• Thera Barclay

On Feelings of Belonging



Anyone else have pervasive shower thoughts? Those random ideas that become stuck in your head like an ear worm as you’re shampooing your hair? I’ve got a doozy that’s stuck with me for some weeks now.


Sometimes, I feel like I’m not “allowed” to be an artist. Not only that I’m a fraud or an imposter, but that I’m not allowed to take up space in the artistic community because I’m not..."artisty" enough. Not enough boundless creativity, no perceivable skills in other artistic mediums, and not enough spiritual connection to art.

I have been blessed to meet innumerable creatives in my time as a singer. Those who not only sing, but can paint, sculpt, dance, act, write, bake, knit, trampoline, read Tarot cards, arrange flowers, etc. Creativity seems to flow effortlessly from so many in this industry; I’ve often heard my colleagues say things like “I needed to get my feelings out, so I painted this picture,” or, “I’m just receiving so much that it needs a place to go,” or the famous, “I’m just a vessel for the universe.”

And here I am, with my creativity peaking at singing the same songs written by the same dead white guys. Doesn’t exactly feel like the epitome of artistic prowess.

It feels like singing is the only creative thing I do. My stick figures are never going to make it to the ROM. I was born with approximately three left feet, so dance is not something I engage in willingly. I've never felt inclined to compose my own materials, and my skills on other instruments are negligible at best.

I guess this abrasiveness shows up a bit in my artistic woodshedding process as well. I’ve always considered myself to be a walking puddle of human emotion, but in the early stages of working on a piece it seems that I've got people fooled. I’ve been occasionally called out for being too "cerebral, cold, unemotional". Perhaps not the giddy caricature that a coloratura soprano is expected to be. I think my focus becomes mistaken for aloofness, sometimes. And while it takes courage and, oftentimes, adjustment to demonstrate vulnerability in our singing practice, I don’t think that saying that anyone is “too [insert pejorative adjective here]” to sing does anyone any service (can we just meet people where they are instead of rejecting them from the very community where they feel a sense of acceptance? THANKS.)


It's not for a lack of trying to "open myself up" to creative forces. Meditation? Check. The Artist's Way? Check, and the best Artist Date I ever had was getting a guy at the pet store to open up ALL the cat cages at once and let me cuddle each and every one of them. Journaling? Check. Consuming media, exposing myself to more art? Check, check, check. Unfortunately, not a marked increase in my creative juices, in my opinion.


What to do? Is there a place for someone like me, who doesn’t feel like they have creativity oozing from every pore? Who would love to, but doesn’t "receive" things from the universe? Who considers herself skeptical, spiritually bereft, and a bit of a cynic?


I think it's those of us who have been monikered as (BIG air quotes) "cerebral types" who find artistic spaces especially rewarding.


When someone tells me to imagine myself as a character, I rejoice. When I'm told to invest in the emotional content of a piece (after the woodshedding is done!), I embrace it. Whether I'm pretending to be a helpless ingenue, a coquettish bird lady, the personification of human desire (that one was a toughie), I celebrate it time and time again. For me, singing is the one place where all those fantastical things can become reality. In fact, it's crucial to make it as tangible as possible: you're bringing an entire audience, cast, and crew along for the ride as well. I become someone else, I have the privilege of telling a wonderful story, and magic is finally real.


I think, sometimes, we expect artists to have a certain demeanour. The stereotype of the woo-woo granola, hippy-dippy, heart-on-their-sleeve, bohemian soul who goes where the wind takes them isn't a one-size-fits-all prescription. And it's a wonderful prescription! But it doesn't apply to all creatives out there, and I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that art (should) accept everyone. That so many of us have come to find respite in the artistic community because it makes us feel, think, and gives us a place where we feel like we're a part of something bigger. And if you happen to know that singing is the only thing you feel called to do, or that your creativity is a bit more discreet, that's no reason that you shouldn't have a place at the artistic table as well.


For those who possess an abundance of creative energy, and have a finger in every artistic pie: I admire you, I benignly envy you, and I celebrate you. And for those of us with perhaps a more focused scope but one that is equally valid: I hear you, I see you, I am you, and you belong here.


TB

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