Raised west of Sydney in the cloud-cloaked villages of the Blue Mountains, Amy Firth is an Australian singer/songwriter living in London, UK. She recently released her second EP on iTunes entitled ‘Watchmaker’s Daughter‘. Amy is also the founder of The Vulnerability Project, which facilitates conversation around creativity & courage. Of an evening she can be found with her guitar & loop pedal singing her heart out across many of London’s leading music venues.
Today on Artist Strong we are fortunate to host Amy Firth, and we will be discussing her wonderful endeavor The Vulnerability Project. Thank you Amy for taking the time today!
Carrie: For those who don’t know, what is The Vulnerability Project?
The Vulnerability Project is a conversation about creativity & courage. It emerged as a small passion project a few years ago and for a long while lived off my www.amyfirth.com website like a shy & goofy teenager not quite sure what to do with itself. It has been continuously shape shifting since and now proudly stands on its own two legs out there in the interwebs. The intention is to create an online forum where artists/creatives/passionate humans discuss what it’s like to lean into that space of unease/fear/discomfort – only to emerge the other side with (more often than not) something incredible/rewarding/beautiful. It is exploring the tipping point where vulnerability drives momentum in the creative process. I believe a lot of power and beauty can be cultivated by enabling conversation around this topic.
Carrie: How was it borne?
The idea really reared its curious head about two years ago when I first saw Brené Brown’s TED talk about The Power of Vulnerability. Her work spoke to the very core of me & it was/is an affirmation to see just how many people continue to resonate with her message (currently 12 million views and counting!). For me, Brené’s clip went hand in hand with Elizabeth Gilbert’s equally brilliant TED video ‘Your Elusive Creative Genius’ where she questions why so many brilliant young minds crumble into darkness from the pressures of the creative process. The Vulnerability Project really hangs in the balance of these two conversations and aims to shine light into the dark, messy corners where us ‘creative types’ try to silently stash away our demons, struggles and excuses. By ‘creative types’ I loosely mean those of us who aim to create a livelihood from our ‘art,’ but the more I sit with this stuff the more and more I realise how relevant it is to all walks of life, and ultimately to how we all, well… live! The more we can learn to gently breathe into the process, any process, and embrace the vulnerability that chaperones these challenges/changes/creations/connections, the more courageous we become. And with courage comes conviction, clarity and strength AND progress… it’s how we grow and heal, which is so important for any artist human.
Carrie: How do you think vulnerability affects artists/creatives?
There’s a great tweet flying about the twittersphere at the moment by @MarcusRomer which pretty much sums it up:
The Creative Process
1. This is awesome
2. This is tricky
3. This is shit
4. I am shit
5. This might be ok
6. This is awesome
The process more often than not can be a total beast, but the irony is that most of us are drawn to our craft because ultimately it brings us joy in its purest form. Whether it’s music or writing or painting or dance or design or film-making or any other infinite creative field… more often than not, our chosen outlet is something we’ve been doing since day dot because…it’s just what we do! It’s not a choice. We can’t not do it. It’s our Native Genius. It’s in our very bones. It’s how we navigate & process the world around us. It’s what brings us that ethereal warmth of living our truth and delivering our purpose. It truly can be magical.
But unfortunately, and as The Vulnerability Project demonstrates, those moments of blissful alignment are rare and fleeting. And what we end up with more often than not is a cold, hard, brutal bitchfight against those relentless, negative thoughts and triggers that bring everything to a grinding halt. Author of The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron, refers to them as “Blurts” – a spontaneous, negative, reflex thought that debunks confidence and progress e.g.
“Who do I think I am?”
“I will never amount to anything.”
“I’ve missed my chance.”
“I’ll never be good enough.”
“Why do I even bother?”
What is this creative whirlwind that intoxicates us with passion and then spits us out with self-made rejection?! What are the key factors here? If we break it down, what are the simplest things we’re experiencing in these moments?
Complete creative elation versus self-belief trip-wire.
Jov versus Fear.
And what is the common ground for these two factors that allow them to co-exist… Vulnerability.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of pain, shame and fear.
It is also the birthplace of love, joy and hope.”
