Shall I Undress?

To be a "creative" is to birth something in a rather vulnerable way into the world. To varying degrees. Close to one end of the continuum, at least for many visual artists, is the artist's talk: standing in front of a crowd of people and using a relatively unsharpened "tool" of one's voice while revealing stuff about one's work and very possibly oneself. At the other end of the continuum, there are people you and I know who have rarely, if ever, let any of their work see the light of day. The reasons for this vary widely. 

Yet there's a pretty decent chance that if you've been labeled a creative, you're probably known for creating things (duh); for birthing things into the world - which requires a willingness to embrace vulnerability, with all its associated warts and wrinkles. Again, to varying degrees.   

Speaking of birth and wrinkles, perhaps that's why newborns nearly always arrive 'on stage' wailing - maybe it's the shock of the nude; the stupefaction resulting from their comparatively cold and harshly lighted reality (not to mention getting pinched, prodded, and smacked - get used to it, baby!) Perhaps it's the realization that all the world's a stage, and they've been chosen for a life-long part similar to the one my wife played in her high school's production of Becket. 

Shall I undress, my lord? was nearly the entirety of the lines my wife-to-be spoke on stage. In front of her peers. Didn't require much memorization, but made up for it in courage.

Artist talks: perhaps a visual artist's #1 least favorite activity.

But we don't have to stand in front of a crowd to experience repercussions for moving toward vulnerability and connection. Also toward creativity, which I'll elaborate on later. 

Because again, all the world's a stage, and we're all much more naked and visible to others than we tend to realize. Not to mention hemmed in by it: naked and vulnerable came we from our mothers' wombs; naked and vulnerable shall we depart.  

If that's true, why not roll with it? Why not go with the flow, get that set of oil colors out of deep storage, and start painting again? Why not pull that screenplay out of the drawer and resume work on it?

Here, most likely, is what's keeping you from pulling that block of marble out of the corner of the garage, setting it on a stump, and continuing that sculpture you started a couple of decades ago. In order to hold a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other, one has to put down their sword and shield. The risk of connection; of inviting others to one's studio or shelling out good money to have head shots taken and approaching a talent agency, etc., means one might possibly be rejected; hurt; potentially psychologically damaged, emotionally scarred.

Better, many decide, to be a rock, better to be an island.

I'll begin to wrap things up today the way I began work with my two summer assistants a few days ago: by watching a video of someone on stage.

If Brené Brown, research professor, bestselling author, and highly sought after speaker, isn't familiar to you, I encourage you to listen to both of her Ted Talks on the subjects of connection, vulnerability, shame, and the following contention:

You can't medicate the negative aspects often accompanying vulnerability without also dulling the positives - innovation, change, and creativity.

That's right, creatives, Brené contends that vulnerability is birthplace of creativity.

In the following talk Brené gave at a 99U conference a few years ago, she describes the place where creatives often hole up, fully intending to take that art class or approach that gallery or submit their work to another show... some day...

And, spoiler alert, she brings today's post full circle by saying that, yes indeed, in order to birth something into the world, you first have to drop your armor and get naked.

Brené Brown - Stop Focusing On Your Critics


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