Making Art is therapeutic

I do not consider myself an Artist or a Creative. Far from it. I’ve mostly worked in fairly “left brain” fields, fields where I’ve applied my analytical skills much more than anything else.

And yet, I’m surprised at how much I’ve taken to bookbinding. I love tearing paper to put together book signatures (bookbinding jargon 101), I love thinking about the kinds of book covers I can make, I love sewing signatures together to form books of all shapes and sizes, I love thinking through the materials I would use in my books. And yes, I love the tactile feel of the finished product.

I came across this passage recently, in a letter written by Sherwood Anderson, a writer, to his son:

“Draw things that have some meaning to you. An apple, what does it mean?

The object drawn doesn’t matter so much. It’s what you feel about it, what it means to you. A masterpiece could be made of a dish of turnips.

Draw, draw, hundreds of drawings.

The object of art is not to make salable pictures. It is to save yourself.

There is no special trick about writing or painting either. I wrote constantly for 15 years before I produced anything with any solidity to it.

For days, weeks, and months now I can’t do it. You saw me in Paris this winter. I was in a dead, blank time. You have to live through such times all your life.

The thing of course is to make yourself alive. Most people remain all of their lives in a stupor. The point of being an artist is that you may live.”

Excerpt from a letter by Sherwood Anderson to his son. Posterity

When you make something, it doesn’t matter what it is, it requires you to make yourself vulnerable to some extent. You’re pouring a bit of yourself, your identity, your emotions, into whatever it is that you have made. It is a reflection of what you think is “good”, “worth making”, what you think should exist in the world. Making art necessarily requires you to take off the mask, the barriers, the walls that we might erect with others, and be more in touch with our inner selves.

And that’s therapeutic.

Think about the last time you made something – it doesn’t matter whether you were proud of the output or not. Did the process feel therapeutic? Did you come out feeling relaxed at the end of it? I bet you did.

It seems impossible to find the time to indulge in this sort of stuff given our busy schedules. But I really think it’s worth it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time. And you can be smart about how you make the time for it. Try swapping that session in front of the TV with a productive session making something instead. Or make stuff while watching TV if you like. But really, if you make it a habit, you’ll find that you’ve added such a beautiful aspect to your life.

Try it. You’ll be a much happier version of yourself 🙂 And remember, it doesn’t matter what art you’re making, or whether you or anyone else thinks it’s any good. The point is to do it consistently.

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