– Brené Brown
I figure, there must be a tipping point in the middle… a middle ground where both sides interweave and create the ‘sweet spot’ which you can master like a trampolinist. It may not be sustainable and no doubt we’ll continuously lose our balance and slip off into old habits but: having the awareness to bring my vulnerability along with me for the ride, caring for it like a friend and not shoo-ing it away like a rabid dog… I’m learning this can make all the difference.
Carrie: What do you hope this project looks like in a year’s time? In five years time?
To be honest I have no idea. It feels like my only role is to start the conversation, push it out to sea like a little paper boat and see what happens. I don’t have any grand plans or expectations as I don’t really feel like it’s mine to plan… it feels bigger than anything I could understand and I’m merely a conduit for getting the ball rolling. My hope is that the intention stays true, and that the stories we share and the community we create manages to connect with people and ultimately help them! I keep thinking ‘If I had stumbled upon something like this five years ago it would have been a total game changer for me!’ I spent most of my 20’s learning that what felt like an intensely private struggle is in fact very much a universal one. And there is something enormously liberating with those moments of realization, it instantly diffuses the intensity of the pain because you’re not as alone in your struggles as you thought you were. In that regard, maybe I’ll never know if/how The Vulnerability Project helps people, and I don’t necessarily need to know, I just hope it does.
Carrie: How do you feel about having multiple creative projects going on at once?
It comes quite naturally to me. I work best when multi-tasking. I’m one of those people who reads half a dozen books at once on rotation and has a cupboard covered in post-it notes. When it comes to projects or ideas I tend to pick things up and put things down quite quickly but I’ve learnt that this is just part of my process. I have so many half-baked songs and stories resting inside me that if anyone else could see them I’m sure they’d write me off as a chaotic mess but, it’s what keeps me buzzing. It’s not so much that I grow frustrated or tired of one thing and abandon it, it’s more the case of alice-down-the-rabbit-hole-ing into something else that before I know it I’m on a whole new project. But I’m always able to return to where the trail was last hot and when I do, it’s like rediscovering it all over again. These buzzing little half-cooked nuggets is where I get my energy and motivation, but having said that I’ve had to learn to trust the chaos.
Carrie: What are your strategies for managing/cultivating vulnerability in your art?
Self-compassion, humility and gratitude.
When gratitude & humility are at the core of your creativity, ego & doubt don’t even get a look in – the entire process becomes a blessing. I realise it’s not always that simple but when your armour is made of gratitude you find yourself getting up time and time again and charging headfirst into that screaming inferno of doubt because it will always be worthwhile. At the end of the day, gratitude trumps fear every time. As I mention in my entry for The V Project the turning point for me came through enormous loss and amongst the grief finding gratitude in its purest form. This instantly dismissed any demons of doubt because I understood with all of my being that what I had was a gift, my creative life was an absolute privilege. For the first time in my life I stopped apologising for my talents & practiced gratitude for my gifts. I nurtured my creativity like the precious blessing that it is.
Carrie: How do you define creativity?
I believe creativity is your spirit in action. It is unique to every individual. It is infinite and malleable. It travels with you and is available to everyone. It is the most honest reflection of ourselves and our stories. As m’homegirl Brené says “Unused creativity is not benign–it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow, shame. We are creative beings. We are by nature creative.”
A lot of people may deny or refuse their creative abilities, especially if there’s a constant comparison e.g. “Oh no, no… I’m not creative, he’s the creative one in our family.” But creativity manifests itself in infinite ways; it’s not all Mozart Symphonies and Monet Waterlillies… it’s the small things that we do so effortlessly we don’t even realise. It’s how my brother transforms his backyard into a racing car track for his kids. It’s how my Dad decorates the edges of the plate with ketchup when he serves up bacon & eggs for breakfast… it’s how my mum draws smiley faces on the bandaid’s she gives to her patients after a blood test. It’s in the small things that make ordinary moments beautiful. Or as my partner says: “creativity is the opposite to admin.” I couldn’t agree more.
Carrie: How can people get in touch with you if they wish to contribute to The Vulnerability Project?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Maybe its time to embrace your vulnerability instead of scorning it! Read The Vulnerability Project to help you embrace your fears and begin creating.
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