’s hunger for creativity makes every artist vulnerable to internalizing the narrative that we must sacrifice ourselves for our art. The alternative is to use doing as a way to first heal our creative wounds and then help others to heal themselves as well.
So, what do you need to do to begin healing your creative wounds?