(Re-released from 12/17/2012...)
Creativity takes courage. There are many notions about art, artists, and creativity in general. If we have tried in the past to explore our creativity, there are barriers we hit and many of these barriers are derived from false notions and misconceptions about creativity. Unfortunately, we often accept these as truths.
These top seven false notions boil down to one primal thing: the fear of loss of control. This is based on the incorrect premise that we are somehow in control to begin with. We can generate our contexts, but we don’t control everything, instead we manage life. It is human to fear loss of control. But ask yourself, what happens when I lose control? No one ever died right in their tracks from losing control; nothing is “lost”. Losing control isn’t a game stopper, but letting fear stop you is. There is wisdom on the other side of this fear. Let go…be patient and try to appreciate what is so in your given situation.
Here are some false notions given in support of NOT heeding the creative call (notice that I often use the terms “creative expression” and “art” interchangeably).
1) I’M NOT INSPIRED.
“You can’t wait for inspiration; you have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London
Ever find yourself waiting for that next “aha” moment, grand idea, or epiphany before you take any action? Picking up our tools and engaging in the process gets us to a space where these ideas and inspirations are possible. Concepts about “making something inspiring” usually do not take us in an authentic direction. Art that is completely conceptual lands flat; it lacks a heartbeat. We need to take up residence in our creative space and really listen…and FEEL if we wish to be fully expressed. Don’t wait for good ideas to pop into your head as a welcomed interruption. Go to a cozy space, and just sit, and listen with your whole body. Then, pick up your creative tools. If nothing happens, fine—but go to your space as often as you can. Instant inspiration could happen in your daily life, but only after you have opened the door to your creative expression.
2) I’M NOT AN “ARTSY” PERSON
“I believe that if it were left to artists to choose their own labels, most would choose none”.
Labels are limiting and shut down your creativity, period! Especially personal labels which detail who you are, and who you are not. There is no booby prize for being staunch or stubborn. Consider this: what you know about yourself is much less than what you don’t know about yourself. Furthermore, what you don’t know that you don’t know is mind-boggling. To be 100% certain of our own identity cuts off many possibilities of whom we could be and what we might consider DOING. Your personality and preferences are not fixed. If you have ever changed your mind about anything you get to see first-hand how fluid your opinions can be. You have a choice in the matter of who you are, so choose what inspires you now. This may possibly be different from what inspired you before. Change your mind any time; this is what makes life interesting.
3) SPENDING TIME MAKING ART IS SELFISH. What about my family, my obligations?
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
The first line of this excerpt from Hamlet is well-known. The third line is even more illuminating. When we are true to ourselves, we are real—and true–with others. Making art may feel like a selfish task at times, can’t this be OKAY. Do people call us “selfish” when we brush our teeth or bathe? Of course not. Because everyone knows good hygiene is self-care, hence acceptable.
What does making art do for you? Does it replenish your soul, create peace, or give you a sense of accomplishment? Are those not valid reasons to express who you are? It just takes a little courage to tell the voice in your head (or well-meaning people) that you hear what they are saying (thank you), AND you plan to nurture yourself, because that is who you are—a person who nurtures.
4) I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH TIME TO GET INTO MY CREATIVE ZONE.
Doodle, doodle, doodle! There are many activities you can do which require little time and give you the simplicity of not having to set up all your supplies. Zentangles is a SIMPLE--and beautiful-- way to try small art. Once you are using your creative muscles on a regular basis you start to see artful possibilities all around you. You might be inspired by tree branches and buds, or see how dried up bamboo leaves would work well into some homemade paper. Keep a small notepad or coupon filer with you so you write down ideas and collect materials. Pretend like you are on a scavenger hunt!
“Truly creative people care a little about what they have done, and a lot about what they are doing. Their driving focus is the life force that surges in them now.” — Alan Cohen
5) ART IS FOR THOSE WITH TALENT AND SKILL.
Try telling a child that! Their art is the most authentic and they've had almost no training. You wouldn't dare say to a kindergartener, “Well, ah, according to Art News Magazine that picture is not REAL art.”
Here we have a choice: to accept the status quo, or go forward with courage, no matter what. Often times, there is a basic urge at the heart of skilful creations which seeks approval; this is deeply ingrained. If you find this is a big issue for you, don’t make yourself wrong for wanting approval, just own it and ask: What would I make if no one was ever going to see this? You could be taken in a new direction entirely—this is authentic creation, listen.
“The highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe without evaluating.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti
6) I’LL HAVE MORE TIME…LATER.
This day will never come because you have forsaken your creative spirit; you have put it off like an unwanted chore. Your creative muscle will wither. Thankfully, your creative potential is forgiving–it will not hold a grudge. So if this neglect has happened, go inwards and find a way to make time today. Pick a wild flower and arrange it purposely somewhere in your home, open your journal and doodle some words and images. If you know other people who like to create, plan a date where you can create freely together—cook, craft, whatever!
You may very well have more “free” time at a later point in time, but you will mostly likely fill that time with other stuff. Give some thought to meeting yourself through creative expression. For some, this meeting is the hardest part of setting up a practice.
“Art allows us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton
7) I’M NO GOOD. If can’t make something grand and beautiful, why bother?
All great idea starts with one stroke, one move. Do that one move and get the wheels turning–you can’t steer a parked car! If we start off with high expectations we have to either live up to that (which usually doesn't happen), or forsake our playfulness and freedom. The latter is really an awful choice because the FREEDOM to play is what opens the creative flood gates. Try-on being playful.
Judgement is huge is so many areas of life. We can either pretend we don’t judge, or admit that we do and look deeper.
“You do not define anyone with your judgement. You only define yourself as someone who needs to judge.” –Wayne Dyer
You also do not define your creation with your judgments. Sometimes we want a giant eraser so only the awesome can stay. Lean into the imperfections, fall in love with them…and don’t make them significant. Denying what you create is a form of self-denial. Laugh at your “mistakes”, and laugh often. All meaning you derive from your art work is invented by you. There are insights to gain from your creative work, but realize that it is YOU who invents the meaning/insight. This is not to invalidate the insights, but to give you power in designing your life.
“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” — Alan Alda
I can recognize many of these notions because I have subscribed to them at one time or another. I have not overcome all of them at once–it is a process. I still judge my work, but I spend much less time wondering how others will receive it.
You are probably reading this because you have strong inclinations towards creative expression. Whether you dance, write, paint, or assemble…you can use these ideas to assist you towards your authentic creative expression. If you feel strongly about creating, then just do it!
Stop making excuses and make creative play a cornerstone in your life. You’ll be glad you did