Making life more bearable

Creativity can blossom anywhere, as this artist knows. Washington DC, April 2015

Creativity can blossom anywhere, as this artist knows. Washington DC, April 2015

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow…” Kurt Vonnegut

“What is the purpose of your blog?”  That’s a question others have asked occasionally in the years since I started this blog.  As far as I can remember, my answer is always the same.

“The purpose of my blog is to keep me from losing my mind.”

That’s not to say that I consider it art, except in the sense that Vonnegut describes above.  But I agree with him heartily when he asserts that creativity can make our souls grow, and our efforts to create will bear fruit in ways we do not imagine at the time we are working.

I started this blog because our family had been blindsided by devastating news that threatened to overwhelm us.  Even in our numb sorrow, we understood that we were far from alone in our suffering.  I hoped what I put online here would somehow help someone else in addition to helping me.  I had no idea blogging was a magic carpet that would take me to places where I had never been, and introduce me to wonderful people I could not otherwise have known.

In the beginning, I only knew that the act of producing each post — poring over photographs, reading quotations, piecing thoughts together — was a therapeutic process, one that healed my mind and gave it a respite from turmoil.  Stringing beads does the same thing, as does working with paper, scissors and glue.  Singing (badly) and painting (on a kindergarten level) also give my soul freedom from unhealthy worries and fixations not conducive to surviving and thriving.

It’s probably the same for you.  Some who may read this post are accomplished artists and writers who have turned their talents to financial gain, but that sort of professional achievement is not necessary for the therapeutic benefit (and indeed, I suspect, may work against it in some cases).  Creativity is its own reward, watering the seeds in the garden of your mind so that beautiful and unexpected blooms may result.

This year I hope you will give yourself time and space to exercise whatever forms of creativity feed your soul.  Don’t worry about whether it’s ready for prime time or not.  You need not share it with anyone except yourself, especially in the beginning.  It doesn’t require a lot of money, either. Discount craft supplies and “found” collage materials and online musical inspiration and all sorts of writing and drawing implements, and any other items you may need for getting started, are widely available for nothing, or next to nothing.  So practice your art!  And get ready to grow.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

12 Comments

  1. mike c

    I probably sketch now at a junior-high level, but some junior high artists are really good and some elementary ones too.
    I have always loved that quote by Vonnegut and may have encountered it on your blog before?
    And you don’t have to give a reason either. Like someone asked me ,” Why are you learning Spanish?” I should have said well, “Why not?” Someone also said art is cheap therapy. The best i know.”
    Why blog? Why not?
    One of the comments i got on u.R in regards to my Muslim comments was, “Do you really think-Mohammed is in heaven?” I answered, “Are you sure he isn’t”

    • Mike, I hope everybody is in heaven, even those who were evil on earth, if they can be somehow purged of that evil before they get there. “What is not possible with men is possible with God.” (Read Matthew 19:16-29 for the full context of this statement from Jesus.) Having said that, I realize how theologically UNsound such a view is, and I would never try to defend it based on Holy Scriptures. It’s just how I feel, which is (admittedly) totally subjective and often erroneous. I am so grateful that the eternal destiny of ANY human being is in Divine, Infallible hands!

  2. Good morning, Julia! This is all so true! I had the best time making Christmas presents this year (possibly bringing new meaning to the saying “is better to give than to receive”, but, I digress)!
    Not only is creative expression an emotional release, but we learn things, too, arming us better for future experiences.
    Now i know a lot more about working with felt, and the capabilities of my sewing machine, for example!

    • Felting is a craft that fascinates me. The creations are so amazing in many cases. There is something about any creative endeavor (be it sewing, writing, papercrafts or whatever) that calms and centers me. I suppose there’s a reason that all the cliched movie scenes of mental health institutions seem to include creative pursuits. I would think that traumatized people would find creative pursuits healing and safe.

      • I agree about traumatized people bending from creative pursuits. My friend, Marcia, from my confirmation class years ago, is going through chemotherapy, and was delighted when I gave her a box of watercolors, a paintbrush, and a small watercolor tablet. Now she can scream, or rejoice, or whatever, without needing to find words to describe her feelings.

  3. mike

    Also we have a friend whose daughter is taking painting lessons, who would sometimes comment on how much she is spending -her daughter- on them. The last time we saw her she said, “She sold one of her paintings.!” It is as if in our society art for -arts sake- has little value- until a piece or two is marketed. Yet as you say ,” art is it’s own reward.”
    Then there is the story about Stephen King who sold “Carrie” originally to Double DAy for $ 2500. And later received a check for $450,000 for the paperback rights. From pauper to Prince. His life changed at that moment.

    • Perhaps she was proud of her daughter for having produced a work that was admired by someone else enough that they would pay for it. Not that art for art’s sake does not have its place. But in paying for those painting lessons (and the time involved), she was trading off some other possibility– for herself as well as for her daughter. So once in a while, it might be nice to have a more objective opinion as to whether there is any innate talent worth nurturing.

      So many fields– medicine, engineering, teaching, theology and farming– to name just a few– have intrinsic value. Yet nobody accuses our society of devaluing these pursuits if we expect those who practice them to be good enough to be paid for doing so.

  4. Mrs. Julia,

    This post is so timely. Last April 2022, I was medically retired due to my stage 4 cancer. It took me 9 months to discover my form of art. I am working in an 3-D digital format to create architectural renderings. I finished a 30-year career of building everything from houses, airfields, and agency campuses. Now I can still create facility spaces from the comfort of my home. Thank you confirming that that my retirement time is being well spent.

    God Bless, Ben

    • Hi Ben, it’s always nice to hear from you here. WOW, that is so exciting about your new work! I have seen a few people working with these CAD programs and they are amazing. And it looks like fun, too, though I would be totally unable to even start. As with so many other professions, I think it’s best to have years of experience before learning to work with the digital versions. While they are perfect for your stage of life, nothing can ever replace those 30 years you spent learning the foundation that enables you to work so well with the software. I’m so happy for you!

  5. mike c

    Some or many of these digital artist creations are amazing. Meanwhile Norah now ten is still obsessed with making “slime” in its many forms. Ugh.

    • I never will figure out why kids love gross stuff so much. Has she discovered the Captain Underpants books yet? Or anything else by Dav Pilkey? If not, you have been warned.

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