On Friday, the family celebrated the emergence from the cocoon of the womb – a brother for three young girls, and a grandson for me.
Past the due date, and with the labour more intense and prolonged, different from the girls, we had our suspicions that it was a boy kicking up the fuss. Though, as with every birth, discomfort evaporated at first sight of a new life, perfectly formed.
Giving birth, whether to a baby, or a piece of writing or artwork can be exhausting. There are times when the process goes smoothly, the birthing over in a comparatively short time. Other births seem to go on forever, carrying us on a continuous wave of agony or, in the creative process, agonising.
Unlike babies, not every story, novel, article or piece of artwork that we birth warrants showing off to the world, though in every creation there is always a redeeming feature or quality, if only in the fact that we have learned something from the process. If the work comes from the heart or soul, how much more rewarding is the finished piece, destined or not for for public viewing.
A letter in today’s mail brought an unexpected joy. My non fiction piece of writing, submitted to the Cancer Council Arts Awards was short-listed. It will be on show, open for perusal and digestion by the general public as part of the Arts Awards Exhibition, which opens in July. This year’s theme was ‘Lost and Found’. The theme encouraged those entering the competition to think about a positive aspect in their experiences with the dreaded disease.
Birthing my story was a painful process, not only because of the required brevity and trying to make every word count while saying what I needed to say, but also because the piece came from the heart. Again, I relived aspects of my mother’s battle with breast cancer and faced once more the pain that came with her death. Writing the piece was healing, though certainly not easy. For me, works from my imagination generally flow more easily, the birthing process less fraught.
What we tend to think of as ‘dark’ emotions, such as emotional pain, grief, loss, and depression, are often avoided by writers and artists. Perhaps it is the fear of putting ourselves naked onto the page or canvas that holds us back. Or maybe it is the fear of dragging others down into the mire of our emotions. Something pretty, colourful, visually pleasing and uplifting is considered more acceptable, safer even, than slicing through scar tissue to produce a creative work that may not be deemed acceptable by strangers.
There are exceptions, of course, writers and artists that seem to wallow and writhe with abandon in the more negative and painful aspects of being alive and human.
A piece of ourselves resides in everything we create. Some pieces we are loathe to show the light of day. However, taking the risk to open up and air the less palatable and more painful aspects of being human can be healing for us, the creators. It also encourages kinship and empathy. After all, there aren’t many of us who have lived the perfect, pain-free life. And, given a bit of breathing space before slicing the scar tissue of our hurt, there is almost always something positive to be seen from the present while viewing the past. Something light and lovely can emerge from the sheltered cocoons of our hearts, given the chance.