The Power of Creative Vulnerability by Nina Clark

Tues 2nd July 2019

Don’t worry – this blog ends with joy.

I recently heard of a book titled ‘Stop Saying Everything’s Fine’, and thought ‘how apt, and also, how hard’.

The stiff upper lip. The tiniest violin. Self-pity is scaled against the wealth of suffering in our larger civilisation and found not just wanting, but crass and indulgent. And often, vulnerability is lumped in with this mire when it couldn’t be further from it.

As humans, we are somewhat hard-wired to a certain level of stoicism, despite how modern culture has monetised and made a norm of complaining entitlement. Perhaps it is easier for folk to endlessly moan about the ending of Game of Thrones (btw, bugger off, it was fucking great) than acknowledge that they might be projecting some profound dissatisfaction within their own life?

I don’t know. I mustn’t speak for others, only share my own perspective.

I can relay that in the year since I heard that the Arts Council Bid would support me to write, create and launch my 3rd album, ALPHA, along with immense excitement, terrific activity and creative fulfilment, ensuing personal experiences with frustration, avoidance, difficulty and loss have made an already insane work schedule at times tricky to manage.

Everything is not fine.

Before I sweep that uncomfortable statement off the table, I’m going to sit with it for a moment. This is part of the compassionate approach I’m starting to take with myself, in an attempt to dislodge the Itty Bitty Shitty Committee of negative self-talk and impatient intolerance.

The remit of these blogs, committed in the Arts Council bid and to myself, is to share the continuing evolution of my creative practice, warts and all. The success’, the challenges, eschewing old narratives and developing new healthy boundaries within my life and my work, entwined as they are.

The causes of the not-fine status quo are common enough – perhaps you’ve experienced one or all of the following? Anxiety for family members’ health and wellbeing; too many project-plates spinning; the financial strain of investing in your career development; having to take on ancillary work that robs your attention from said career development; endings and the painful birth of new beginnings.

When each thing piles upon the next, and you find yourself in the eye of the unremitting shitstorm, I’ve discovered moments of quiet reflection are available. Each moment varies. This time it is acceptance of a difficult time. Another it is grief and sorrow. Next it’s gratitude for my many, many blessings. Or silent rage at the unfairness of life in general. Ultimately, when the moment passes, it largely boils down to

‘I am allowed to feel my feelings, and then let them pass’

Such times bring juicy podcast opportunities, and I’ve recently enjoyed Russell Brand’s conversation with Brené Brown on his show, Under the Skin. You don’t get a lot of superficial chit-chat with this sort of podcast, its right down to BTs; the big topics being a refreshing antidote to the anodyne waffling so much of our media spews.

The premise at the heart of their conversation, and this blog, is Vulnerability and Power – click this link to check it out. Brown’s recent Netflix special further expands upon these points, and mulling over words of sociological and psychological wisdom has given me permission to write down how I’ve been feeling – my life long catharsis technique that offers clarity and release, and makes way for progress.

I’ll be honest, in the last month, during a Half Hour Pity Party (thank you Luc Floreani for this excellent time-sensitive model of purging negative emotions) I actually felt resentful that singing, writing and making music are how I make my living!

WOAH!

Hooooold up.

Yeah.

Eye-roll you very well may, I know I did. To clarify; my self-pity was fear-based.

Singing to or with a room full of punters at a gig, or a person living with dementia, or to a class full of perceptive adult students, are some of the great joys of my life. FACT. I am grateful for these ongoing opportunities on a daily basis, despite the grind.

I am grateful, that is, until my heart hurts from loss. Then singing feels like public evisceration. Singing my own songs is then waaaay too close to the mark. Which is why you won’t be seeing an ALPHA music video released until August! Deadlines be damned when personal growth is at stake.

The fear? How to get through the song/the set/the session?

Well, a) of course I’ll get through it! I always do.

b) as the scientific evidence and I are always telling everybody else, singing actually helps the healing and raises wellbeing, so I don’t just ‘get through it’, I smash it!

and c) I am allowed to feel my feelings, then let them pass.

Everything is not fine. But it will be.

The slow-burn revelation then becomes this; if I am open and present at these difficult times (vulnerable), if I put myself out there despite perceived discomfort (bold) then the outcome is earned learning, increased capability, compassionate connection with myself and others, and a real shared experience.

This is power. And this is joy.

~ NC ~

In my next ALPHA blog; on making music videos large, and small…