It's very easy when we're busy to not make time to do something different, to tap into a side of us we don't usually use. It can also be a bit confronting to do something out of the ordinary, something we feel unsure about or not confident with. We might feel that we won't know what to do, won't be able to do it well enough, will look silly.
It can be reassuring then to join a group with others who may have the same doubts and worries. Being away from work and our usual routine can help as well. Giving ourselves not just time but also permission to try out something. In fact not using a lack of time as an excuse to do something that is really quite difficult to do.
It was within this context that I gave silk painting a go. Making the decision to join the class was the easy part. There was a class available and it fitted into my holiday schedule. Turning up on the day took slightly more courage. Then throughout the day there were points of relief but also points of concern, as I needed to make decisions about what design and colors to choose. Then of course actually tracing and the painting. The unpredictable course of the paint, the uncertainty of its trajectory once it hit the silk cloth, had me feeling pretty out of control. Not like my usual work of putting words on the page or using words to express my ideas - I can have quite a lot of control over words I use. I can also remove words from the computer screen. There was no removing this paint once it was there.
Then there was the end product. Not quite the art work I would have liked but nevertheless an achievement and sense of fulfillment. A sense of having stretched myself, of having entered territory I usually avoided. I ventured into a psychologically unsafe zone and survived.
Admiring the work of others without making comparisons was another part of the group experience that I really enjoyed. Seeing the way others approached the tasks, taking more time than me, seeming to have a vision of what it was they wanted to achieve at the end, was part of the learning experience that I would not have had on my own.
The gentle encouragement of the instructor was also really helpful. An ability to give critical feedback while respecting the effort. A sense that she was there, not far away but ultimately the work was my own. The success of it as well as the disappointment.
The day of tapping into a creative side that didn't rely on language left me with a sense of calm and achievement that I don't always get from my usual work. The ability to complete the piece of art work was different to writing which can leave me feeling like there's always more to do, always another way to do it. There's something about that paint being on the silk that is final, can't be changed. You just have to accept that's the way it is. It's extraordinarily freeing to do that - the ultimate letting go.
The art work is hanging at home now, not taking pride of place but certainly visible to me. A reminder of the effort it took, the courage involved in doing something different, the ability that could be nurtured, the joy of a completed product that can't be tampered with now. A reminder to accept what is.