Something interesting happened while doing a video to spruik my blog posts. I called myself an “artist”. I’m sure the people who’ve seen it scratched their heads. As a writer, parent and an ordinary person expressing joy, frustrations, anger, gratitude, uncertainty, anxiety and sometimes love towards myself, my upbringing and my young children, am I an artist?
I’m not known to create fantastic stories of magicians, far away lands or unicorns (oh, that one I’m working on). I simply notice, express and write about what I’m feeling. And that makes me an… ARTIST.
What really is an artist anyway? How does one get on the artist’s way? Is it as simple as expressing ourselves? Doesn’t everyone express themselves in one form or another?
Here’s the thing. We are all creative.
“But I haven’t got a creative bone in my body!”
Wanna bet? Here’s some science that says almost with certainty that you’re creative. 98% of children between the ages of 4-5 are defined as creative geniuses on a test conducted by NASA scientists.
Then why do so few adults define themselves as creative geniuses?
What happened is that an old-fashioned education system pushed our creativity to our subconscious by punishing thinking “outside of the square”. When we were being brought up (I’m 40 this year), what was needed was good workers who did not question the system. We were also told to ignore how we feel about certain aspects of what we were doing because all that was required of us was ant-like efficiency.
What about innovation, problem-solving and connecting with team members, customers and other human beings? In the industrial economy which gave us limited roles within an assembly system, none of those innately human capabilities were expected of us. But going forward, what with automation and technology providing unbeatable efficiency, all that will be required of us is creativity, humanity and the ability to express ourselves in order to lead innovation.
“So what you’re saying is that we’re all creative.”
The one thing you may not be conscious of creating is the experience of your day. If you take a moment to yourself to feel how your day is going, what you’re enjoying and what doesn’t feel right to you, you can make conscious tweaks to create a day more in line with your innate strengths.
Taking stock of what I enjoy and don’t enjoy is how I weaseled out of cooking every night. Even though I can cook, I don’t thrive on discovering new recipes and improving the tastiness, texture and the flavour of my food. Because my food is nutritious but not overly tasty, my partner, who’s more talented than myself in the kitchen, gets to do something he enjoys. Win-win.
This means more time for me to write. Also to copy the ideas my children have, like a story about a unicorn, before they lose their “creative genius” phase.
Feeding Your Creativity
We are all artists creating our life experience. We have more control over how we feel than we may realise. If you think back to your childhood, you may remember what it was that brought you so much joy. Singing, gardening, arranging flowers, organising your stuff, playing the guitar, surfing, writing stories, sketching, colouring, painting, water colours, etc… what captured your heart?
I remember that I always loved creating characters and placing them in fantastic situations. In primary school, I entered a writing competition and was one of only four entries. I was also the only one who didn’t win a prize.
The teachers who voted on the winners thought my story was too much like a well-known story, perhaps “Alice in Wonderland”. I was inspired by Lewis Carroll but my story was original nonetheless. Not winning that prize was an early discouragement. I lost my zest for writing and it just kept getting pushed down my priorities because I started to equate it with rejection. My writing was not appreciated, so why do it?
Well… Do it for you.
It doesn’t have to win any prizes. It certainly doesn’t have to bring in any money. The joy, the immersion, that flow state you get while creating, that’s work as its own reward. It will make you happier, more creative, fun to be around and you will find more and more time to do what brings you joy. That’s what I’m finding with my writing practice. My children must sense how relaxed and at peace I am while writing, so they’re calm and allow me to do what I must, little by little.
A word of caution: Many a talented person try to put the burden of an income on their creative talent and inevitably when the blossoming talent doesn’t deliver the material satisfaction they seek, they turn their backs on it. This approach is as cruel as sending a young child to a factory to work. Don’t be cruel to your creative talent. Nurture it. It is a child and it needs a conscious mother if it is to one day become a published work and stand on its own.
Patience, patience, patience… That’s what your creativity requires of you and that’s what it teaches you. It’s not a competitive sport. It’s not a matter of how many words you’ve written each day. It’s a matter of how much enjoyment and peace of mind you got out of what you managed to express.
There are a few tools to help replenish your creativity as defined by Julia Cameron’s excellent “The Artist’s Way”.
- Morning Pages, or I’ve heard them referred to as soul journalling. When you first wake up each day, write how you’re feeling, what you dreamt about, what will unfold in your day and what you seek to get out of your interactions with others. Every day I write that I can’t wait to feel the grass between my toes.
- Your artist’s date, which take me to art galleries, nature reserves, beaches, cafes, museums, crystal shops or any place where I’ll feel inspired and may find ideas to copy. Take time for you to sit in a place that’s beautiful and be alone with your thoughts observing how you feel.
Over to you…
What artistic ambitions did you leave behind?
For example, my mum made beautiful pillowcases, stained glass windows, and jewelry while we were growing up. She got frustrated that none of these creations brought money, as she’d placed an unrealistic expectation on her creativity. She gave up these activities which brought our household so much joy.
What were some hobbies you truly enjoyed that you no longer get to do? How will you create the time to get back into some creative work you’ll enjoy?
Photo by Lane Cove photographer Kris Egan