I was beginning to write this AM and, as usual for me when I am creating anything, there was music in the background … suddenly I heard the raspy voice of one of my favorite out-of-control-rebel women artists from my younger years, Janis Joplin … “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose …. “.   I had sung along with that verse from Me & Bobbie McGee so many times, but this morning it hit me in a whole new way as was I sitting in front of my mostly blank paper.

Today it took me down a road of contemplating my vulnerability. What does it mean to actually have nothing left to lose in terms of  being vulnerable?  What do we think we will lose if we are vulnerable? Vulnerability is another Superpower in the world of creativity I think (see another Superpower HERE)!   I believe that there is great growth, power and freedom in vulnerability. I also agree with Brene Brown that, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

There is this beautiful world of connection available through being vulnerability. It is how we get to connect to our true selves/our Higher Self and how we get to connect more deeply to others. This is one of the things that draws people to Art … through their connection to what is being vulnerably expressed. Our vulnerability as an Artist is healing and evolutionary for us and for others.

I think about how many times I have stood in front of a work of art or listened to music or watched a performance and either wept or laughed from my core (not to mention a whole range of reactions and emotions existed in the middle between those two). I was connected to the Artist and to myself and to our shared humanity through their work.

Being an Artist can be intensely vulnerable.   It is like putting your SELF out in the world with paint, photography, marble, sound, words, performance, dance … it is public.   There is this moment when you hang the work or walk out onto the stage or post it in social media, etc. … that moment that is like “OMG, here I go …” and then with deep courage it is released for all to see.

For you releasing your work may include a deep breath or nervous twitch. It may include a prayer or meditative release. It may be sad, painful or even joyful. It may even be completely non-reactive to you at that stage, as you were busy expressing it while you create, so that by the time you let it go out into the world all the vulnerability about that particular work is already experienced. Our experiences are unique.

One thing for sure is that we aren’t creating factory-produced widgets on an assembly line.   We are creating from a different source. That Source is heart and soul material usually. Each work is a piece of us to some degree… like sending little live cells of ours out into the world for others to see, hear and/or feel. We express our lives. We cannot lie to ourselves without knowing it … authentic vulnerability is what I am talking about here … vulnerable to our SELF first then to the world.

It may mean some will not accept our work or us. It is a risk. We may hear things we don’t really want to hear (both as criticism and as praise). We may even, since we were so close to the work when we were creating it, realize only once we released it that we were really off or it lacked full depth or technical mastery. But that risk is the gateway to growth.

If we need to start over then we can. If we need to work deeper then we can. If we need to develop our skills at another level then we can. As an artist it is a journey … the journey comes with risks and in those risks we keep moving and evolving.

I am pretty much an open book at this stage of my life game.   My clients and the people in my life, know they can mostly ask me anything and get an authentic answer and count on me to share the real me with them. But even for me there are places I don’t go sometimes, places where I hold back some … and those are the place where I know I limit my freedom and that I fear I have something to lose … so I keep pushing the boundaries.

Vulnerability for me comes in two stages. I usually go through lots of vulnerability as I am creating – I am working through things for myself in the moment as I stretch myself day after day (Emotions, thoughts, energy, my past, techniques, skills, etc.).   Then I go through another wave of vulnerability as I am sharing what I have created. It feels kind of like strolling slowly and naked through a crowded mall during Christmas shopping time.

With each creation, however, I grow stronger, I take bigger risks, and I experience less of what happens afterwards as personal (people’s reactions, etc.).   It is an evolving path. And as I have less and less to lose I experience more and more freedom. Expressions that would have left me trembling years ago just roll out of me now.

Protecting and defending my o-so-precious “image” and “reputation” isn’t a main thrust in life anymore … taking off the mask is … being me is … creating meaningful work is.   That is the only way now for me. Out there and connected to others. I am committed to technical mastery in the things I do but I keep my eye on the combination of that and fully expressing myself.

Often, strangely enough, it is being vulnerable with myself that is always what I have to push on first.   Telling the truth to myself about me, about what I am really dealing with and about what is really in my way is the first challenge.

Then , as fast as possible, I begin to work through it. Once I have seen something in me that I need to deal with I do.  I journal about it, do the internal work with it and I create with it. On the other side of it I then let myself share it with someone (my answer to my making sure I have nothing left to lose). I put it out there somehow. I have worked through it or at least this level of it.  The world will either recognize the victory or not.   But for those who do recognize it I extend is my invitation for connection.

Once shared then it is no longer trapped in me … I shared it … I don’t have to cover it up any more or be afraid that someone will find it. Freedom. I laugh out loud, cry out loud, tell the story, paint the story, write poetry about the story, photograph the story … AND sometimes I blog about it!  🙂

There are some things I have learned about vulnerability for myself that I want to share before I go.  Here are several key things I have learned:

  • Some of the most beautiful parts of me are the vulnerable parts.   When I am willing to be vulnerable then I get the opportunity to share those parts of me and others get the opportunity to share theirs back with me. My vulnerability creates a safe space for others vulnerability. That is one of the gifts of art to me.
  • I always have a choice about what I hide or open up to both others and myself. I can choose fear and being closed or I can choose to be authentic and open minute by minute.  I can choose to share this but not that and I can choose now or later.
  • Vulnerability doesn’t mean I need to wear my every emotion on my sleeve nor that I need to send every emotion I may have out into the world. It doesn’t mean that I need to share every screw-up or ugly moment in my life or that I need to share when I am in the middle of a process. In the middle I often do not have much perspective. I need to work through it. I need to nurture myself. The outcome is very different from the process.
  • Creating from vulnerability, for me, is a personal and sacred thing – the process is often done in solitude. It is raw. I get to delve into my emotions and explore without my audience needing to live through it with me. The connection I make to myself can be felt from those I share with and they can connect with me from that. That is what gives life and passion to the final piece.
  • Vulnerability isn’t a smooth planned, contrived pitch … it is not some trick to get attention or be approved of or loved … that is not vulnerable … that is inauthentic and others can smell it from 1000 miles away. Vulnerability is often not only raw, but also awkward and uncomfortable even if I have already worked yourself through whatever it is I am being vulnerable about.
  • It is worth the risk … without being vulnerable in my process of creating, and then without sharing, I miss out on the real juice.

Feeling a little vulnerable just talking about vulnerability? Perhaps it is time to try on having nothing left to lose … for the sake of freedom!

Just how vulnerable do you let yourself get with yourself and others through your art?
What do you still have to lose?
What isn’t being released out in the world that could make a difference for you and others by powerfully letting your vulnerability shine through?

I would love to hear how you have deal with vulnerability in your work.   Please feel free to take a big ol’ vulnerable step and share with us. If you show yours then I bet someone else will show theirs …

I am now going to hit the publish button and send my blog out. Freedom expanding. OMG here I go again …