Vulnerable Creativity: Talking with Mari Andrew
Mari Andrew is a writer, illustrator, and speaker best known for her creative daily posts on Instagram. What started out as making one drawing a day for a year as a way to express herself in a time of grief, has inspired over a million devoted fans. Mari’s first book, Am I There Yet?—a collection of essays and illustrations—debuted on the New York Times best seller list in 2018.
We recently sat down with Mari to chat about creativity and what it takes to show up as your full self—both in life and in art.
1440: What does it feel like to expose your vulnerability to an Instagram following of 1 million people?
Mari: I’m very grateful I get to do it! I think the dream for any expressive person is to have an audience who actually cares what you have to say. That’s a tremendously empowering and humbling experience.
Even though I post about very raw emotions, that’s not something I feel ashamed about.
Now, if I were posting photos of the very unattractive meals I make for myself, or all the embarrassing things I’ve said on dates, or what’s underneath my bed, that would be pretty nerve-racking.
But I know by now that we’re all experiencing the same emotions (just perhaps at different times and with different specifics), so it’s not scary or even very vulnerable for me to post my feelings on the internet. We all have them!
It’s part of the deal of being a human.
I feel very fortunate that I’m able to make them into art that helps me connect to other people; it’s a big gift.
1440: Do you struggle with giving yourself permission to feel what you feel? What emotions are toughest for you to allow, and to capture in your work?
Mari: I’ve never really resonated with the message, “It’s okay to be sad” as though I have to give myself permission to let down.
I’ve always felt like ‘Of coooouurse it is totally okay to be sad!’
I strongly and naturally feel like it’s okay to have any emotion, though I have a harder time sitting with certain ones. I’m still working on allowing myself space to be angry, which has been a lifelong challenge, because it feels so negative and unproductive. But I’m sure the same could be said of sadness, which I feel very comfortable with.
Occasionally I’ll let anger seep through my work, and it’s always a really triumphant experience—being able to articulate something that’s so uncomfortable for me. I hope this is one way I’ll evolve through the years as an artist and a writer.
1440: How do you define creativity?
Mari: I have a very spiritual definition of creativity. For me it really feels like creativity is the interaction between me and anything nonphysical, anything in the spiritual realm. Sometimes that feels like God, sometimes it feels like a spark of humanity, sometimes it feels like interaction with a different time.
Creativity takes me out of the moment and into another time.
It’s hard to explain, as most beautiful experiences are. When I’m creating, I feel like I’m doing something very uniquely human—something humans have been doing forever.
It makes me feel very connected.
I really hope this is something that everyone can experience in one way or another, because it’s glorious!