No matter what problem you have, odds are Samantha Bennett will tell you, “Make some art about it.”
Sam is an actor, the author of Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day, and the CEO of The Organized Artist Company, which offers workshops and coaching to artists and entrepreneurs who want to get their shit together.
People like me.
Early in the year, I signed up for Sam’s 6-week Get It Done online workshop because I’d stalled out in my vision for Wholly Creative. I had an idea of what I wanted to do — teach people how to integrate mind, body, and spirit in their creative lives — but I didn’t know how to clarify my vision and implement a plan. Over the months, I’ve heard Sam tell those of us that get creatively stuck or are dealing with a problem to “Make some art about it.”
She says it so often, it finally sunk in.
Only, this time it was personal: a friend with whom I’d had a close but difficult relationship re-appeared after a long (and peaceful) absence. My ambivalence about his return manifested as intrusive thoughts. Whether working or playing, I kept thinking about him, and I was losing both focus and peace of mind.
I took out some paper and a pen, and rather than write, I start to draw. When I was done half-an-hour or so later, I had grade-school art to show for my efforts, but I felt like I’d gone through top-notch psychotherapy. My divided feelings had become a firm resolve to maintain my distance from this dear, but toxic, friend. My feelings of hurt turned to empathy as I analyzed my drawing. I could see his pain and fear disguised as toughness and cool detachment, and I could see the power in my transparency and vulnerability. He was walled in; I was levitating.
Something in me was healed, and I didn’t even need any artistic skill to do it.
Skill, in fact, may have gotten in the way. If I’d tried to write about the problem, chances are my ego would’ve stepped in and start editing and offering opinions before the words made it to the page. But in a medium where I’ve got zero talent? My ego didn’t even think to speak up. It was out to lunch while it thought I was goofing around with kid stuff.
I wondered what it was like for Sam’s other clients who followed her advice.
Roxana Ramos, a client of Sam who lives in Peru and works in the visual arts — including paper and bookbinding — made some art with India ink markers and paper after she and her boyfriend had an big argument. Unlike my metaphoric rendering, Ramos expressed her feelings abstractly.
“Once my feelings had form, I was able to analyze them,” Ramos said.
She understood from the colorful loopy doodles that she’d had an imbalance that contributed to the argument: “I was too analytical, concentrated on my practical side, so when it was time to feel, I got overwhelmed and exploded.”
For her, another up side to this therapy is that it also contributes to her oeuvre and provides a source of income. (This blog’s featured image at the top is Ramos’s “Us”).
The simple creative practice has helped Ramos overcome overwhelm, the problem that brought her to Sam in the first place. Artists, especially those who are in full-time jobs while pursuing their art “on the side,” often face overwhelm. Other times, the problem stems from too many options. Whatever the cause, overwhelm shuts artists down.
MK Piatkowski, a Canadian singer, dancer, playwright and director, also conquered overwhelm. She quit her full-time job and set out on her own thanks to Sam’s advice to “make some art about it.”
“The practice reminded me that I needed to be an artist again,” Piatkowski explained. “So I’d work and then think, ‘Ok, dance break!’ or “Ok, now let’s do some writing.’”
Piatkowski also used the art of writing to remove a “grief block” that was keeping her from moving forward after the death of a friend, and she incorporated the work into her one-woman cabaret show-in-the-making. She also makes art to clarify her vision for One Big Umbrella, her business that serves theater professionals and creative entrepreneurs.
And it’s not just artists. Even cowgirls get the blues and can benefit from art-making.
Jane Sisam, a veterinary scientist in New Zealand working “to improve animal health and productivity through on-farm workshops, teaching and demonstrations” was having trouble naming her business. Her indecision, she said, “was just like being in a whirlpool, just going round and round, and not getting anywhere.” Sisam wrote and drew pictures about the problem, and finally settled on the name The Pink Cow Company, which satisfied her desire for a right-brained name that would help her business stand out and a feminine name that would represent the “ladies”– both the cattlewomen and the cows – that she works with.
Sam’s explanation for her directive is that art explains our feelings to us. “The other part, I think,” she says, “is explained by the immortal words of my friend Bill Baren [a coach who teaches The Art & Science of Conscious Success]: ‘Feelings just want to be felt.’ And once they know they’ve been felt, that energy can be released and resolved.”
For some, that resolution creates a domino effect. Unblocking in one area leads to movement in other areas. Says Piatowski,“I didn’t move forward in the business until I started writing the play.”
I know that for many years I underestimated the power of my emotions, trying to bulldoze through blocks with sheer will power rather than addressing their causes, which was both exhausting and unreliable. I’ve developed a deep respect for what I once saw as frivolous. Integrating mind, body, and spirit, also means integrating work and play, business and art.
Watch my free webinar Practical Magic for Writers to learn other approaches to move through resistance and enhance creativity or click on the button to get my guide to overcoming procrastination, How to Get Started and Keep Moving.