Grow Your Soul (Kurt Vonnegut style)
I was recently reminded about five students who wrote to the author Kurt Vonnegut in 2006, trying to persuade him to visit their high school. Vonnegut didn’t visit the school, but he did write back to the students (the only author to do so). The letter and story has been shared on social media, etc., so it may sound familiar.
What I find so remarkable about this story is the message Vonnegut chose to convey… considering the entire range of topics he had for responding to those kids.
He could have been egotistic and written about how great it is to be an accomplished author. He could have tried to convince them to write, write, write and become authors as well. He could have given the secrets to becoming a success in the literary world.
Instead he gave them a secret for how “to make your soul grow.”
What I had to say to you…Practice any art–music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage–no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.
Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives…Dance home after school, and sing in the shower, and on and on.
Here’s an assignment…Write a six-line poem…Don’t show it or recite it to anyone…Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.
This is the message that I strive to convey in my art classes, in my blog: that the product of art is not nearly as important as the PROCESS of art. Sure, it’s nice to have a pretty painting where everything works out right, but the true, important Thing happens inside you when you are IN the activity. Your soul is expanding, your connection to the entire world is expanding, your connection to your Self is expanding.
Therefore, I hope you will take Mr. Vonnegut’s advice (here’s the full story) and create a daily habit of making art, art of ANY kind, no matter how badly, and with soul-inspired Intention.
Right now, DO something! Write a poem, sing a song, draw a doodle, perform a 2-minute monologue impersonating your mother, dance to whatever is on the radio.
Then come back and tell me what you did and how it made you feel.