Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up.”
With all the ‘busyness’ of our modern lives, with work, family and social commitments taking up a large amount of our time, it is hard to get time to think let alone be creative and artistic. I know this was certainly true for myself over the last few years. Everything seemed to be running at excessive speed and there didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to do all I wanted to do. For those in this category, who are juggling so many demands and commitments, ‘being creative’ must seem like a luxury. On the other hand, lack of time might not be the problem. It could be a lack of motivation, a loss of the joy of creating that we once had. The quote from Pablo Picasso above is probably truer than we realise. Most of us spend more time ‘consuming’ than we spend creating. We are consuming media, whether it is TV, Netflix, YouTube videos, internet, podcasts or social media. Yet this is not all bad. It is by consuming ideas that we spark our own creativity. Maybe we just need to light that spark more often. These tips that I have put together are designed to do just that, to help you put a light to the spark of your creative energy and to get in touch with your inner artist again.
1. Stop aiming for perfection
Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” I think this is a good motto with which to start a creative pursuit. One of my biggest mistakes has been not settling for less than perfection. I have often come back from a photography outing, looked at my photos, felt they weren’t good enough, and told myself I’m never going to make a photographer so why should I bother trying? If I listened to that voice all the time I wouldn’t keep trying, so my first tip would be, keep trying, even when the results are not perfect or even as good as we would have liked. It is only then that we realise that what we have created is uniquely ours, that it comes from our unique eye, that we have created something that only we could create.
Sometime last summer I was travelling away from home. Approaching lunchtime, I spotted a sign for a lakeside restaurant which was situated in a picturesque setting next to a mooring of small cruisers. This was the first photo I took.
I tried to take in the scene that had materialised in front of me as I approached the restaurant. Then I tried something else. I walked around, took photos from different angles, looked for different perspectives from which to shoot. I tried to make the scene my own, to take pictures that are not normally taken. They may not be great photographs, but they are my unique creations and they are what gives me motivation, what fuels my quest to make my own unique images in my own way.
For me, creativity is about the process, not the finished product. It's about doing something in the way we want to do it. To be called an artist may require having a good finished product, and many, many creators are indeed artists, but to claim the term creator is to be someone who imagines, who experiments, and, well, creates! As comic strip creator Scott Adams says, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
2. Open the door to creativity
We may be so overwhelmed with the demands of life that our door to creativity is well and truly shut. How do we open that door? Maybe, as the Nike slogan says, we need to ‘Just Do It.’ We need to overcome the resistance within us, the voice that tells us we don’t have time to create, or we don’t have the talent to create, or whatever that voice tells us. The famous painter, Vincent Van Gogh, said, “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”. All we need is the willingness to start. Willingness appears to be the key that can open a door that seemed to be locked and bolted.
Let children be our models – they know how to create. I love to watch small children creating. They don’t hold out for perfection, they try, fail, begin again, compromise, improvise and accept what they finally create as being exactly what they wanted. They have lessons for us all!
Small children enjoy the process rather than worry about the finished product!
3. Clear a physical space
It can be difficult in a busy household to create a space for ourselves, but I think it is an important part of kickstarting our creativity. Some creative pursuits might just require having a space where we can go and be alone to sing, dance or write, others might involve having a studio to which we can escape to work. For my photography, I had to find a dedicated space to store my camera and equipment and set up a workstation where I have a computer for writing, transferring photographs and working on Lightroom. I located two beautiful notebooks, a gift from a dear friend, and dedicated them to my photography and blogging notes, a further proof of my commitment to myself to continue what I had started – these notebooks were always meant to be used for something special!
I often find that when I hand write notes, rather than compose on the computer, my thoughts flow more freely.
By taking the time to create my own space I was reinforcing the message that I was serious about my pursuit and wanted to give myself every possible chance to succeed. Sometimes, if we clear a space physically, we may also be clearing a mental space for creativity to begin.
Think left and think right and think low and think high.
Oh, the things you can think up if only you try.
4. Clear a mental space
I find that another great way to create a mental space in which creativity can flourish is to do daily exercise. For some people that may be a morning run, a visit to the gym, maybe a swim. For me it is a daily walk. Some of my best ideas have come during my morning walk when I least expected them. Reading articles, listening to interviews or podcasts by other creative people or viewing their work are all ways that help to spark the imagination and get ideas flowing. Creative ideas will come but we do have to put some effort into the process. To quote Picasso again, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”
It's hard to find subjects for photography during this time of lockdown but if we look hard enough we can find them, right outside our door.
And sometimes a super moon appears!
5. Look back for encouragement
Not in the mood to create? When I am in a creative rut, dissatisfied with my work or believe that I am not making any progress I look back at my previous photographs and I never fail to find a hidden gem, something that I previously rejected that I now believe is worth a second look. The same is true for my writing. It is then that I realise that all my previous work, the good and the not so good, is part of the journey. Sometimes, looking at my past photography will help me realise how much I have learned since then and will help spur me on to new learning. No matter what your creative area is, looking back to previous creations can help us say, ‘I did this before, I can do it again.’
6. Embrace the creative block
A creative block may not necessarily be a negative thing. If we embrace this time it may give us a much-needed opportunity to re-group, to reassess, to make a new plan and to empower ourselves in new ways to continue our creative journey. It is worth persevering in times of difficulty, when motivation is flagging, because creative expression can enrich our lives in numerous ways. It can bring a great sense of satisfaction; it can lighten our mood and bring us immense pleasure. Creative expression can enhance self-esteem and happiness. It can spark our imagination, help us see the world more clearly and open the door to new opportunities. When we share our art, it can bring us into a whole new community of like-minded people, helping us connect to others in ways that are mutually rewarding.
I wrote the following two blogs during the beginning of the Covid crisis. They may be of interest.
It is true that we can’t all be great artists in the strictest sense of the word, but we can be artists in the broad sense – we can all be creators. We create all the time - we create meals, beautiful gardens or window boxes; we create flower arrangements or room designs; we create magical stories for our children and Instagram stories for our followers. Many of the things we do naturally are creative, without us naming them as such. The world needs your creations so why not rediscover your creative self and ask, what can I do today, or this week, to create?
This quotation sums up for me why we all need to unleash our inner artist:
“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more dance to it.” Osho (Indian public speaker known for spirituality and mysticism)
Sir Ken Robinson is a New York Times best selling author, a TED speaker, an education and creativity expert. Check out his extremely popular TED Talk here, which, although published in 2006, is still relevant today.
“If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.” Sir Ken Robinson
Re-published May 2021