I have been wanting to write about creativity or my creative process for awhile, but something holds me back every time I start this post. Maybe it is that creativity, even to so-called “creative people,” can feel so ephemeral. So dependent on the right weather, the right frame of mind, the right amount of sleep. But I actually don’t think it has to be that unreachable. I don’t think it has to seem like it will just slip through your fingers if you turn your back. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I can do to foster this great creative surge I’ve been experiencing for the past few months.
Creativity requires a few things of us for it to work. This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a little start to what I’ve been thinking about lately. I’m putting this here not just for my readers, but for me. I want to remember that I can be creative under any circumstances.
Creativity requires for us to be CONSISTENT.
This is probably the most important of all of the C’s for me, being consistent. Being consistent has been hard for me ever since I became a small business owner. There are so many responsibilities, and so many directions you can take. I wanted to try everything at once. Doing it all at the same time makes it difficult to be consistent, because we often get burned out. This reminds me to not let a long time pass without painting or photographing something, the same way I would not let a long time pass without singing. If you wait too long, that part of your brain that has been exercised may not forget how to be creative, to paint, or to sing, but it might take more energy than we remember – it might feel harder. This is why musicians, even the most talented, educated ones, still have to practice. A lot. So, show up. Every day. If you want to be a better painter, keep painting, even if your work doesn’t seem very good. Artistic talent can honestly be a stumbling block to vocational success, because all of us, and I mean ALL of us have difficult moments in our careers. There are days the artist just doesn’t have inspiration, there are times we can’t get it right, there are days a singer can’t get their voice to work the way it did the day before. And if you don’t know how to work hard and be consistent in showing up at that point, then the going gets really tough.
Creativity requires COURAGE.
Recently I listened to an amazing TED radio hour podcast on creativity and the speaker talked about how you have to be willing to be wrong in order to be creative. This is SO true! You have to be willing to try things that might not work to discover what does work. I often wonder how many sheets of crumpled up paper you’d find at Bach’s keyboard. How many melodies did he run with that never made it out of his head? He was a genius. The answer is not zero. I’m sure Bach had things that didn’t work, too. The same goes for genius painters like Da Vinci and Michelangelo. How many ideas did they scrap? For all the amazing painters and makers, there are canvases that have been hosed off, abandoned, scraped away, covered over. Mistakes are the beautiful pathway that leads us to learning who we are, that help us find our voice. I chant this to myself when I stand in front of a blank canvas. What’s the worst thing that can happen on any given day you want to go out on a limb and be creative? You ruin a canvas? Paint over it. Your song isn’t good? Great! Write another one. Your practice session sucked? Good! You paved the way for tomorrow to suck less. Keep going. Darren Hardy wrote an amazing book called The Compound Effect. In it, he talks about the powerful principle of doing small things every day, consistently. (Oh, we’re back to the previous point!) You may not see improvement at first, but then all of the sudden it will seem like you’re an overnight success.
I like to tell my voice students about how frustrating my first year of grad school was. My teacher, Ms. Cuccaro, has some seriously tough vocal exercises, and she expected us to practice them daily. I took her seriously. I practiced 6 days a week for my entire three years as her student. I sang all of her exercises every day, until she had given me too many to sing each day, then I narrowed it down to spending 30-40 minutes singing her exercises. The first six months was excruciating. I couldn’t sing at least half of them up to the standards she had set. I thought I would never get better. But I just kept sucking. It took some courage to start the one or two I really dreaded each day. What if I cracked? What if my register transitions weren’t even? I cracked often and I failed often. But then, at about month 9 or 10, it just started to get easier. Then one day it was just there. The compound effect had happened. I showed up every day, I had the courage to do what I knew would be hard, and then one day it clicked, and I could sing the exercises perfectly. I was not one of the lucky ones who just picked up her exercises and was able to sing them without much extra effort. I had to work at it. It was hard, but I learned a lot about my voice and about consistency and the importance of practice, and that has made me a better singer and a better teacher.
Creativity is a CATALYST.
Once you take that leap, even if you make mistakes, you can’t stop. Once you say yes to being creative, whether it is with paint, with words, with sounds, with fabric or metal or stones, with pixels, with paper, with tastes, with plants and colors and tools and wood, something in you shifts and changes. God is the ultimate creator. In Genesis chapter 1, we see him delighting to make something out of nothing. The great, glorious nothingness became everything. That he could in the tiniest speck of a thought bring the universe exploding into being, the rocks surging, what we know as sciences like physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology forming, and the terrible beauty of the prehistoric stages of this world, and then finally that he could make man in his image to enjoy, care for, and express through art the beauty the things that He made and all that He is, that is astounding. So if we are made in his image, that must be why we so delight to create. When I allow this natural desire in myself, everything in my life seems to make more sense. I operate from a place of warmth and love instead of fear. When I obey the caller to accept His calling in me to make, I am closest to the caller, and closest to the way he intended me to be. When I run from it, undervalue it, or even when I place it above God himself, then things are out of balance and I begin to operate out of a place of fear instead of a place of love. And who doesn’t want to operate from a place of love?
I hope everyone is having a beautiful Monday! Thanks for stopping by!