Maker of your own masterpiece

If you ever had an unexplained sadness take you unexpectedly, and if it does happen every so often, I want to share with you what I do to make the most of it. Because sadness is powerful and beautiful.

In this article I explained what I do when sadness gets me out of nowhere. If you read it and tried out my advice, you will have done two things:

1)Dealt with the non verbal portion of your emotions;

2)Toddler-talked yourself into identifying problems or concerns and wrote them down.

So you might have wondered: “And now, what do I do with all this?” I advised not to linger on these exercises, not to over think about them, and not to re-read your notes. Because when you budget your time to deal with your emotions, you it would be no benefit to go over-budget with your time and drive yourself back into that mood vortex.

You let a couple days pass, maybe weeks, and I hope you kept those notes, because you can use them to your advantage. Here I want to help you use the non-verbal portion of your emotions, so lets get started!

You let your imagination run wild, you visualized colors, sounds, voices, movements, words: anything that came to mind. You might have thought you are not an artist yourself, but this should not have stopped you from trying to visualize how your emotions would look or sound like if they were the emotion represented in a work of art (any kind of art).

And now it is time to bring these visualization to another level. This is something you’re going to do for yourself only, so let go all the insecurities and all the “I can’t do this” — “I am not trained” and so on. The outcome here is not relevant, what is relevant is the process, the adventure you bring yourself on while exploring the non-verbal portion of your emotional world.

“I view my life as an adventure. The more I detach myself from the outcome of things, the more power I take back.”

— Cara Alwill Leyb (from: Fearless and Fabulous)

You think what you visualized is nonsensical and of no value? This is usually what I think, because I am so used to compare my ideas to what is commercially known as art, what has selling value, what has ‘popular’ content that my ruminations and ideas appear to me as useless and not worthy of being expressed.

If that is what you think too, I just want you to look at this short video, extracted from a 1940 animation film. This is slightly different as here Disney came up with an animation to go with preexisting classical symphonic music, not with his feelings (or, maybe he did, we will never know).

But hey, there are hippo-ballerinas in tutus that duet in a dance with crocodiles… Pretty nonsensical, right? Yet this film was — and is — considered a masterpiece and “ the most ambitious animated feature ever to come out of the Disney studios.” But if, that day, Walt Disney listened to Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours and imagined hippos and crocodiles dancing with tutus and pointe shoes and thought to himself: “Well, this is quite silly and nonsensical, there is no reason I should take this any further,” we today wouldn’t have this film to enjoy. If you haven’t seen the whole movie, I strongly recommend it, it is widely available online. There are full-film videos on YouTube — I don’t really know how they can be there, I am going to guess who posted them did their homework on copyright and all, — here is the link to one of them, but there are many more.

Here’s the hippos excerpt for you:

In the meantime, while you read this article, you can listen to the soundtrack of this movie, in case it inspires you too.

I made this example, of this Disney movie, because it is out of the ordinary. Nowadays we are used to any kind of art to come prepackaged and ready for mass distribution. Songs will be 3 to 5 minutes long, ready to become Mp3s, audio tracks or broadcast by the radio in a perfect little package that fits all the mass-distribution needs. Films also will have a standard-ish length more or less, so they are either a feature film ( full-length film intended as the main item in a movie theater program) or a short film, sized for festivals or as part of the ‘resume’ of a director, so he can be considered for the direction of the next feature film produced by a studio. The point is, to break out of convention and think about and do art spontaneously without holding back because — you think — it is not art or it is not worthy.

Let’s go back to your visualization:

What did you think about when you did the exercise? A music? An image? A movement? A combination of music-imagery-movement (like a video)? Words?

Write them down, describe it, or sing it, hum it. Make your thought become a reality, it will be rough, approximate, and maybe you won’t be able to translate the vision fully, but this should not stop you. Don’t be a control freak on your outcome, just let it flow!

“The arts, as media of the imagination, are disciplines which give form and substance to our capacity to be who we are. Each artistic medium embodies the imagination in a concrete and specific way.”

-Stephen K. Levine

If you don’t know how to write music, you are still able to hum a tune, it doesn’t even matter if you’re in tune or not, hum it. Remember it, cherish it, put words on the tune(if you want); make it YOUR tune.

If you can’t dance — or like me think that you look ridiculous — don’t worry, no one is there to judge you, if you’re judging yourself, seriously, STOP. And if you think you are funny, then again: remember those dancing hippos? You don’t have to perform on a stage or, for that matter, in front of anyone. Just adventure yourself to try those moves you thought about and make it YOUR dance.

If you can’t draw, because you think you are not able, again, it doesn’t matter; sketch it down on a notebook or a piece of paper. You can scribble it with a pencil or whip out your paintbrushes and go for it. Crayons, pencils, watercolors, even nail polish will do. Just go to town with those colors and doodles!

The bottom line point is: whatever the art form you thought about, go ahead and express it. It might not be conventionally pretty, but it will be beautiful because it will be genuine, authentic and YOURS. You are giving form to your innermost, intimate feelings. Shape them, savor them and make sure you can remember them; one day they might be useful to you whether you will revisit those same emotions or you will have another flow of feelings that will guide you to continue or expand these first expressions.

And whether you collect small bits and pieces of different expressions, or you keep expanding and completing the first one, the point is: you are creating a masterpiece, and that masterpiece IS YOU.