White Jessu“An Artist,” said Ian Cron, “who has not done their ‘work’ will be doomed to be sentimental.”

Sentimental.

2. (of a work of literature, music, or art) Dealing with feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia in an exaggerated and self-indulgent way.

We all can think of examples of it. I think of paintings of quaint cottages beside picturesque streams with the warm glow of a fire inside by an artist who shall not be named.

Or big pictures of Jesus (he’s white, of course) that look like he just got back from the hairdresser.

Or maybe even the sculptures of Jeff Koons.

There is likely more sentimental art than “true” art, and I think Ian is saying that even an artist aiming to create something unique and honest can fall into sentimentality. The measure of sentimentality in art is based not on the artist’s intention, but on the measure to which they have done their work.

So What Is The Work?

I have this journal. Every once in a while, when I get offended or feel rejected or get the emotional crap kicked out of me, I have to take out this journal. I call it my grief journal.

Actually, for me, the journal is not physical—it is long walks in the dark at night when I can’t sleep because I’m replaying the scene obsessively—but I started with a real journal.

The journal comes in especially handy when those scenes from childhood pop up unexpectedly, those wounds I have successfully forgotten.

Almost.

Your work is to seize that painful energy of your wounds, that healing energy memorialized in the scar…

And then get over it.

Your scars, while beautiful, are not unique. We all have them. The goal of the work is to get to a place where you are neither afraid of nor enthralled with them.

The goal is to get to a place where you are able to enter into the wounds of others, and you can’t do that if you’re still living in your own.

PRACTICE

Go find a piece of paper, a notebook, or a journal. Title it GRIEF.

And then close your eyes for a moment. Think about a moment when someone wounded you, a friend, perhaps, or a family member.

No time limit, just write. Don’t censor yourself, and don’t hold back in telling your story. No one will read this, ever.

When you’re finished, hide it in a place no one will find it. Or burn it (and may peace be with you today).

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is a writer and entrepreneur. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! and the co-founder of Story Cartel. You can follow him on Twitter (@joebunting).