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Diana Dykyj, Art Therapist, May 30 2022

Trusting the Process: Creativity During Difficult Times

There are times in our lives where words are not enough to embody and convey the depth of our experience. Words may leave us or fail entirely.

These are times for art.

There is no need to identify as an artist to create art. Creativity is human nature. It helps us connect with each other and make sense of our experiences on this planet. Thinking our way out of our feelings can lead to feeling stuck and our hands can help do the work. As psychologist Carl Jung wisely said, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.”

So, when you don't know what to do, invite yourself to create.

As a Ukrainian American, Russian American, grandchild of Ukrainian and Russian refugees, art therapist, artist, and human, I sit with art materials when overcome with the complexity of feelings brought on by the war in Ukraine. A lot. There is an intense gravity and discomfort of not knowing held within my body. There is a lot to process. There is a lot to be with.

I let my hands guide me when I am in that uncomfortable place of not knowing. I trust the innate wisdom held within my being and let my creative instinct take over. It takes practice to create in this way, to quiet the inner critic, and trust the process. Many of our early experiences with art and creativity are often in the realm of education where the end product tends to be valued more than the act of creating itself. It's so deeply important for our well-being that we unlearn this approach to creativity. The process itself is valuable. Creating is communicating.

It's time to trust the process and open a pathway to this internal resource.

I get it. “Trusting the process” can sound like a lofty goal. So what does it really mean?

It can start with play. When we play, we can let go of expectations and just let things unfold. Playing with creative materials can look like exploring a material that is speaking to you, expressing a feeling with color, line, or shape, or perhaps exploring a symbol/image that is resonating with you. Playing with materials unlocks a pathway. Mistakes are part of this and I encourage leaning into these mistakes and even celebrating them. (Gasp!) Highlight these mistakes. (Double gasp!) See where they lead you. It can be the guide to the very place you need to go. Without mistakes, we remain stuck in a comfort zone and close the door to growth.

Pro tip: Channel your inner Bob Ross and approach mistakes as “Happy Little Accidents.”

There is a beauty in letting go when art and creative intuition guides the way. Let go of intentions for this creativity and embrace the journey.

Alright, so what does this look like? That's hard to say. Every journey is different and you decide when or if you've arrived at your destination. I often pursue a creative process without knowing what will come of it, what it will look like when finished, or even when/if it will ever be complete. Much like life, right?

Art is a parallel process to our lived experience and creates space for reflection, awareness, and insight. Trusting the process is leaning into the unknown and letting curiosity guide the way. I encourage exploration of this approach to making and have included imagery of a process piece in the works to help illustrate how organic and varied the journey can be.

Processing with symbols:
There were no words when I first heard Russia invaded Ukraine. The Tryzub (the Ukrainian Coat of Arms) immediately came to mind, so I illustrated it in marker.

Processing with quotes and materials:
When words don't come, sometimes the words of others can speak for you. Within the first 24 hours of the invasion, the stories of resistance and bravery resonated, specifically the defiance of the soldiers on Snake Island. Their words to the Russian invaders aligned with something deep inside and it inspired a patchwork design of the Ukrainian flag.

Processing with materials and symbols:
48 hours into the invasion of Ukraine, I completed a patchwork Ukrainian Flag, integrating current interests (quilting) and my heritage. The making process was soothing, meditative, and channeled the strong emotions, just what I needed.

Processing through performance:
Performance is art, too! Taking the piece to a public space was an important step in processing. This may not be true for everyone and each situation may be different.

Processing through materials and performance: Continuing to use textiles in processing helped channel intense feelings through the aggressive and soothing nature of the materials (textiles is soft and yet allows for a lot of aggression in the stitching process). This work is still in process and it shifted from the original inspiration of the Snake Island soldier's quote to integrating the Tryzub through applique as well as both hand and machine embroidery. Capturing this work in public places has encouraged conversation, sharing, and raising awareness during the witnessing process.

I'd love to hear how your trust of the creative process guides you! Please share how you have used creativity or post a picture of your work in the comments section.

Written by

Diana Dykyj, Art Therapist

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