Do you know yourself to be artistic and creative? I know that I am very creative with words. They were my stock in trade as an educator. And several years ago when something quite intense was happening in my life and I felt the need to write about it, I just knew that poetry was the only form which would serve my needs. I had not considered myself a poet before then. How poets wrote, I thought, required special training or skill or inclination. To me, it was a mystery and I was not an initiate into that mystery. Since writing that first poem, I know that I am a poet. I choose to use that form when it is the form to express what is moving in me.
I have a good sense of colour and line. I enjoyed art especially in grades 7 and 8 where my teacher encouraged us to try things and experiment. Yet, after enduring the critiques of my grade 9 art teacher, I came to believe that I could not draw or paint or do anything in the visual arts that was worthy of being called ‘art’. I looked at my creations and compared them to others’ and found them wanting.
It took courage for me to take part in a water colour weekend retreat a few years ago. I remember looking at the first piece I completed and listening to the instructor’s comments and knowing that my grade 9 art teacher was wrong. I could create and express myself in the visual arts. That first experience has lead to my choosing to explore other forms of visual art: creating abstract paintings, pottery, weaving, creating original hooked rugs, designing gymnastics suits. Some forms suit me more than others and that feels just right.
I cannot imagine my life without music in it. When I was 6, I started taking piano lessons and thought that I wanted to be a concert pianist when I grew up. I loved performing for others and sharing my joy of making music. Yet while I found great comfort and solace in music and exploring how each piece made me feel, once I started seriously taking lessons, I lost the joy of performing. Once performance was given over to commentary and critique, it was no longer joyful. Rather it became a chore that I had committed to and that I couldn’t wait to be over.
I didn’t believe that I could write music. After all, my music degree is in music education and not composition. Then, a few years ago, I decided to set a favorite poem to music. As a singer, I have a good sense of melodic line. I created a melody for that poem and took it to my voice teacher for his comments. I knew that I was opening myself up for critique and still I was willing to do that. My teacher made a few suggestions and liked what I had created. And, while it was nice to receive his positive comments, I found it interesting that what he thought of my creation had no power to stop me continuing to set words to music. I know that I write music that moves me and serves my intention for the words. Others may like what I write, or they may not and I know that is no concern of mine.
Too often, we do not let our artistic spirit out and let it fly. For me, as I got older and what I created was criticized, it became hard not to equate critique with rejection. And, fearing rejection of something that was an expression of ME, I did not give myself permission to just create for the joy of self-expression. For me, art became about the end product and not the process of creating. Art was about performance. It was about perfection. It was not about celebrating my spirit but was grounded in worry about what others thought and how they responded. Art was about keeping track of the comments of others and judging the worth of my creations by their comments.
I believe intensely that the purpose of art should not be focused on the completion of an end product. It should be to express our internal thoughts. If there is a secret to creating art, it’s not merely understanding the mechanics or techniques involved. The secret, if there truly is one, lies in our inner thoughts that move us to create and express ourselves through art.
Creation should be about doing and not about a final thing that often sits somewhere gathering dust. Creativity lives in doing. It is never finished. Creating and being artistic is fluid – a chance to consider potential and possibility. Even now, I revisit what I’ve created and sometimes make adjustments and always, my creations inspire me anew. Yes, for the most part, there is an end product to our artistic and creative activity and what’s really important is not the past and what we’ve done but what lies ahead. What’s important is the process of creation not the end product.
Exercising our creativity asks that we take risks in trying and that we are generous and courageous in sharing ourselves with our world.
Creating from our spirit and as an expression of self is a supremely human activity. Once we embrace this, our creative potential is limitless.