“Creativity takes courage” ~ Henri Matisse
Recent discussions with people in my world have really driven home the idea that we need to be brave to be creative in the world or even, sometimes, to allow ourselves to be creative at all. I don’t have some secret how to recipe to fix this, but I know that it’s important to try. Whether you create for yourself or for others, I think it’s really important that you create. Whether you see yourself as creative or not, I still think it’s important to find a creative venue that works for you. Painting, scrapbooking, journaling, knitting, woodworking, writing, acting, singing…. etc, etc, etc. (the list is long and broad in scope). We live in a world that doesn’t place value on creativity, not really, so we tend to neglect it in our daily lives. After all, if we aren’t great at it and can’t make money off it, it can’t possibly have value, right? Wrong!
Art is not a commodity, it is a process, an experience, and it is important. Personal experience, at least recently, has reminded me of the fact that I am not complete without some element of creativity in my life and I suspect that the same is true for everyone out there, even if they don’t see themselves as being creative individuals. But according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs creativity is part of our self-actualization process, a phase in our life that we can only reach after our other more basic needs have been met (food, shelter, love, safety, etc).
Recent comments about my “newfound” creativity have really led me to question why now? What has changed? And looking at this pyramid, it seems clear why to me. Let’s be honest, 2 years ago, when I was just finished school and looking for work, planning a wedding, and still figuring things out, I wasn’t in the space to be creative. And by that same logic, it also sort of makes sense to me why others in my life might not be in the space for creativity in their lives because they are still working on work stability or finding a partner, or… [insert whatever applies]. How is that for synchronicity?
That said, I really think that it’s important to have creativity in your life, even if you don’t have the other elements (this is where I disagree with Maslow) because creativity makes it easier to understand, cope, navigate all of the other needs in our lives. So while creativity might only really be able for many once we’ve gotten to a place where we are emotional, financially, and environmentally (situation) able to focus on exploring our creativity, I agree with others who think that creativity is probably most important and beneficial to us when we aren’t in those spaces/times in our lives because it often gives us the means of navigating those needs in our lives. In fact, Maslow said:
The key question isn't "What fosters creativity?" But it is why in God's name isn't everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? I think therefore a good question might be not why do people create? But why do people not create or innovate? We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle if anybody created anything.”
I like that this quote attempts to demystify creativity and take it out of the realm of an elite few.
I guess what I’m trying to clarify here is that I agree with Maslow that many of us aren’t creating because we’re so focused on everything else that we don’t give ourselves time or permission to explore the elements on the top of his pyramid, BUT, I think that this is due, in large part, to the fact that our society has taught us that art is a luxury that can only be explored when we’ve got everything else settled. The first trick, I think, is to undo this type of thinking and revalue creativity in our lives/society. The second trick, I think, which is related to his quote, is to realize that no one owns creativity. It isn’t reserved for a certain group of people. Everyone has the ability to be creative; it’s just a question of figuring out how you create and developing your skills in that area that is the challenge.
In the last while, as I’ve been exploring my own creativity, the following ideas have been rolling around in my cranium, jiggling themselves into the crevices, and changing the way I feel about “art” in my life.
The need to slow down, watch less TV, escape the rat race more and embrace the art of solitude
Seeing what I do creatively as a learning process, inspirations, instead of looking for perfection. I think this is big because we’re always so scared of failing or not being good enough that we stop ourselves from ever actually doing anything. And every success that is out there is preceded by way more failures than we ever see. After all, Michelangelo didn’t get the Sistine Chapel right on the first go, nor did any other artist out there that we admire.
The acceptance that some will love what I do, and others will hate it, and that’s ok. It’s been really significant in my life to learn from others who are brave enough to put themselves out there and share their learning experiences and inspirations. I would like to be able to contribute to that exchange/discussion on creativity. I think that accepting that your art will never be “perfect” but that it can be perfect for someone else, is more important a realization than preventing yourself from doing anything out of fear of not being good enough.
How to we unblock and find our own creative voice? Julia Cameron tried to address the issue with her book The Artist’s Way, however for many I suspect this book may not be for everyone because the book is based on the premise that creativity and spirituality (in whatever form you view them) are linked to one another and that’s not something that everyone is comfortable with. Moreover, while I think it’s important to know why you don’t give yourself permission to create, or see value in the creating that you do, I don’t know that we always need to go down memory lane and find every incident of criticism, fear, or rejection that informed those ideas/feelings.
Sometimes I think that we just need to change the way we think about art and creativity and just start trying to create
- Stop thinking about art as something only an elite few can do
- Stop thinking of art as something you aren’t good enough to do
- Stop thinking about art as that you have to be perfect act, right away
- Start thinking of art as a meditation
- Start thinking about art as play
- Start thinking of art as necessary
So, for the friend who sparked this thought process (I’m sure she knows who she is), and any others out there who are stopping themselves from creating, get off your butt and start doing instead of dreaming. It’s important. If you can let go of the fears of criticism and enjoy the process, I think art can make you happier, more whole, and brighten your world (aesthetically and emotionally).