Artist Jill

This requires the biggest leap of all: claiming myself as an Artist.  For so long, I kept this a secret, locked in a box in the very, very center of my heart. It was a tiny bird that I fed lovingly, kept it warm holding it close, tight in my hands, whispering all my secrets to it, but utterly unable to let it fly.


In the sixth grade my teacher Mr. Nyegard told me, “You could be a writer if you wanted to.  You could be anything you want to be.”  He was sitting in a bright red, child-sized chair, knees pushed up into his chest, leaning towards me with his eyes wide, gesturing his hands wildly at the future he wanted me to be able to see.  He believed in my potential and encouraged me to believe also.  I was desperate to believe him, to believe such a thing about myself—the girl who sweat too much, had warts, cried herself to sleep sometimes, and loved books more than anything.  I had trouble internalizing his faith as my own, but I held tight to the memory, turning it over and around in my mind and watching the way the light would catch it. 

Many years later when I was going to college at Oregon State University, I had a writing teacher named Ehud Havazelet.  Ehud’s torso was square and solid, his arms and legs like four lines drawn on but not belonging to him. In class, he would sit on a table, legs crossed, his arms spinning in all directions as he talked. He reminded me of a bird—with his sharp nose; bright, wild eyes flashing behind his glasses; hair that rose off his head like feathers. He told us that writing was about telling the truth and that we would find the truth somewhere between our hearts and our stomachs. In his office one day, I told him that writing had become difficult for me, had always been difficult, because the truth was so precious to me that I stored it in a box on the highest shelf, a box that I could hardly bring myself to touch, let alone open. He told me that I had to be brave, that he wouldn’t ask if he didn’t think I could. The force of his words made my eyes burn.


And now, I find myself beginning again. I am realizing that as much as talent or skill, art is about showing up and being open to what arises, and being brave enough to manifest the truth.

“It doesn’t matter how long we may have been stuck in a sense of our limitations. If we go into a darkened room and turn on the light, it doesn’t matter if the room has been dark for a day, a week, or ten thousand years — we turn on the light and it is illuminated. Once we control our capacity for love and happiness, the light has been turned on.” ~Sharon Salzberg

Writing is my primary artistic practice, my calling, but I enjoy many other forms of artistic expression as well: collage, blackout poetry, Zentangle, doodling, mandalas, quilting, sewing, mixed media, found objects, web design, painting, drawing, and singing.

16 thoughts on “Artist Jill

  1. Lucia

    Commenting again….I burst into tears reading about how you are claiming the artist part of yourself. This is what I’m struggling with the most right now, and to have someone express exactly what it feels like is incredibly powerful. This year has been one big artistic “coming out” party for me, and sometimes I’d rather just NOT be that vulnerable by sharing my art, but….it continues to be worth it, every time.

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I had the realization this year that the only thing holding me back was me, and decided that it just wasn’t a good enough reason any more.

      There’s a quote I read in an interview with the author Steve Pressfield in the online magazine fear.less, in which he said “I think we are terrified, to be what we’re meant to be. Because then all the responsibility lays on us and we can’t hide behind anything.” When we hide, wear masks and fake it, if someone doesn’t like or accept us, who cares, it wasn’t who we really are anyway. But when we lay our heart bare, and we don’t get approval or “they” don’t like our work: that hurts! Good for you for doing it anyway!

      1. Lissa @ lafcustomdesigns

        Boy, I know that one, Jill … me holding me back. Great Pressfield quote and commentary. The one thing I’m keeping up with relative regularity is my blog. I notice you’re participating in the NaBloPoMo. What a great discipline. Looking forward to following you through your “dailies.”

    1. jillsalahub Post author

      I think it has something to do with our culture being so speedy. To create, you have to slow down, be still, daydream. It’s not about productivity or product. There’s not a lot of space for that it our busyness.

  2. Pingback: Jill Salahub’s visit | Writing in the Arts and Humanities

  3. Emma

    Jill, I am so happy to have found your blog. I’m not even sure how I did! I was about to search for some guided meditation to help me slow down and be present…and somehow I end up here with all your words resonating with me completely. Thank you.

  4. dawnarae

    Hi Jill,
    Thank you for starting again as you mentioned above. I found your site today and am so excited to be able to dive in and read your blog and other posts. I was told too by a teacher in high school that I had the gift of writing. so I too have started my blog. I love to sew and quilt and music is my escape these days. Thank you for sharing your story, which feels in some ways you were writing about me in many ways. I am excited and scared to venture out into my art of writing, but at the very least, it is a wonderful therapy for me. I hope someday to be able to bravely say, I too am an artist.


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