Open Letter To Creatives Of Color: What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

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By Kayla B – Writer’s block is how this letter started out. 

I pined over what to say in order to awaken that slumbering creative inside of you. For days I journeyed within myself for the words to say. I tried to draw inspiration, I tried to look at the works of my mentors, I mediated, I prayed. I dirtied myself with paint, trashed a few canvases, started and stopped tying on a blank Word page.

All of that leading up to me now letting the words of my heart spill upon this page. 

As my eyes adjust to the glare on my Mac, I’m reminded of how incredible creatives are. We are complex, wildly beautiful, messy and emotional balls of energy. Perhaps not energetic in the literal sense, but continuously emitting energy even in our stillness. 

If you’re anything like me, you’ve always been aware of the gift. For me it was the realization that I was different from my peers. My mother sensed it when I was a young child…that my aptitude for the arts and creativity would be the pillar on which I stood, the boat in which I trekked and the shoulder I’d lean on in times of need. While the majority of my family were cheerleaders and athletes, I found my niche in the arts. Spilling paint, writing short stories, creating visuals to help express the things spoken word could lend no justice to. I remember being the weirdo then as I got older, the “artsy” girl who liked her jeans splattered with paint and bank account nearly drained after buying supplies.  Perhaps you feel the same? Can you remember the moment when you realized you were inherently different? 

Was it the feeling of being an outcast because the things you relished in were considered uncool? Was it the sense of family you found in friends who shared the same interests or was it found in the deep solitude of the shelter that you rested in when the world was too much to bear?

I can relate. Some refer to is as the “tortured artist” syndrome. Creative minds aren’t just brilliant, they are also busy which can bring upon it’s own sets of struggles. 

Here is what I found worked for me 

Find Your Tribe

As a young creative who now has a community of likeminded friends turned family, I can say there’s light at the end of the tunnel. We are all struggling the same. We all have our minds filled with dreams of what we want to create, the things we visualize that we want to share with the world and the desire to touch others with our art. For me, I found myself being surrounded by painters, writers, bloggers, poets, filmmakers, photographers.  That sense of community has inspired me and fueled me on the days where I felt as if I was grasping for straws creatively. Trusting people isn’t easy for me but I have people in my creative circle that I trust with my life and with my art, which is one in the same. I have wonderful, brilliant and talented minds to bounce concepts off of. They too, trust me to weigh in on their work. Some have become family, some have become incredible lovers and some have become muses, a combination of the two. It can even be the encouraging words/actions of family and friends. My mother last year for Christmas bought me an easel and many art supplies as a way of affirming and encouraging my gift. Find your tribe. This exchange and brainstroming is vital to the existence of the creative. 

  Rest

I found that my best work comes after days or weeks of marinading. At one point I felt obligated to create multiple paintings or writings after one good creative streak. I learned that while I am always creative, my work comes in waves. For me, often times after creating a phenomenal piece, I try to ride out that wave for as long as possible and end up overly critical of my work or burned out. I’ve learned to let my work and myself BREATHE. You may be different and find that you create in steady waves opposed to creative burst. Find what works for you and champion that but also don’t neglect yourself. Rest. Withdrawing into yourself can be therapeutic. I often laugh to myself when my mother lectures me on my reclusive tendencies. I have the tendency to go off the grid often, making the mindful decision to withdraw into myself. While that may seem odd for others, it’s imperative to my health as a creator. Make time for you to rest and unplug. 

Mentors and Muses  

All creatives had mentors and muses. For writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (Author of The Great Gatsby) it was his wife Zelda. For famed Mexican Painter, Frida Khalo, it was her life experiences and love affair with painter husband, Diego Rivera. Painter Jean Michel Basquiat found mentorship in various painters. To have some balance every creative needs a mentor and muse. The many mentors I’ve had artistically include people I’ve never met and ones who helped usher me to the planet (my parents) – Having a mentor gives the creative a blueprint to study. Perhaps you love film. So you study the greats; Steven Spielberg, Ava Duvernay, Spike Lee, Director X, Micheal Bay. Maybe music is your thing. So you study various composers, musicians, producers.  You imagine your art in galleries around the world so you seek out mentorship, internships and stroll galleries and study the art you are moved by.

You have to be a student before you are a professor. Mentorship is an important part of your journey. 

Muses are as well. I consider a muse to be like gas to a well built car. Sometimes you need that inspiration to help you move. In my life I can recall of 2 muses whom moved me so deeply to the point where there was constant inspiration. My muses turned to my lovers and I found art in the coils of their hair or in the sweet words dripping from their lips after a kiss. These two men have inspired some of my best work. Even in heartbreak and happiness, their presence in my life has made me a better artist and human. I am fiercely loved so that helps me to create fearlessly. A muse should always pull out the best in you or at least ignite that inner flame inside of you to help you reach the finish line to your projects. 

No Room For Fear 

Stop placing boundaries on yourself after encountering a few bumps in the road or giving into self doubt. If there’s a project you want to go after, don’t let negativity stop you from achieving. Don’t let lack of funds or fear stop you. Everything creative that you now enjoy was once just a concept on a piece of paper. Harry Potter author J.K Rowling penned the concept for her novels on a cafe napkin. Before Basquiat rose to fame, he painted postcards. He sold one to Andy Warhol at the beginning of his career. That brazen move helped to launch him into fame. Stop hesitating or placing limits on yourself. That book? Write it. That gallery you want to be featured in? Start painting your piece. That film your afraid to make due to funds? Story board it and find creative ways to make it come to fruition. 

Fear can be binding, but you have the power to break the chains. 

As I close out this letter, I leave you with this. 

You have been given a rare gift. You have been blessed with creative foresight. You are the reason that others see and experience this lifetime in such vivid color and imagination. Through your work, you are able to move the masses.   

Wake up, stand up and get started. 

 

Kayla B. is a contributor for #IAmEnough. She is a proud Afro-Latina and the founder and blogger for Saltlight and Co.

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