The Flaky Artist’s Brain – My Messy Beautiful

Oh, bananas.

Does anyone else have the problem of wanting desperately to follow their dreams but being totally afraid and stuck?  And having to overcome this hurdle of resistance every single day?

(I’m guessing that the answer is yes, considering the number of books that have been written about artists being blocked and overcoming their fears.  What’s up with that?)

Keep fighting.

So, I’m totally one of them.  Most of the time, I feel like a mess.  And I’m really afraid that people will find out exactly how deep the mess goes.  I feel completely incompetent in some areas of my life.  No matter how hard I try to fix them, they just always suck.  I’m not improving.  I’m just getting more and more frustrated.

Anyway, I read this book last week that says, “Stop it.”

He says that I should just ignore my areas of incompetence completely and find someone else to do those things for me.  Because they’re holding me back from doing what I was made to do.

And you know what?  He’s right.

I am a stereotypical artist.  Really.  What’s your artist stereotype?  Is it disorganized, weird, and slightly loopy and not quite like “normal” people?  Head in the clouds, that kind of thing?  Well, that’s me.  And I’ve been trying to hide it for years.  I’ve let it out in little socially acceptable glimpses, but I’m afraid.

I’m afraid to fully embrace my gift because then… well, what if everything falls apart?  What if my weaknesses get bigger instead of smaller?  And what if everybody sees?

But living outside of my talent has given me years of trying so hard to cover up and improve my inadequacies that I’ve let my gift stagnate.  And I’m still not any better at the other things.

I’ve ignored my talent.  My one thing.  The thing that makes me shine.  The thing that I was very likely created to do.  My gift to the world.  (And when I say that, I don’t mean I’m awesome and everyone should love me.  I mean that God has given each of us a job to do, a talent, a function to perform in society, and I’m slacking.  Because I’ve been afraid.)

I’m afraid that even when I paint and once I’ve put in my 10,000 hours, I still won’t achieve mastery.

I’m afraid that embracing my painting self will send my home into further chaos.

I’m afraid that my kids will grow up and have a long list of all the things they’re traumatized by because mommy was an artist and the kitchen table was always covered in dirty dishes and works in progress.  And teaching them to clean is not going so well.  Their future spouses might just hate me.

I’m afraid that people will see our version of homeschooling and think it’s not enough.

I’m afraid that well-meaning people will  keep trying to “fix” me and give me advice on how I can become just like them: neat, with cleaning children and an organized home.  It’s not that I don’t want those things, but come on.  I’ve been reading all the books and trying for the last eleven years.  My brain just won’t bend that way.  Will you love me anyway?

I’m afraid that people won’t love me anyway.

I’m going to tell you something now that I’m really embarrassed about because it sounds so stupid.

I was one of those talented kids that everybody hates in school.  I got good grades, I’m smart, I have an excellent memory, and, to add insult to injury, I’m good at art.  I felt like the kids in my class resented me.  I got asked by innocent 8-year-olds, with disgust in their voices, “Why are you so good at everything?”

I get it.  I totally do.  It was annoying.  But now, I’m an adult, and I’ve spent my whole life hiding my really great parts and emphasizing my struggles.  I’ve spent the last years trying to get better at housekeeping and feeling really bad because it’s not my thing instead of focusing on what I’m good at and pursuing it with my whole heart.  I feel like maybe I’ve spent the last 27 years apologizing that I was born as myself.


When I get to heaven, God’s not going to ask me, “Why weren’t you Moses?”

He’s going to say, “Why weren’t you Amanda?”

And darn it, I want to try.  I want to be myself.

I want to start loving my whole self — imperfections and strengths — instead of trying to be something that I’m just. not.

I want to try living a different life.  A life full of art.  A life with a different paradigm, one that leaves behind a false ideal of motherhood constructed by somebody else.  Why do we feel like we need to be just like our friends, our neighbours, our grandmas?  I want to test living a life that accepts everyone around me for who they are, including myself.

I keep telling my friends how lovely they are just as they are, but I can tell they don’t believe me.  And when they tell me how lovely I am, I don’t believe them, either.

I want to live in my loveliness and accept it.  And maybe then, when I tell my people about their amazingness, maybe then they’ll believe me.  Maybe we can all start believing together.

“I want you to think about how all this [these differences] makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.”  1 Corinthians 12:14-18

So be beautiful.

What is your loveliness, your thing, your talent?  What is your gift to the world?

Will you be brave with me and decide to run after it with all your heart?


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!  I’ve become a huge fan of Glennon’s over the last couple months.  She is encouraging and messy and real, and I love her.  I can’t wait to read the book!


3 Responses to “The Flaky Artist’s Brain – My Messy Beautiful”

  1. Rachel Toalson April 9, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

    So, so good, Amanda. Be brave and free and you! My husband is an artist and I am a writer, and we have a band together, and we are so very passionate about helping people see that it’s possible to chase dreams while having children (we have five boys, 7, 4, 3 and twins who just turned 2). Sometimes those seasons look differently, but they are all used by God to hone our art. Live! Dream! Jump! I’m cheering you on.

    Thank you for your messy beautiful.

    • Amanda April 10, 2014 at 1:48 pm #

      Thanks, Rachel, so much. It sounds like our families are very similar! I’ve got 5, too — 4 boys and a girl, twins included in the middle. Similar insane spacing, too, I see. 😉

  2. Shari June 12, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    So brave, you are, Amanda. I share your traits, as a writer, artist, mother of 4 (now adult children) and teacher. The disorganized messes do not ever stop – even with all kids out of the house. I’m not worrying about grandchildren one day not being able to visit because my house is SO un-childproof. There are so many other irons in the fire.

    We have this “not good enough” syndrome. I’m right there with you. My word of the year is “Love”. I chose this word because I’m learning to LOVE MYSELF. It’s been a process, let me tell you.

    Your words are honest and true. If we can share our journeys with others, we will find that we are not alone and that, you know what?

    We are pretty darn amazing.

    Shari 🙂