Whether consciously or unconsciously, most humans have experienced some form of creative scarring. It may have been the art teacher in elementary school who questioned the shape of your sketch of a horse. Or a parent negating your dreams of becoming a musician. The theatre director who deemed that you would never be the right type to play the “ingenue role”. These comments and criticisms, whether benign or actively hurtful, have significant impact on our lives as creators. Words, memories, and criticisms cut deep and the scar tissue is lasting. I have known many who have completely abandoned all artistic/creative impulses due to being traumatized by the careless words of others. For creative professionals, these wounds can create growth blockages, preventing the artist from taking chances/risks necessary for evolution and continued expansion in their craft.
For vocalists, this creative scarring can be extremely detrimental. There is little place to hide within vocality. Our voices are a direct link to our emotional and mental state. By stifling the pain resulting from experiences with criticism, we are creating an active barrier between ourselves and our art. These memories can be painful to excavate, but with a careful and cautious approach, we can start to mend internally which allows our expression to flow without boundaries.
Journaling is one of the most simple and effective ways to begin the creative healing process. The type of journaling that I encourage to begin is free-associative. A form of mental purging. Expunging all the contents of your brain onto the page. This can be, at times, as boring as it is exhilarating. Somedays, all I can muster to write down is, “I don’t feel like writing in this journal” over and over. This is the point of a free-associative journal. To document any and all emotions, thoughts, observations, no matter how mundane or how exciting. It is an enema for the brain. How do we get to the juicy center of our creative mind, with all the crusty crap of our psyche blocking the access? This journal is meant to be a cleanser. A means of contemplation and elimination.
Now, that being said, you still need to hold this journal in high regard, or you will not be encouraged to utilize it. Go out and buy a NEW JOURNAL. Something aesthetically pleasing. Something that works with your lifestyle. Small and pocket-sized, if you don’t carry a bag most of the time. Or huge and leather bound, if that feels right! Make it yours, and make it feel good to write in it. Buy a new pen, one that feels good in a color you enjoy.
The key with journaling is CONSISTENCY. Some people find it easiest to journal in the morning, before they do anything else. Others find it cathartic to do it mid-day while on the train or a work break. Some find it helpful at night, as a means to document the day. Whatever your schedule, do it DAILY. Begin by doing one page back and front (or two pages if your journal is teeny.) While it may begin as a chore, you will quickly feel the benefits of this daily practice.
You may also begin to see little nuggets of creativity emerging in your everyday entries. From here, buy a SECOND JOURNAL. One that you can transfer more creative elements of your writing into. It is important to have this separation. We are attempting to organize our creative selves, by actively separating the curds and whey of our mind cheese! Believe you me, the results will be delicious.
The art of affirmation is particularly healing. However, I find that for most, effortlessly conjuring positive things to say about oneself is pretty far-fetched. This is especially true for those dealing with a traumatic history of being criticized or teased. It is much easier for our brains to go straight to the negative: the hurtful words from ourselves or others that have cycled through our brains non-stop for years or lifetimes. So let’s start there.
-Gather a piece of paper or a pen (you can also do this activity in your free-association journal)
-Set a timer for 1 minute.
-Actively write down every negative self-identification that emerges.
I AM LAZY.
I AM UNTALENTED.
I AM UGLY.
I AM USELESS.
I AM BORING.
-At the end of the minute return to the top of your list.
-Taking your writing utensil, actively cross, scribble, Sharpie out the negative sentiment.
I AM LAZY.
-Immediately rewrite the phrase with the opposite.
I AM LAZY. I am driven. I AM UNTALENTED. I am gifted. I AM UGLY. I am beautiful.
-When you have finished writing the opposites, return to the beginning of the list and read aloud your new set of affirmations.
These methods will assist the process of unraveling your history with critique, judgement, or even abuse. The exercises become a salve which will aid and mend your healing. The scar may always be faintly visible, but you can learn to let it encourage and fuel your artistic endeavors instead of inhibiting them. Here’s to you, brave creators!