What do you do when you’ve worked hard to recover a sense of safety in a fragile fragment of your soul, and a friend who worked with you on the reconstruction throws a Molotov cocktail at your heart and says it’s not great work and never has been. The wounds ooze with pain and puss. But if the friend was a part of your creative life, the blood poisons the lifeblood of you artistry.
Is that the end? Do you leave this scorched ground for dead, section it off, and never set foot in this region of your soul again? It’s as if Vivaldi’s springtime songbird, who sat in a tree singing to you while you worked, transformed into Stravinski’s firebird and let lava burn your creative life to the ground. This is a travesty. But it’s not the end. Fire burns what it shouldn’t, but it leaves the ground fertile for replanting.
Do a controlled burn. I read in Charles C. Mann’s book 1491 how before Columbus came to the new world, the people in the Americas would do careful, controlled burns in their forests, which made them healthy, flourishing spaces. Likewise, look at the fire inside you clearly and see if there is any truth. Does anything need to be turned to smoke? But also look at it clearly and see what is worth protecting from the fire. Looking at the motivation of the attack can help: are your assailants motivated from pride? Classism? Insecurity? Love of drama? Willfully misunderstanding you? You can’t know everything about their motivation, and it will drive you crazy trying to figure it all out, but were they just friends with you for how it served them? Did they want to showboat your artistic journey for their own social capital, and when it didn’t profit them, did they charge you the cost of their ticket? Don’t demonize or catastrophize, but level with your attacker.
Shake the dust off your feet and move on. Learn what you need to from the situation, try to understand what happened, apologize for anything you did wrong and forgive them for being using numbskull, and move on. If they don’t want the pearl of your creativity, let them go, the swine, and don’t look back. As the great therapist of the millennial age, Joe from Princess Diaries, says: “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Most likely their temper tantrum in your creative sanctum has a lot more to do with their deficiencies than yours. Let them live and either rot or repent of that. Nothing good awaits them while they’re living in this pattern, and as much as they scream they’re some sort of victim, they’ll swallow and use those in their path until they meet their ultimate, horrific destruction. You don’t need to be there for that. You’ve got art to make.
Rebuild. It’s hard, but needed. Start small, and start with joy and beauty. What are simple, small things that bring you joy? Build the cozy kitchen and a sun soaked reading window before brave the attic (and possibly Vecna??) again. Center your soul on the author and creator of hope, joy, and rebirth, and let the renewal of your mind on what is true give you a new foundation. Dwell daily on the truths Christ gives us until the intellectual truth becomes an emotional reality.
Share again. Let in new people, and trust them with your heavy heart. Be the friend you wish you had, and find the friend you wish you had. You can’t isolate or shut yourself off from the living, moving water or relationship. Art is communal, and to fully enjoy something it must be shared. Tragedies, in context of the grander story, lose their bitterness and fade to footnotes.
I wish you well, dear reader, and I pray your head, heart, and hands find the joy to create again.