Art & Writing for Self-Expression

by Umayal Annamalai & Surabhi Kaushik

Umayal’s thoughts:

Art is a dynamic catalyst for profound healing, transformation, and integration in my life. It’s not a destination but a journey through which I experience and process my emotions. My self-portrait painting delves into the internal narrative of my struggles with self-worth and people-pleasing, unveiling the emotional toll these experiences exacted.

There were times when I succumbed to the internal narrative that I wasn’t good enough, a story perpetuated by my own mind. However, when I engage in intuitive painting, I bridge the gap between my spirit, body, and truth, creating a powerful connection. My art is an intricate interplay of textures and patterns, a layered expedition through colors that evoke a unique narrative. Some colors are bold and vibrant, while others are subtle, each layer weaving its own tale. The objects within my compositions interact, sharing stories and provoking questions for the viewer.

Through my art, I found a means to express my emotions and gained a deep understanding of the patterns and disempowering stories my mind was crafting, stories that perpetuated my belief of inadequacy. Through artistic expression, I embarked on a journey to integrate the fragmented pieces of myself, emerging as a whole and recognizing that I am a vessel of love. This process brought me home to myself, fostering inner peace and harmony.

In embracing this transformation, I found the strength to heal, align, and ultimately thrive. I came to realize that true power doesn’t lie in controlling external circumstances, but rather in maintaining inner peace and freedom regardless of the challenges life presents; and that art as a tool can unleash our true creative essence.

Surabhi’s thoughts:

I have been a storyteller at heart and a writer all my life. In all these years of crafting personal essays, poems, and short stories, there have been many times when I have felt challenged creatively or personally, and therefore have been unable to write for many days at a stretch. Oftentimes, I have found myself stuck in a storyline or an essay, feeling like a tree had fallen in the middle of the road.

I have tried many tricks and techniques to unblock myself and move forward in my writing journey. Some have worked well; some did not help. The most powerful technique so far has been spontaneous writing — also called stream of consciousness writing. I was inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s writing practice and Julia Cameron’s morning pages.

The way I practice is by picking random topics like “I remember” or “twenty years ago,” and setting a timer for ten to twelve minutes. I write by hand on paper and do not stop to think. I simply allow my pen to move across the page and spill the words without any filters.

It works for writing fiction, too — for example, if I am stuck developing a character or with my characters navigating conflict; if I need an inciting incident to move the plot forward; or if I am struggling to come up with a satisfying ending. I simply use spontaneous writing in my character’s voice, and it has worked most of the time. I try different phrases as prompts to get the technique to work best for me, or I use it to visualize scenes in my stories.

Spontaneous writing has also been hugely beneficial on a personal level for me. I have been using it as a tool for self-reflection and self-expression. I use it to navigate my emotional struggles efficiently. Putting pen to paper and allowing my thoughts to take the shape of words and give voice to them has been a sacred practice for me. It has been a great tool for my own emotional release, to reduce stress and boost mindfulness.

Stream of consciousness writing provides a space to acknowledge and witness my emotions and silence my inner critic. It serves as an invitation to embrace the unpredictable nature of my thoughts and let them flow freely without premeditation. It gives me permission to express myself without the fear of judgment. I have been enjoying the process of writing without planning or overthinking, allowing the thoughts to arise spontaneously and capture them in their raw form.

Join Umayal & Surabhi to Explore Your Creativity

THURSDAY, MARCH 14: “Awaken Your Creative Essence: Art & Writing,” 6:00-8:00 p.m., Charlotte Lit, 933 Louise Avenue (@hygge Belmont). Info and registration

In this workshop, we will look inward through art and writing. Art and writing will be used as tools to help us explore and speak up about parts of ourselves that make us unique. The goal is to access our inner essences and express them freely without judgment. Unleashing our creative sides in this way can open our minds to new and compelling ideas and make way for new discoveries about ourselves. Watercolor art supplies will be provided.

Umayal Annamalai is a self-taught mixed media expressionist and a creative coach. She uses her creativity to explore her journey towards self-discovery and to connect with her inner self and the world around her. Her art is a reflection of her emotions, which she transforms into beauty and grace to heal herself and others. She employs bright and bold colors to help people heal their suppressed negative emotions and find their voice.

Surabhi Kaushik finds comfort and joy in playing the role of a copywriter, storyteller, poet, or essayist, not necessarily in that order. She is also a literary artist, which means she bridges talent and resources. She creates and facilitates writing programs to help build a strong and supportive writing community.