When we are born there is only knowing what you need and acting on it. Unfortunately and fortunately we learn to be discerning about our needs and wants. Other people’s thoughts and actions take hold. Other’s opinions become a way of gauging our own thoughts and actions. It helps us to be part of a larger community. Feelings have a way of making things messy and as artists we are particularly practiced at feelings and messy. How do we sort our own true inner voice from all of the influence and noise? Continually. It is not the type of thing one masters but can definitely improve on with practice. Mindfulness is the first obvious step. One needs to be aware of the constant narrative running through the mind. I remember the first time I recognized a continual negative narrative replaying itself in my mind. My personal narrative was pretty brutal and if I had not woken up to the experience of seeing it as separate from me I would be a very unhappy person today. Luckily I made this discovery as a teenager and it has given me the power to choose my own narrative many times over.
But how do we know when our own voice is the one to trust? Certainly we don’t know everything! Once I learned to quiet the narrative and recognize my own voice I became better able to hear suggestions and input from others in an objective way that also allowed me to either find merit in it for myself or reject it for myself. I have not stopped listening to others, but I have learned a new kind of discernment which is to decide whether what I am hearing aligns with my own voice.
1. Recognize the narrative that automatically runs through your mind. Is it yours and helpful or simply habitual.
2. Practice mindfulness so that you can quiet or change the narrative when necessary.
3. Listen to others in an objective and studious way before deciding if it aligns with your true self. Respectfully reject or appreciatively accept the input.
If you have difficulty trusting yourself for all the noise I hope these tips will help you practice. As an artist, one puts themselves out there for people to critique and often we are critiqued even when we have not asked to be. I believe others usually have the best of intentions but if I took criticism to heart, it would quickly paralyze my creativity. I practice checking in on how I think and feel about a situation as the voice who gets the final say.
Compromise is a whole other topic!
In in my last post “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”, I talked about how creating abstract art is about being brave and letting your instincts come forth. It requires recognizing when the inner critic is lurking and to shoo him away before he starts interfering with your mojo. And some days he is really, really, really persistent. Here are some of the things I catch my inner critic saying.
You’re not a real artist. Art is a selfish indulgence. Why has it taken you so long to come this far? You can’t draw. Now you’ve ruined it. People will see right through you and know you’re a fraud. Your expressions are trite.Seriously, ouch. This is the part that requires bravery. I like to head him off by inviting him in.
I like to think of creative instincts as important impulses to recognize as they come forth. And yes, you have them (see previous post). Now you might be saying I have no idea what you are talking about or I know exactly what you are talking about. When you recognize the creative impulse it’s important not to think too much. For me, it means taking action in my studio and starting the work. I decide in advance that I will not temper the creative impulses that show up and that I will not take heed of my inner critic. It means making random, impulse driven marks with all kinds of materials. It means trusting what you have learned before this moment to come forth at the right time. YES! This is one place where acting on your impulses without thinking it through is embraced! Your work will reward you for acting on your impulses. But not every time, sorry. An art journal or inexpensive paper is a great place to begin this practice. I use materials that I won’t worry about wasting. The creative instinct is curiosity and experimentation.
In retrospect I can look back at all of the ways I have played it safe artistically. Have you learned to be brave and trust your instincts? Are you playing it safe? Are you somewhere in between?
Photo by Itati Tapia on Pexels.com
I don’t have a creative bone in my body. How many times have you heard people say it? How many times have you said it? Every time I hear these words, my visceral response is no! Not true! Life itself is a creative act! What I think people mean is “I can’t draw”. For most of us, our evaluation of our own ability to create came when we compared our first drawings against the incredibly practiced and/or gifted students in our classrooms. Our first assignments are to draw from objects. The more your drawing looks like the object the better artist you are, right?
Wrong! I wish every student’s first art lesson was being allowed to explore art supplies. Choose from colors that are personally exciting, choose from media that behave in all sorts of ways. Choose papers with different weights and textures. Create simple shapes, forms, and scribbles and be taught to love the unique expression that comes forth. Discovery unearths our creativity. Linking ideas together in unique ways is finding your creative voice.
My first formal artistic experiences were trying to make a likeness of some thing. When I could not do this on my first, second, or third try, my feelings were of failure and my conclusion was I can’t make art. This was so at odds with the intense pleasure I felt looking at colors of pastels and paints. The experience of each texture was so satisfying. Watching the paint run and make art on its own was exciting and mysterious.
I’m sure there are many of you with creativity seeping out of you any way possible in the meals you cook, the walls you paint, the gifts you wrap, and gardens you grow. In the wardrobes you curate, the fonts you pick, and the things you design and build. And how about all of the daily problems you solve? The way you teach others? All of it is your creative bend. Your unique expression. And it has nothing at all to do with being able to draw a straight line. It has everything to do with being brave and allowing your instincts to flow. And that, is some scary stuff! More on that next time. For now, instead of saying you are not creative you might ask yourself how does my creativity express itself?