Dear Artist: The Secret Life of an Artist's Ache

There is no greater vulnerability than to be an artist.

First, there is the opening of your soul to inquire of your deepest deep, everything you love, hope for, grieve and desire.

And then there is the embodiment of it, the incubation, the showing up in photographs, on canvas, on the bare page gleaming white holding nothing back, in the fluid movements of a dancer's limbs, the way you pour coffee and inhale the steam rising, or how you wrap your red-faced toddler in your grandmother's patchwork quilt and rock the fever away.

This is your soul, your spirit, indwelling you.

And then there is the revelation, the invitation, the bold display or shy blush as the lace strap holding up your safe life slips down and you are open. Visible. Tender. Exposed. For all to see. For all to feel. For all to form opinions, criticize, reject. Or to love intensely, yearn for and want more than you have to give.

And then there are the dreams, the bright, hopeful eyes, the pounding heart, the time—oh, the precious slips of time—the experiments, the messes, the begin-agains. Because maybe it could be better than you ever thought possible. Maybe you could make a living doing what you love. Maybe this will make a difference. Maybe this will heal the world.

Either way, dear artist, you do it because you must.

You do it because you can't not do it, even when you try to shove the name artist under the bed or stuff it into the farthest, dustiest box in the back of your closet. It haunts you because it is who you are. It is truth. And ultimately for you, with all the dark intensity and ravishing enchantment of it, living the truth of your creative life is the only way to breathe.

What is the last thing you made?
What is the last thing you stopped making, and why?
What is a project you'd love to finish? 
What is calling your soul right now?