Ask a little kid to tell you about a painting they’re working on. It’s a miraculous thing. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to aspire to that level of artistic liberation. I believe it’s still there in all of us. I wrote about this in my first book, but I think it’s worth emphasizing: During my stay in a mental hospital some sixteen years ago now, I witnessed this childlike superpower reassert itself, take hold, and transform a woman who was virtually catatonic in an art-therapy class. I think about it almost every day.
A sixty-something heroin addict who had spent the better part of the previous thirty years in and out of institutions and living on the streets – and whom I had not heard make a sound in any of the group therapy sessions, or even in the smoking room – drew a simple picture of herself. It wasn’t great. But it looked like her.
When she held it up for the class to see, I heard her voice for the very first time. She said she couldn’t remember the last time she had held a pencil. She smiled! And cried. Everyone clapped and gathered around to hold her. It was such a stark, amazing, healing thing to see someone’s eyes light up – become human again – when they realized they had the power to make something that wasn’t there.
How to Write One Song