The forgotten art of me
5 min read

The forgotten art of me

The forgotten art of me
Photo by Vladimir Fedotov / Unsplash

It’s about this time of the year when my thoughts float to a specific book. Maybe it’s the autumnal season, the colors, the nostalgia. Perhaps the closing of the year, the coziness of Yuletide, and pretty much everything in between.

Which — before I dive into this story, to have a book haunt you on the regular is actually a gift. Truly, a gift.

Movies and songs? We expect those to stick with us. If it’s not catchy, it’s forgotten.But someone’s writing? Words on a page? Ancient wizardry. Some kind of voodoo magic.

My haunt was Elizabeth Gilbert and what I consider to be her masterpiece: Big Magic. I can’t remember what exactly triggered me to pop open Audible on my phone, type in “Big Magic” in the search bar, and press the colorful, bright book cover. We’re starting from Chapter 1, all over again.

This is my fourth time reading this book, and since I started my business DemandMaven, I’ve been revisiting this book every year. The first time I read it (or listened to it, rather), I was on the train, taking MARTA public transit a few stops down to visit my client in downtown Atlanta. My client worked in one of the most beautiful co-working spaces I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Constellations on Auburn Avenue. Mid-century inspired with big, rustic windows for gorgeous light to pour in. Gold accents, deep blue tones, exposed brick. It was and still is a creative’s dream. A feast for the eyes.

And every week for three months, I’d make the trek down to Constellations to visit my client, listening to Big Magic along the way.

Every year I read the book, I heard something new every time.

This time, I’m listening to Big Magic in the car, driving down I-85 to get to my doctor’s office for an annual check-up. Elizabeth is narrating, and she’s telling her stories as if she were a dear friend, gently encouraging and coaxing me to fearlessly create.

It’s actually the first story she tells, though, that struck me down. She talks about Jack Gilbert — the elusive poet who shared her surname and role at the university at different times, but had no direct relation.

In the story, Jack asks a talented student what they most want to do in life. When the student replies with considering becoming a writer, Jack turns serious and asks, "Do you have the courage to bring forth this work?"

Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.

- Jack Gilbert

And that’s when I start ugly-crying in the car on the way to see my doctor, betrayed by whatever stirred my soul and moved by the answer that came later.

Crying in the car while also being the driver is in and of itself an act of courage, but doing it while also driving down an interstate surrounded by trucks, SUVs, and other vehicles requires the perfect balance between courage and discipline.

Cry too hard and you may end up swerving into someone else’s lane. Stifle the cry and you may not have the opportunity to release something so earnestly anytime soon.

I know my emotions, and when something really repressed unearths, I just let it go. I chose to sob.

If you’ve never driven on I-85 in Atlanta, it’s a 7-lane, sometimes 14-lane highway packed with other cars. Changing lanes is a work of art in Atlanta, but in some other driver’s cases, it’s an act of divine chaos with some brazen participants angel-diving across three lanes at once, leaving God to decide the fate of all nearby.

The tears that welled came from an old space in my heart. An empty, abandoned cavern that reminded me that I am, in fact, an artist, and I have a sworn duty to creativity.

An artist who decided 10 years ago to walk away from the role, the medium, and the responsibility to create. In 2011, I majored in art and graduated with a degree in Fine Art: oil painting with honors, summa cum laude. By 2014, I had completely stopped all painting and drawing.

I kept all of my work, but gave away my materials over the years. My paintings cover my apartment. I’m surrounded by my art all the time, every day.

There were many reasons why I put down my brush and walked away from the canvas that I won’t get into here. Perhaps I’ll cover it at a future date.
I had been drawing and painting since I was 12 years old, and taught by several creative masters over the course of my life.

Creativity and artistry was in my blood. My mother showed me how to be creative just as her mother showed her. Ancestors I have never met were musicians, singers, dancers, stylists, gardeners. People who expressed themselves through their art without the promise of ever getting paid or recognized. They were the men and women who saw challenges as opportunities to create and when resources were tight, threw their heads back and mightily said, “I can make that.”

When I married, I married another artist. Come to find out that he, too, was raised by and lived with other artists — stylists, designers, musicians, composers, writers, craftsmen, artisans.

Everywhere I look now, I see art. I see people’s expression. And everywhere I turn, I’m reminded that I am one too — a living, breathing expression.

It’s in the songs I sing, the instruments I play, the creative whims I fall under spell to, the urge to learn and try something new. It’s in the garden I cultivate, the food I cook, the journal entry I’ve written, the words on this screen, the tweet I’ve thrown out, the video I’ve filmed, the makeup I’ve done.

When did I start to believe that being an artist meant that I had to be an oil figure painter realist for the rest of my life and there were no other definitions?

Why did I think I could so easily angel-dive out of being who I was as brazenly as those wild drivers switching lanes on the interstate?

When and where did I believe I could walk away from my soul’s most genuine call to move through life, space, and time as an artist — regardless of medium?

My creative expression used Elizabeth to remind me year after year, and I obliged by reaching for it. Maybe that was the real reason I couldn’t leave the book behind. I needed to come face-to-face with this.

I was meant to create. I was born to create — and more specifically born to express. Whatever my soul is most curious about, I’m supposed to charge ahead and follow it. Wherever my soul most wants to go, that’s where I go. Whenever my soul experiences something that it can’t shake, I’m supposed to step into my truth and express it.

That was my most forgotten art — the art of me.

Perhaps I finally understand the courage required to bring forth this work.