Friday, January 17, 2014

Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Woman

(Let me start by apologizing for the silly title of this post; if I were less sleep-deprived, I likely wouldn't have the courage to keep it. It's just the English major in me coming out. I get an inordinate amount of joy out of plays-on-words and the like :) There's a whole pile of stuff in that title alone that I could talk about. For example, I guess it's time to finally admit to myself that I no longer fit in the "young adult" category. And "woman"? Don't get me started! But what I want to think about today is what it means to me to be an artist.)

Up until very recently (I'm talking this week), I would never have considered applying the term "artist" to myself. Creativity was always something that other people had, not me. When I was a child, I had a very limited idea of what constituted artistry - to me it was drawing, painting, sewing, sculpting, crafting, building, creating things...none of which I was ever very good at, or had much interest in. And so very early on, I ruled out any association with what I thought to be an exclusive, particularly-talented, special group, and instead shifted my focus to what came fairly easily: academics. In my mind, it was always an either/or issue. And since I didn't consider excelling in academics to be anything particularly special, I really think this had an adverse effect on my self-image. Ironically, it's pretty clear to me now that I was very active in artistic pursuits: music, writing, and drama in particular. For some reason, I had never considered my participation in these activities to be artistic in nature. If you had asked me whether music, literature and drama were forms of art, I likely would have responded in the affirmative, but not my own feeble attempts - I would not have deemed them worthy to be included in the art category.

Fast-forward 20 years. After much frustration and searching and depression and questions and self-doubt and fear, by the grace of God I am becoming myself - the self God has made me to be. And that includes creativity! I've recently come to the (pretty obvious) realization that humans, having been made in the image of God the Creator, are inherently creative creatures, created to create!  And so, as a result, I'm giving myself permission to label my creative efforts "art".  I'm allowing myself to call one of the many hats I wear my "artist" hat.  I'm going to (try to) stop repressing that part of my personality, to stop ignoring and belittling and condemning those artistic tendencies and leanings; to try to love and nurture and encourage the timid artist within. These are significant statements for me to make; they indicate the beginnings of a major heart-shift. This very blog is responsible in part for that shift - it's been an exercise in daring to be creative and authentic and genuine, to take risks, sometimes at great emotional cost. The challenge now is to practice consistency - to employ the discipline necessary for growing creatively and producing better and better art. One more step on the path to (the) real joy!


  1. Great post - and I also like the play on words. I was showing someone some of my photos and they said, "Oh, you're a photographer!" I said "No - " but then I stopped, and I had to spend some time qualifying this. I am not a professional photographer, no. I have taken some very nice photographs, and I enjoy it a lot, but I don't earn a living at it and am definitely not avid. But, I don't think that a flat-out 'no' is the right answer either. So, I say that I am an amateur/hobbyist photographer. That way I'm not insulting any of the professionals out there.

  2. Joy, I have always soooo enjoyed your talent over the years in music, drama and now writing! It is hard to hear that you felt so badly about yourself all these years when I consider you so gifted, but I know people say the same about me, and I've never been crazy about myself either. :( Please take this glimmer of hope and run with your creativity! God loves to see us use his gifts and I know whatever you do will glorify Him! Love you!

  3. Keep creating, Joy! inner-critic be damned.