An art-nerd in her studio

Is Your Daughter an “Art-Nerd?”

I was an “art-nerd” as a child and teenager. I took drawing lessons, played piano, guitar, and sang in the school choir. I sewed elaborate quilts, wrote poems, stories and, at the age of twelve, attempted to write a novel. In high school, I took modern dance and ballet. As a teen, I acted in several plays. In my spare time, I rode my purple Schwinn all over the neighborhood and read every book I could get my hands on.

Sports didn’t interest me, and neither did girly-girl activities. I liked making things. My parents encouraged me in my creative pursuits, and patiently ate the lopsided cakes I baked, listened to me practice Für Elise hundreds of times, and attended my dance performances. I made giant messes I had no idea how to clean up. And, through it all, I learned from my many mistakes.

How Can You Encourage Your “Art-Nerd” Daughter?

If you have an art-nerd daughter, like me, with a strong interest in the arts, how do you support her? How do you encourage her to explore her talents while protecting her from criticism? From my experience as a teacher working with teens, I know how easy it is to snuff the creative spark. One careless remark is often all it takes.

Parents should advocate for their artistic daughters and take their ambitions seriously. Comments such as these, however well-meaning, undermine a teen’s self-confidence:

 

  • “That’s nice, but how are you going to make a living at it?”
  • “Don’t be a ‘starving artist.’”
  • “Of course you can do that–as a hobby.”
  • “Artists are {unhappy}, {alcoholics}, {social misfits}, {poor}, etc.”
  • “You’ll see things differently when you grow up.”

 

As we know, the world does not, in general, encourage genuine creativity. This is especially true for girls, who are frequently steered away from what they really want to do—their “heart work”—and offered something less challenging. I know so many women who wanted to be artists, writers or musicians but lacked the confidence and support to make it happen. They all regret not having pursued what they loved.

 

It’s OK to Try a Lot of Different Things

Your art-nerd daughter will probably try and abandon lots of things. If it seems like she flits from subject to subject, should you encourage her to pick one thing and stick to it? Perhaps she has real talent for music, but balks at the needed practice. Maybe she shows promise as a writer, but gives up after a few pages. It’s totally normal for your daughter to go through the stage where she samples different artistic disciplines, but eventually, she’ll find the right one for her. Allow her the freedom to experiment, understanding that everything she learns is a step in her process as an artist.

For example, although I practiced various musical instruments for years, I gradually stopped. However, my interest in writing deepened over the years. After I had children, I became intrigued by photography and videography—both are now part of my artistic practice. Part of making videos includes music, and I use my early musical training in creating soundtracks for my videos.

Let Her Make Mistakes

The most important thing you can do for your art-nerd daughter is to make sure she has the chance to try things and make mistakes. Our culture puts a strong emphasis on the finished product, whether it’s a published book, painting, or performance. We don’t give the effort that goes into producing these works of art the same importance. As a parent, you can encourage your daughter to trust her instincts and pursue creativity, whatever form that takes.

Limit Screen Time

When I was growing up, my parents decided not to have a television in our home. I admit, the glowing blue screens in my friends’ homes fascinated me, but I’m happy that I grew up free of that distraction. Today’s children and teens carry screens around wherever they go. We know that constant exposure to social media causes anxiety, depression, and, paradoxically, feelings of social isolation, especially for teen girls. Making art, whatever the discipline, gets them away from social media. Instead of staring at their Instagram feed, they get the satisfaction of having engaged in making something beautiful.

Art Makes You Smarter–really!

All teen girls struggle with self-doubt and perfectionism. Creativity and self-expression through the arts help increase teens’ self-esteem. The process of making art is in itself a healing activity, as many art therapy programs bear out. Art even “makes you smarter,” as this article from Nobel Coaching reports, by developing cognitive and decision-making skills.

Amanda Gorman, age 22, gave the inauguration poem for President Joe Biden. Behind her effortless, confident performance lies years of hard work. Amanda, the daughter of a single mother, struggled with a speech impediment as a child. In an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN, she said, “Writing became a form of speech pathology. I used writing as a form of self-expression. The more that I recited and spoke out loud, the more I was able to teach myself how to pronounce these letters, which for so long had been my greatest impediment.” (Cooper and Biden also overcame speech impediments.)

I’m Still an Art-Nerd

I’m now an adult: a wife, mother, full-time writer and business owner. In many ways, however, I’m still that “art-nerd” girl, trying things, making giant messes and colossal mistakes, and learning all the time. I still struggle with self-doubt, wonder if I’m doing the right things, and feel discouraged from time to time. But now I know that these feelings will pass, and that my inner art-nerd girl will emerge, curiosity intact.

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