There’s no arrival point, no end or finish line when it comes to your creativity. There will be no trumpet sound when a higher level of craftsmanship is reached and you’ll never get there – the place where you’re happy with everything you make and feel completely comfortable all the time. Uncertainty allows creativity to flourish. If you know all the answers before you begin, how can you to grow and develop as an artist?
Jeff Goins in Real Artists Don’t Starve encourages “We don’t make meaningful art through lateral moves but by constantly challenging ourselves to new heights. We cannot create great art without continuing to create ourselves. This work is a process of continuous reinvention. We don’t just do it once. It is a journey of becoming, one in which we never fully arrive.”
If it’s impossible to fully arrive, choose to ignore the imaginary finish line you’ve made up and stuck into the challenge of growing creatively.
When you physically write your creative goals down, there’s more chance of you reaching them. Have you ever tried making a list of all the creative things you’d like to try? I.e draw a self portrait, paint a sunset, make a cartoon strip, make a paper flower, collage images, knit a scarf. Your list might be very short which can be helpful as sometimes too much choice is overwhelming. If your list is long, don’t feel obligated to do it all. It’s not a too-do or have-to-do lost, more an inspiration list for you to pick, choose and erase from.
Why write them down? As soon as your thoughts are in physical form, it becomes more than just a thought and you’re more likely to actually do it. Henriette Anne Klauser in Write It Down, Make It Happen encourages “Writing down your dreams and aspirations is like hanging up a sign that says “Open For Business.” And to “Write it down to be clear in your commitment to its possibility, and then activity here will create related movement there. Write it down to make it happen.”
Mary Morrissey’s Huffington Post article explains “if you just THINK about one of your goals or dreams, you’re only using the right hemisphere of your brain, which is your imaginative center. But, if you think about something that you desire, and then write it down, you also tap into the power of your logic-based left hemisphere… Just the act of writing down your dreams and goals ignites an entirely new dimension of consciousness, ideas and productivity to the powerhouse that is your subconscious mind.”
Be specific and avoid being too general. The goal of “be more creative” is too vague to take any action (what does being more creative even look like?). Narrowing it down to say drawing a self portrait means the goal and outcome is clear – draw yourself using pen and paper. Getting specific creates more chance you’ll follow through because the steps for action are concise and easy to follow. A list gives you an immediate task and direction which could move you from just thinking about it, to taking action.
“We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.” — Henry Miller
If you make art for fun can you call yourself an artist? The label of artist means different things to different people but if we take one dictionary definition of “a person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby” then surely we can all be artists? Of course there are far more ways to make art than painting or drawings, but the point is that anyone can do it. There’s no entrance exam to being more creative. There’s no mention of selling work, studying art academically or reaching a certain level of craftsmanship.
Kara Walker in Art21’s Extended Play Series suggests “There’s no diploma in the world that declares you an Artist. It’s not like becoming a doctor or something. You can declare yourself an artist and then figure out how to be an artist.” Nominate yourself to be an artist and you are one. While we can choose to lean into the artist label, we don’t have to adopt it to get on with being creative. Stephen Fry argues “I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next.”
Call yourself an artist, or not. It doesn’t matter. But know that an artist is anyone who makes art. That includes you if you choose to make art.
Not knowing what step to take next is a something artists of all levels face on a regular basis. It’s okay if you feel lost when making art or about what the ‘right’ direction to head in is. Getting lost allows for more possibilities than having a concrete plan. The author Jay Woodman encourages “Life is a repeated cycle of getting lost and then finding yourself again. There are many smaller cycles within that cycle where you get lost to a smaller degree and then remember yourself on purpose, consciously or unconsciously. Every time you get lost it is so that you can learn something or experience something from a different perspective.” Creative potential is increased by not knowing what comes next. When the answers are unknown, the search deepens which can lead to stumbling upon unexpected (and ultimately more creative) outcomes.
Getting lost allows you to go beyond what you know as Rebecca Solnit in A Field Guide to Getting Lost explains “That thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost. The word ‘lost’ comes from the old Norse ‘los’ meaning the disbanding of an army…I worry now that people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know.”
The act of getting lost, to fully allow yourself to sit in the dark and not see what’s ahead of you takes courage and practice. Staring at a blank page, not knowing what to do next and allowing the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty to sit with you is a brave act. But as Solnit suggests “… to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery. And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender…” Surrender, go off the map, tear up the plans, get lost, switch off the lights, make art in the dark and let’s see what you stumble into.
“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” — Rebecca Solnit
Making art is about getting curious, experimenting, having fun and seeing where your ideas, mistakes and practice takes you. There is no one set way for how things should look. You don’t have to make a thing that others will think is ‘good.’ We’ve been taught we should always aim to be the best, get the highest grade, gain praise or approval from our peers, teachers or bosses. But you can let go of all of that when you start making art.
You can bend, move and break any rules that you think exist. The artist Helen Frankenthaler argues “There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.” Invent your own way of making art, draw whatever you like and pay no attention to any invisible rules you’ve been unknowingly following. There’s no ‘best’ award for making art for fun, no one-was-fits-all approach and nobody needs to like what you do.
No rules means more creativity and if you’re looking for permission to do whatever you like, this it it right here.