As a professional artist, I hear a lot of people who love art talk about themselves by saying things like, “I love literature/paintings/music/etc but I’m not creative,” or “I love art, I’m just not artistic.”
I call malarky.
While it may be true that some people have a natural proclivity towards certain artistic disciplines, and while it’s certainly true that some people have spent more time training and practicing particular artistic skills, I don’t buy the idea that some people just “aren’t creative.” What is probably more accurate a statement is that certain people don’t feel creative, because they have mental and emotional habits and patterns blocking them from sharing themselves through artistic expression and creative communication. And that’s a lot easier to work through. So, here are some sure-fire ways to feed your creative practice! Whether you’re the kind of person who’s said “I’m not creative,” or a full-time artist, these 3 practices will be a great asset to your creative life.
1) Give yourself the permission to let go.
When so much of your day is full of to-do lists, productivity, and a results-oriented lifestyle, letting go of control can be more easily said than done. And yet, being willing to relinquish control of what comes up and out can be essential to an artistic practice!
For 5 minutes every day, free-write. Just let loose – whatever comes to mind gets written down. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense, is repetitive, or even is in an actual language – just write non-stop until your 5 minutes are up.
This practice can open up ideas and emotions that have been hidden underneath a busy mind. And if you struggle with anxiety or stress – two major blockers of creativity – free-writing can be a great way to let the wheels of your anxious self run their course and say what they want to say, leaving you feeling like you’ve gotten a load off of your mind.
For at least these five minutes of your entire day, don’t be concerned with what your results are – just write. Even if your free-write is a stream random words, you’ll reap the benefits of giving yourself dedicated time to simply be.
2) Don’t judge or compare what you create; explore and enjoy it – the product and the process.
We spend a lot of our time listening to musicians who have spent years perfecting their craft, and who have entire teams of engineers and producers airbrushing every second of that recording so the final product is as close to perfect as possible. Comparing our own creative efforts to such team-built and time-honed works of near-perfection can be hugely discouraging to someone first learning to use their voice or play an instrument. The same is true for literature, dance and visual arts – any outlet of creative expression.
For 10 minutes every day, experiment in a creative medium – and focus on just enjoying the process, the basic sensations. If you choose guitar, for instance, grab your instrument and for 10 minutes just enjoy the sound you make plucking one string at a time; pluck it hard, pluck it soft; stop it before it’s done vibrating, or let it go until it stops on its own. Savor the in-the-moment details!
The point here is not to create a masterpiece – it’s to enjoy the artistic process, the strokes and rhythms and pressures.
Whatever craft you want to explore, just enjoy the most basic essence of that art form. For those 10 minutes, your page of simple lines and shadows could bring you as much artistic joy as taking in Monet’s water lilies.
3) Look through the eyes of a child.
Have you ever admired the creative freedom that children seem to come into so naturally? The creativity with which they improvise music, stories, and dance always inspires and amuses us.
Part of the reason children are generally so joyful and free is that they are always learning. When we get older, we’ve learned too much! When we think we know it all already, we can start to walk around in a stale world, empty of surprise.
For instance, an adult might see a beautiful flower and think, “I know what that is, it’s a tulip… it’s pretty.” A child who has barely learned to speak sees an undulating, incredible pink , dancing uncontrollably, seeming to shudder at every touch. Once that child is told, “that flower is a tulip,” the next time they see it there will be a little less of that initial excitement, and they will see – “a tulip.” We’re taught more and more, until we ‘know’ what everything around us is – and then we miss what’s inspiring and beautiful about the moment.
A psychologist might distinguish these two types of processing as bottom-up and top-down. Bottom-up means that in witnessing something you start from the raw sensory data available, not knowing what it is, and using your experience to guide you to a conclusion. Top-down is witnessing something and comparing it to all the things you already know to decide what it is.
We are so trained in top-down processing that we do it for just about everything, all the time. And though it’s faster than bottom-up processing, it isn’t nearly as inspiring. We walk around going: “that’s the kitchen table, that’s the pile of dirty dishes, that’s my lazy roommate, those are the ugly wrinkles on my hands, that’s the neighbor’s cute little dog…” – there is no exploration, because we already know it all!
For at least one thing every day, explore it through the eyes of a child, through your bottom-up processing. See what’s really there in front of you – not the name of the person who you’re face-to-face with, but the timbre of their voice, the glow of their complexion, their rhythms of expression. Act as though you don’t know what you are seeing all the time, you will begin to take deeper joy in your experience and have an increased sense of inspiration – which blossoms into creativity!
Practicing these three simple tools every day will support you in discovering new ideas and perspectives in every sphere of your life. And with this, your creative expression will bloom in front of your eyes!
What art form would you want to explore? Do you want to draw, paint, sculpt, play an instrument, sing?
How are you going to implement these practices into your daily life? How are they affecting your creative expression? Want support in your creative journey?
Join the discussion in the comments! Together we’ll enrich and deepen our creative explorations – let’s get started!