• September 24, 2020

INSPO: Talking the Healing Power of Art and Expression With Zakiah Baker

 INSPO: Talking the Healing Power of Art and Expression With Zakiah Baker

I’m a student of the ideal that art has healing power. Zakiah lives the same creed.

We first met in college. The specifics aren’t familiar but they usually never are with people who truly matter. We connected over words and the poetry of life. Even at a young age, we talked about the importance of sharing words and painting stories.

As time passed, life took us on separate journeys but we continued to stay connected. As we matured, our conversation grew to focus on expanding the professional landscape of our dreams. She went on to write her book “To Be Her” and continued to use words as a way to express herself and connect with others.

Her piece is a collection of stories, combining the voices of a group of African American women and girls. These stories are draped in sincerity and courageously comforts young women on their journeys through womanhood. It’s that courage that has always intrigued me. She always finds a way to paint a bright “tomorrow”.

That courage has been inspiring to me for years and that’s why she’s on INSPO.

What heals you can heal others.

That’s the moral of our stories, to be honest.

Like myself, Zakiah uses writing and expression to ease anxiety and stress. It helps her process life and digest life lessons like patience.

“All forms of art have helped to calm my anxiety,” she says when asked about writing’s healing power. As we all know too well, writing is healing because it’s a process. It forces you to explore your thoughts. Ironically, that’s pretty much the same process for healing.

“Writing, especially fiction, taught me to slow down and really paint the story. Writing a detailed story takes time. It is not something that can be rushed. I had to teach myself to slow down and look at my writing from the aspect of a reader,” she shares. We can rush nearly every aspect of life but in doing so, we hinder ourselves from tasting the details. The older I get, the more I’m starting to truly understand that it’s not just about getting to your destination quickly;

It’s about getting to that destination successfully.

The details allow us to digest the story. Those same details allow us to heal. Then working to tell your story can then help heal others.

The process.

A desire to heal ourselves and others may get us to work but engaging in a process is what keeps us there. It’s how we keep fighting to get to the details. When she writes, she’s aware of this and has curated a process to help her grasp those details.

“I ask myself questions while I write:  How do I want to feel when I am reading? What does this person say when they speak to people they love/hate? All of the characters that I create deserve to be thoroughly flushed out,” she says. “I love to create complex characters that which my readers can relate.”

There’s an underrated appreciation for creating the whole story. Some of our darkest days would be just a little bit brighter if we moved the clouds and found the sun. Times may seem grim on the surface but sometimes joy comes from the details. Or, the digging.

There’s a process to it all. We’re all learning.  We also are aware that processes can be painful. It may be tough to stick through it when times are tough but for Zakiah, she speaks of how shifting her mindset to growth has helped her through those tough times.

Dark days are about perspective.

“There have indeed been dark days. Days so dark that I barely left my bed and took sleeping pills, because sleep was the only time that I felt some type of peace,” Zakiah shares. “These were the days that forced me to grow. I have faced two major bouts of depression. Once when I was nineteen and again at the age of twenty-seven.” With over 17 million Americans struggling with depression, we’re all too familiar with those feelings.

It’s tough to cope with and tough to create through. In order to break out of those tough moments, Zakiah says that she had to learn to get back up. “When I was nineteen I had to learn how to pull myself out of that hole, because who else was going to do it for me? Sure, I had family and friends that would have done just about anything to help me feel better, but I knew that I had to want to feel better.”

The power of pain.

-and then the dark days turn into fuel.

The pain that Zakiah faced brought her new understanding.”Sometimes my pain is exactly what teaches me how to help others through their struggles,” she shares. In fact, she started her blogs as a result of the pain. She copes and then uses her experiences to help others.

When asked about why she started her blog, “to serve as my own personal therapy, because at the time I could not afford to sit in front of a therapist. Writing everything that I was feeling helped me to face myself and begin my healing process. “

Freedom through honesty.

It’s true; honesty is the best policy.

Being open and honest is often a scary journey. It requires humility. Transparency is scary but the payoff is worth it. We never know who can benefit from our stories.

“This took a level of honesty that I have never known before. To tell my story and let others who are struggling know that they are not alone. I have found that people are more willing to put in the work to heal themselves if they know that they are not the only one going through depression. People want to feel understood,” Zakiah shares.

We’re firmly planted in an universe of suppressed emotion. Thoughts and feelings aren’t necessarily appreciated but Zakiah wishes to inspire the younger generation to remain transparent. She, like me, sees the vision of a transparent society and the benefits it provides. “My hope for the writers, artists and expressionists of the next generation is that they continue to open up about the importance of mental health and that they use their art (in whatever form) to heal themselves and to heal others,” Zakiah shares. “I want them to know that their art is important to the world and it needs to be seen and heard and felt. I hope that that never let art die.”

She feels like transparency is a trait that millennials began but it’s a legacy that the next generation must continue.

Expression.

We are in turbulent times.

Even before the coronavirus, we needed a place to express ourselves. Some of the worst times we’ve experienced in history have created some of our best art. As Zakiah puts it, “through our pain, we have created stunning masterpieces.”

She, like most of us, is currently stuck in the house. Though our bodies may feel a bit trapped in the house, we must continue to let our creativity run free. Zakiah shares the same sentiments. “I hope that everyone is doing well and using this time to express creativity,” she shares.

Free yourself through expression. Let’s continue to heal ourselves with art.

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