According to artist Kelly Rae Roberts in her book Taking Flight: Inspiration And Techniques To Give Your Creative Spirit Wings, embracing our vulnerability is key to creativity.
As she writes, “Regardless of our craft or art form of choice, some of our best work can come from a place of vulnerability, of being open to the burdens and even the joy in our lives, then releasing it all.”
Unlike many people think, vulnerability doesn’t mean being weak or sharing deep-seated secrets, Roberts writes. Instead, it means being honest about how you’re currently feeling and infusing those feelings into your work. It means speaking your heart.
Your vulnerability also may have many faces. It may look like gratitude, sadness, joy or overwhelm — among others.
For Roberts, embracing vulnerability means feeling freer and more connected to others. She writes:
Sometimes when I’m creating a painting, something uncomfortable gets dredged up for me. I feel awkward, restless, in ways that I can’t quite put my finger on. Through the process of sitting down at my table and putting paint onto paper, this is what happens: I nurture that very vulnerability that had me feeling uncomfortable in the first place. It gets released. I feel freer. I often add words to my paintings to express what it is I’m nurturing in that very moment. Phrases like “tell your story,” or “silent emotion,” or “unbroken wings, discovered,” are all bits and pieces of my own vulnerability peeking through in my art. It not only makes the process of making art more meaningful to me, but also creates an invaluable connection with other women who are also struggling or working through similar issues. It’s sending the message that it’s OK to speak our truth. It will be heard.
Expressing your vulnerability can be public or private, subtle or bold. Maybe you create an art journal, write a memoir for your eyes only or make a necklace that holds deeper meaning, Roberts writes.
One of her friends creates totes with colorful fabrics. Doesn’t sound particularly meaningful. But as Roberts explains, “Each one comes with a tiny fictional story, a narrative journey of what she hopes to express with that item. The stories resonate with every woman who longs to wander the fresh fruit markets, or fields of flowers, or Parisian streets — all with her lovely tote in hand.”
The important thing when leading with vulnerability is to pinpoint what you’re trying to say and express. If you’re not sure, one idea is to think “about the last piece of art you saw that really tugged at your soul,” Roberts writes. “What was it about the piece that struck you? Could the answer be something you’d like to express in your own creations?”
Here are other simple ideas from Roberts on channeling your truth into your work.
Try adding something personal and meaningful to your next collage, even if it gets covered up with other materials in the end. Perhaps it’s a letter to yourself, a meaningful song lyric jotted on a pretty piece of paper or a copy of your favorite poem. Or try stitching a personal memento within your next quilt.
Prompts to Ponder
Roberts also includes several sentences to help readers dig deeper. Maybe these will spark your creativity.
Today, my truth looks like:
To me, embracing my vulnerability means:
I am called to an art or craft that expresses:
In my artwork, my heart wants me to express more:
Here are several quotes from Roberts’s book to inspire you further:
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~ Madeline L’ Engle
“An artist feels vulnerable to begin with; and yet the only answer is to recklessly discard more armor.” ~ Eric Maisel
“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.” ~ Marc Chagall (one of my all-time favorite artists!)