Summer of Messy Art [soma]

If your past year has been anything like mine, it hasn’t necessarily been the most productive. For months now, it’s felt a little like I’ve been dragging myself out of one rut just to end up in another. The stress of trying to produce good writing has largely robbed it of the fun and playfulness that I think is necessary for the creation of meaningful work.

“The warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was!”

To remedy these creative blues, I’ve decided to take a soma holiday! For the next few months, I’m going to embrace the spirit of play in other art forms alongside my writing. I’ll be making time to play music, draw, paint, and take photos. What I’m trying to do here is tap into a sense of playfulness without concern for skill or progress. 

If you’re interested in expanding your creative horizons and exploring new facets of creativity that will ultimately influence to your important writing projects by empowering you to bring that sense of playful risk taking to your prose, please join me in the Summer of Messy Art [soma]. Take risks! Let yourself be terrible! Make it messy!

Ideally you will be devoting a minimum of one 30 minute session per week to creating non-writing art, though I encourage you to try to find smaller blocks of time on a more regular basis. Noodle on the guitar while waiting for your kettle to boil. Pick up the sketch pad while watching TV. Any time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling memes or socials on your phone, put it down and do something creative instead. If you’re already a competent multi-discipline artist, find a way to scribble outside the lines you’ve established in your existing practice. The point is to do something in which you don’t already feel skilled.

It’s important to note that it’s okay to try hard here! You can take courses and try to improve if that’s how you want to do it. The important thing is to remember that the progress is not the focus of the exercise. The focus should be on letting yourself produce art without worrying about how that quality measures up to anyone else’s work.

Soma Rules

  1. Let go of expectation!
  2. Have fun!
  3. Don’t share! (unless you want to)
  4. No judgement! (of yourself or others)
  5. Live outside your comfort zone!

More on Rule 3

There is absolutely zero expectation that you share your work with anyone. If you’re going to draw, I suggest never showing anyone your sketchbook. If you’re going to take up photography, make a private Instagram account and don’t let anyone follow you. This creative experiment is about letting yourself be a beginner again. Create and move on. Create and move on. If you produce something you’re proud of, that’s fantastic! Feel free to share it. But please don’t feel at all pressured to show your work to anyone. This just for you.

So why the separate Discord channel?

What I’d like you to do is share your experience with creating messy art. Check in with us after a creative session to share how it felt. Were you nervous? Struggling to escape critical voices? Did you have fun? Has it had an influence on your writing? If you struggled at first, did it get better as you continued? How has your experience with creating new art changed over the course of the summer? Have you found a new creative discipline you’d like to spend more time on? Are you researching techniques and trying to improve your skill or are you just enjoying the process of uninformed experimentation?

I don’t know what to do! I’m not creative outside writing!

First, I want you to erase that second sentence from your thoughts. I’ve lived most of my life believing I’m not a creative person, and it’s only in my 40s that I’m finally realizing how much that’s held me back from pursuing things that bring me genuine joy. There is no dividing line between people who are creative and those who are not, only the line between those who do things and those who hold themselves back from ever trying.

If you’re not sure what to do, consider the following:

  • Borrow or buy that instrument you’ve always wanted to get. There are cheap options like penny whistles and ukuleles if you’re just looking to make semi-musical noise for a while. If that’s too much for you, fill a small container with dried beans or rice and play the shaker while listening to your favourite music! Bang on an overturned bucket. (I’ve been playing my kid’s toy synthesizer.)
  • Draw. Use a pen if you don’t have a pencil. Use scrap paper. Doodle on junk mail or those pizza boxes that have been piling up all winter.
  • Paint. If you don’t have paint or brushes, why not try a bit of digital painting? Check out Krita for a free Photoshop alternative.
  • Craft or collage. Use whatever building materials you can find to make stuff out of other stuff. Cut up magazines and paste them together to make new images.
  • Origami. There are a million free resources online and you don’t need the fancy paper. Make some ugly cranes and frogs out of junk mail.
  • 99% of you have a phone with a camera. Go take some photos, but try to be creative. Play with angles and be intentional about your composition.
  • Sing! Sing along to your favourite songs or look up karaoke videos on YouTube.