If you ever feel like you’re making art in the metaphorical dark with no idea what comes next, know that this is a completely normal experience. In fact, in order to be creative we have to be comfortable with venturing into the unknown on a regular basis. Ted Solotaroff explains that “Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punchline you’ve forgotten.” From the unknown, unplanned darkness can grow interesting ideas.
David Bayles and Ted Orland in Art and Fear suggest “Art is like beginning a sentence before you know its ending. The risks are obvious: you may never get to the end of the sentence at all – or having gotten there, you may not have said anything. This is probably not a good idea in public speaking, but it’s an excellent idea in making art.” The unexpected, unplanned and unanticipated is not something to be fearful of, it’s the perfect environment for making art. Carolyn Schlam in The Creative Path talks of darkness: “That’s what I’m offering you, a flashlight in the dark and mysterious world of creativity. And it’s a thrilling world, a labyrinth, if you will…. When I describe it this way, the path to art seems rather like the path of our lives, fascinating, mysterious, and yet wonderful.”
By standing in the darkness and facing it head on, you’re open to more creative possibilities compared to all the lights being on. You don’t need to know what the whole room looks like to make art, just gently feel around until you bump into something interesting.
“Sometimes you have to let yourself go into unchartered territory.” – Barbara Abercrombie, A Year of Writing Dangerously
That frustrated feeling when you’re in a hurry, sat in traffic or forever waiting at a red light – being stuck and unable to move – is the same when you get emotionally stuck. Art-making can be a vulnerable process, especially when faced with a blank sheet of paper and believing you don’t have the skills to get started. But making art for yourself doesn’t require any skills and being a beginner means you’re open to more possibilities, essentially making you more creative. The fear of making ‘bad’ art will stop you from taking any action, but paradoxically, action (making art) is the solution to overcoming your fears.
Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now asks “Is fear preventing you from taking action? Acknowledge the fear, watch it, take your attention into it, be fully present with it. Doing so cuts the link between the fear and your thinking. Danielle LaPorte advises us to “Stand outside of the story. Every fearful expectation has a big “story” behind it.”
Are you metaphorically sat in a traffic jam with your art-making. Is fear keeping you from getting started or making more art? Watch and notice what negative thoughts (stories) come up when you’re feeling discomfort but then take action anyway. The little voice of fear cannot thrive when you ignore its advice to stop and you immerse yourself in the process of making and start to enjoy yourself.
Creativity is something that we are born with. The desire to explore, question and and make is baked into our DNA. So why do so many adults believe they’re not creative?
Amanda Blake Soule in The Creative Family Manifesto sees children as experts at being creative: “Fortunately, we don’t have to “teach” our children to be creative – inherent in the very core of children’s beings is the embodiment of creativity. To think of something in a new way, to inquire about something that others don’t even question, to come up with something truly unique and new is what children do best.”
But what if we substitute the word ‘children’ for ‘ourselves’? What if we haven’t lost the creativity spark but instead it’s hidden down deep inside us and like a muscle, it must be worked in order to get stronger? Our inner child, with all its creativity wisdom still lies hidden within us and can be accessed right now. Soule encourages: “When we give children the space and encouragement to explore their own creativity, they can become our most inspiring of artists, our most inquisitive of scientists, and our most original of philosophers.”
Give yourself the space and encouragement to explore your own creativity and see what happens.
An interview with Julia Cameron, author of this The Artist’s Way on the Don’t Keep Your Day Job Podcast with Cathy Heller, had the following pearls of wisdom:
On not having natural talent:
HELLER: What if someone doesn’t have the natural talent? What if this person is not a natural artist, is it cruel to send them down some path if they’re never going to be this super genius creative person?
CAMERON: I have people say to me “Julia, aren’t you worried that you’re empowering a lot of bad art?” And I say actually I find the opposite. I find more often than when I unblock someone, I find myself thinking how could they have not known they were an artist, [that] they’re brilliant?
“I think what often happens is we try to do something creative and then we judge it again the master work of other artists and we say ‘See, I’m terrible. I’m just not good enough.'”
“Creativity is something that belongs to all of us and working on our creativity is exercising a birthright.”
“…be willing to be a beginner. Do not demand perfection of your efforts… You are intended to practice creativity… You are perfect in your imperfections.
On taking tiny steps:
“You can take tiny steps and they will lead you in the right direction.”
Takeaways? Everybody is inherently creative – it might just be buried a little deeper for you. Comparison can be destructive and might halt your creativity. Imperfection is a better goal than perfection because perfection keeps you stuck. Tiny steps always lead you somewhere so don’t underestimate them – big steps don’t necessarily lead you in a better or faster direction.
“Just try. Because when you become the kind of person whose willing to try, what happens is you take the pressure off being perfect, you take the pressure of getting it done and you’re the kind of person whose willing to start. And it’s only when you start or when you try new things that you’ll gain the competency, the skill set, the experience and the failures that you need in order to succeed.” – Mel Robbins interview, 4 Minute Masters Podcast
Making your own art can have some wonderful side effects that might just inspire others to embrace their own creativity. By embracing your own creativity, the ripple effect can cause small positive changes for others in your life. Jonathan Fields in How To Live a Good Life explains “It’s the path of the ripple. Simple actions, movements, and experiences. Created, offered, and delivered with such a purity of intention and depth of integrity and clarity that they set in motion a ripple that, quietly, in its own way, in its own time, expands outward.”
Dr Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire in Wired To Create encourage us to embrace our strange messy selves and our creativity: “When we embrace our own messiness – engaging with the world with our own unique imagination and artistry – we give others permission to do the same.” We could all do with giving ourselves permission to regularly be more creative because tapping into our creativity allows us to create more connection to ourselves, and subsequently to others. “We help create a world that is more welcoming of the creative spirit and, it is hoped, make it possible to find a greater connection with ourselves and others in the process.”
Just by practicing your art making, you may be inspiring others to do the same. The creative force – the light that shines out of us when we create – may be reaching people in ways you could never anticipate. Don’t underestimate the small, silent ways you may be effecting others because as Marge Piercy advises, “You never know when your poem will come to someone’s rescue.”
“Passions produce loves.”