june FEATURED artist

Sheila Duffy

Island Sunset



Flowers and Ink

Your Muse Awaits

by Sheila Duffy

It has been 15 months since the COVID alarms went out, and I have been coping with the new realties in myriad ways. After the initial panic and concern started to abate, I felt relief. I could pull back from the pressure that I had put on myself to show and market my work…things that were not always compatible with painting. I could take a breather knowing that the outside world had stopped for a bit. Galleries and shops were closed. I could close, too. And I did.

Now it is time to “open.” The word languishing has been floating around and aptly describes this fugue state that has enveloped many of us during the past year. Other words come to mind as well…nostalgia, grief, longing, fear. What has it meant for art and creativity? How have we adapted? Maladapted? Maybe even shut down?

In the book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron offers a path to creative recovery. I have used this as a tool in my coaching and counseling practice for years. As I reread it, I was reminded of many principles that I believed in and forgot.

I started to ask how I could honestly engage in the process of rediscovering and recovering my sense of identity in the “world of art,” one that did not always complement and foster my search for community and belonging.

I started to explore the thinking that was keeping me stuck and fearful of “coming back out.” I knew I needed help in restarting a process that more authentically reflected the subtle changes that took place in me over this past year of quiet, solitude and reflection. I knew I needed some personal guidelines that would safeguard this vulnerable, recovering artist if I was to reimagine a new path for myself. I came up with three. They can apply to all of us who are renegotiating the way we are engaging in the world.

Trust your creativity, regardless of the form it takes, without judgment. This means avoiding the first doubts that creep in, naming this self doubt as the sabotage it is, and deciding not to engage with it. If that creativity does not come with a paint brush on any particular day, it may show up at dinner. 

Keep yourself safe and protected. Julia talks of poisonous playmates and situations that erode our confidence and fuel the above-mentioned self doubt. Creativity needs safety and nurturing. You can decide how you want to engage with colleagues, fellow artists and organizations, and trust your instinct to walk away when “support” feels more like undermining.

Give yourself permission to change. Getting locked into styles that are not working anymore and painting what others expect can cripple the shifts that are critical for growth. If it works, great. If not, move on, respecting the Muse’s call while knowing you are the only one who knows your path. Then pay close attention to what shows up, and delight in the unexpected!

Sheila Duffy is a Nurse Educator, Mental Health Counselor, and Certified Life Coach.

She can be reached at  Sheila.Duffy@comcast.net.

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