Parents tell children to “use your words” when they are feeling frustrated. But what if they don’t have words? What if the problem is that the things that they are experiencing are too large for words? It is important to give children as many different ways of expressing themselves as possible. Consider this – studies have proven that babies who are taught sign language before they are able to communicate verbally show a greatly reduced level of frustration. It is simply a different way for them to express themselves, one that is within their ability.
I think that learning many ways for self-expression is the cure for everything. Everyone needs to learn different ways to communicate. Sometimes words fail us. The arts provide us with many other ways to communicate. Dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting, knitting, beading – the list is endless. It is only limited by your imagination. Whatever you try is good.
Plenty of people are upset that public schools are cutting their budgets and eliminating the arts. You don’t need to be in school to make art. In fact, school can’t teach you how to make art. You already know how to do that. Children do it without thinking, which is the best way. Just have fun playing and you are on your way.
Not having a lot of money is also not an excuse. Crayons and paper are cheap. You can find used musical instruments at a thrift store. You can even make your own art supplies to create with. Consider it a creative challenge to find new ways to be creative.
I used to write a lot before my parents died. After they passed, writing was too much for me. Every time I tried, too much would come out and it would get tangled up. My feelings were too big to be expressed with words. Thankfully, I had beads as a form of self-expression at the time. I would string together beads like I had strung together words. They had rhythm and pattern. There was an internal logic to them. Did others know what I was saying? Not always. But that isn’t always necessary. In that instance, it wasn’t important that I communicate an idea to others. It was essential that I got those feelings through and then out of me.
These days I work on visual arts such as painting and collage as well as write. I find I can process deep emotions this way, handling them in a safe and healing way. Some things that come up while I’m making art were so buried that I didn’t even know they were there. I’m grateful for my practice of making art as a form of self-healing.
Art doesn’t have to be “good” to be useful. It can be more abstract than representational and still do the job. Nobody else has to even see it. In fact, not thinking about an audience usually means that you’ll do more and better work because you aren’t trying to edit it to make it “safe”.
If you want to use images and you aren’t yet good at drawing, you can cut out pictures from magazines. Don’t have any? Ask your friends – someone has a few that they would normally throw away. Not good at mixing paint? Buy art paper with pretty designs and cut it up and glue it on. Consider having an art-supply swap meet, where everybody brings materials that they are tired of and switches out. You’ll find new ways to express yourself with new supplies.
Remember that anything you want to do well takes time and practice. Nobody is a Rembrandt overnight. Have patience with yourself, but most of all – play.