I witnessed a heart attack yesterday. Not the physical kind, but a jaw-dropping attack of words that ripped into the heart and mind of a creative spirit I adore. It was shocking to watch it unfold on Twitter, not only because I know this kind soul certainly did not deserve a public brow-beating, but because it came from a fellow artist. 

I have felt so blessed to be part of an incredible online community of lovely left-brainers {artists, writers, photographers, musicians, etc.}. The lives we lead – hunched over keyboards, locked up in studios – can get a little lonely. So, this world wide web we’ve woven is often my saving grace: I can hop online at any time and be inspired, enlightened or tickled pink by another artist’s blog, Facebook updates or tweets. And I’m amazed at the support artists provide for one another – celebrating achievements, sharing projects, admiring one another’s photos and artwork and musings. 
When I logged into Twitter yesterday, I stumbled upon the opposite of all that usual goodness: a mean-spirited tweet from an artist I follow to an artist I know and love. It was so unkind that it made me cringe. And the almost comical irony is that it was directed to a sweet soul who works around the clock collecting and creating stunning images, soul-stirring videos, life-affirming quotes, amazing interviews and awesome art – all in an effort to to remind us to be gentle with ourselves and others. 

Recently, she launched an e-course to help people tap into their creativity. I’d heard nothing but great things about it from people taking the course…until yesterday’s barrage of condescending tweets from a painter who paid for the e-course and didn’t care for the first lesson. Rather than emailing her concerns directly, she chose to post her vitriol on Twitter, in rapid-fire tweets, for all the world to see: 

You are putting yourself forward to teach people how to develop their creativity. Aren’t you a professional artist?

Or are you a professional teacher of art? a therapist or just a blogger?

What experience do you have to teach creativity? Because when I read your first email this morning I couldn’t stop laughing. 

A professional artist makes a living from their art. Does that make sense to you? They have the history to teach creativity.

Can you hear my heart breaking into a million pieces for the kind, creative mama on the receiving end of these tweets? She handled it like a pro, offering to connect via email, to provide a refund…but the woman kept going, asking to see her body of work, asking how long she’d been a “professional” artist, implying she was taking people’s money and providing no value in return.

I think I’ve been teaching art long enough that I can determine skilled and unskilled use of materials & techniques, repetitive work, lack of originality, lack of any meaning or depth to a work. I determine crap using those guidelines, not whether I like it or not.

Well, here’s what I think. This kind of creative prejudice – the thought that there is a “right” way to create and express ourselves – is so dangerous. Words like these are weapons in disguise; heat-seeking missiles capable of crushing spirits and dashing dreams. Artists should not have to go out into the world – especially within their own community – wearing heavy armor.

No one on Planet Earth has the right to decide and declare whether you’re a real, professional artist. No one has the right to put parameters around creativity, claiming that only someone with a certain type of expertise can inspire greatness and ignite the imagination. No one has permission to bully you into submission, to steal your confidence, to critique the very essence of who you are and what you love to do. Oh! And no one knows better than you how flippin’ awesome you are.

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