Your Real Art

 “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.“

~ Thomas Merton

A lot of years ago my best friend (and amazing artist) Kristine and I attended a creativity retreat led by Julia Cameron, author of the seminal book, The Artist’s Way. We were in Taos, New Mexico staying at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, an inn with a history of creative types like Georgia O’Keefe, Willa Cather, D.H. Lawrence, and Ansel Adams gathering under its roof. Creativity practically ran down the walls, and seeped up through the floors. 

Joining us for the week were other creative types from around the country, and at the time, I didn’t consider myself to be one of them. I was a “creative wannabe”. My greatest hope for the retreat was that no one  would find me out.

Someone did.

I can remember exactly which doorway I was standing in, and the woman that I was talking to. Everything was going fine until she asked me the one question I had been dreading.

So, what is your art?


 Umm. I’m a writer.

Her eyes narrowed.

But what is your real art? 

She took aim, and fired.

You know, like do you paint? Or draw? Or sculpt? Or design? Your real art. 

Hers was a cheap shot, although I don’t think it was a malicious one. Maybe the same fears and insecurities that made me doubt my own artistic abilities made her uncertain of her own. Maybe she was a “writer wannabe”. 

Her words haunted me for the rest of the retreat and for years to come. But the more creative risks I took, the more I learned about myself. Her question, as it turned out, was a generative one, as I broke it apart and looked at the pieces one at a time.

What is MY real art? It is whatever I envision, create, and display, made visible in the world for all to see. 

What is my REAL art? It is whatever is a true, honest, authentic, and vulnerable  representation of who I am, made visible in the world for all to see. 

What is my real ART? It is whatever I make in my life and of my life, offered up to enrich and beautify the world, made visible for all to see.

The world is but a gallery for our life, and whatever we make out of our lives is made visible in the world for all to see. 

You are an artist.

I am an artist.

We are all artists.

Oh...and I’m a writer.


Viborg Cathedral: Stairs to the tower. Viborg, Denmark