Awakening the Inner Artist

guest post by Carolyn Scarborough

photo of Carolyn Scarborough

Carolyn Scarborough

I’m sitting in a coffee shop with my sketchbook, drawing the mugs hanging above the counter. I take out my water pen and rub it over the graphite pencil sketch to make it look more artsy. That feels pleasurable, and I sigh.

I finally understand what my writing clients have been experiencing for years. They have gone from insisting they are not writers… until in a flash they understand, beyond words, that they are.

That’s how I now feel about being an artist.

Let me be clear. A couple of weeks ago I was the cynic who, if asked if I did art, would typically respond “Oh, I’m not an artist, that’s what my husband/daughter/friend is good at.”

Even though I became passionate about art in my early 20’s, I lost touch with it in my journalism career drive. When I tried reconnecting with it later in life, a battery of bad art teachers convinced me otherwise. This was confirmed by my feeble attempts at playing Pictionary, eliciting laughter as my elephant looked more like a roly-poly bug holding a hose.

Yet at our recent Taos Creativity Retreat, I found myself dabbling in ink, washing acrylics over paper, lost in the sound of pencil moving while my eyes traced the leafy branch in front of me. I heard instructions from my co-leader Sharon like “sketch what you see and if it looks like the object… you are doing it wrong” and my heart soared. How freeing! I could make it “not” look like what it was all day long!

I got even more excited as we were directed to gather pine cones, leaves and sticks, dip them in ink and simply make marks, no right or wrong.

When I was in those moments, there was no competition. It didn’t matter if I had hundreds of hours of art instruction or degrees; if I could draw an elephant, or not. It was simply me and the process, the aliveness, the wonder of creation. Yes, an art journal happened, but that was almost an afterthought to the process itself.

Now, I recognize that’s exactly what I do with women who claim they are not writers. Suddenly they are in the moment, the critical voice drops, their senses become alive and they are writing what is deep and true for them, despite themselves. Poetry emerges. Childhood wonder tumbles out. The thrill of catching words like butterflies — just because it feels pleasurable — abounds. I’ve seen it a hundred times. And now it was happening to me… with art.

I believe that when we get to the root of our creative impulse, that moment where we are so present the inner critic doesn’t have room to grow, it happens. Like Dorothy laying amidst Oz’s field of poppies, it’s as if the inner critic is overcome and takes a nap, leaving our intrinsic creative self permission to bloom. We write. We paint. We dance.

When the inner critic disappears, everything on the other side of that strident voice becomes possible. Life’s freshness, always there and ready, becomes ripe for the picking and expressing. Possibilities abound.

Now when I hear people talking about painting, my immediate thought isn’t an “otherness.” They do it, I don’t. It’s an inclusiveness. It’s a remembering that creation isn’t an uptight club you have to gain a degree and membership to; it’s the one we were all born to.

Artist Frederick Franck takes it a step further. He says, “I know artists whose medium is life itself, and who express the inexpressible without brush, pencil, chisel or guitar. They neither paint nor dance. Their medium is Being. Whatever their hand touches has increased life…. They are the artists of being alive.”


Carolyn Scarborough, an Austin-based writing and life coach, offers year-round gatherings for women to reach their creative potential – from finally writing that book to using words to discover who they really are.

This article was first published on Carolyn’s blog



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