Finding the Way to Your Artistic Spirit
Who remembers the smell of your favorite markers as a kid? The first album you danced to in your bedroom? The feel of finger paints smearing across paper? There’s a reason these visceral memories stay with us for a lifetime: Creativity is an integral part of our human experience. It’s what gives us joy.
In Hinduism, art and creativity are considered sacred. There is a god of dance, a goddess of the arts, and music plays a key role in all religious ceremonies. It’s believed that art is an expression of the divine, our way of channeling to something greater than ourselves, to give shape to emotions that can’t be expressed with words alone.
I realize that any conversation about “discovering your inner artist” often induces a cynical groan – it’s way too flighty of an endeavor for a responsible adult like you who has a career and bills to pay. But stay with me for a second. I strongly believe in – and have witnessed – the benefit of discovering this aspect of your nature because art provides a gateway to touching into the deepest parts of your soul.
In essence, art is meditation. It can heal long-held wounds, express untapped desires, unleash joy, and connect us to the world through the unique relationship of artist-and-audience.
The first step to unlocking your creativity, though, is to set some ground rules:
To begin, you need to give yourself permission to explore your creative side – because there can be huge barriers to doing so, not to mention a bit of social stigma. Honestly, I’m sure there were many of you who wanted to skip this entire section of the book. “Art” is something that feels either too bohemian (for 20-year-old hipsters in Brooklyn), or too elitist (for grey-haired socialites at museum fundraisers). Art is certainly not something that a busy working mom has time for. And it’s not worth the effort for someone who considers herself proudly left-brained and analytical. But I suggest that you begin by simply allowing yourself – humoring yourself, if need be – to dip your toe into this water. No commitment, just see what happens. You may find that tapping into your creativity actually allows you to find passion and energy in your life – making you a better mom, partner, or friend. Or it may invigorate your brain to tackle problems with new insight – putting you on a better path to get that promotion at work.
Sure, you could put on a fabulous dress and go to the opera for a special night, but the truth is – a lot of people don’t love opera. And you’re unlikely to find a meaningful connection to art unless there’s a part of you that truly loves it. So how do you find what type of art speaks to you? Close your eyes and think back to your childhood. What creative activity do you remember loving as a kid? Was it drawing, dancing, baking…? Before there were any expectations on how well you had to do something in order to enjoy it, we were all just kids who did things that made us happy. I am empirically a terrible singer. But when I was five years old, I belted out “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” during a show in front of my entire school – and to this day, it is one of my happiest memories. There’s an intrinsic creative spark within all of us… even if you’re a die-hard lawyer or accountant. Start by remembering yours.
I would rather visit the dentist than spend an afternoon staring at French impressionist paintings in a stuffy art museum (sorry, all you Monet lovers out there). And yet I consider myself a passionate lover of the arts. The thing is, we’re too limited in our idea of what constitutes “art” – and that turns people off from pursuing it. Art can be anything that allows you to tap into the creative energy within you. Aside from popular forms like music, dance, and acting, there are also other outlets for creative expression which are less traditional in definition – like gardening, journaling, and jewelry making. And don’t discount the role of the audience in art. You can engage your creativity as a passionate reader or indie-movie buff, even if you don’t consider yourself a Shakespeare or Scorsese.
Although I’m a New Yorker through-and-through, I’ll be the first to tell you that you don’t need to live in a “cultural capital” like NYC or London to experience great art. It’s literally everywhere – you just need to look. A great place to start (as old fashioned as it may sound) is your public library, which often hosts free workshops or group meet-ups. Of course, you can find local classes simply by doing a Google search with the name of your hometown followed by your interest. It’s never been easier to find other people who share your passion, as obscure as it may be. But that doesn’t mean you need to take a class or invest any money in your endeavor. Let’s not forget how much fun we used to have as kids with nothing but construction paper and a pair of scissors.
There’s a difference between dabbling in an artistic hobby as a way to pass the time and nurturing a true spirit of creativity in your life. The key to achieving the latter is curiosity. By learning as much as you can about your chosen art form, you’ll form a more meaningful, longer lasting relationship with it. Read about the origins of the art and its historical and cultural significance… seek out local experts (anyone from a community college professor to your grandmother) who can talk to you about the art’s role in your own community… visit museums or theaters to sample the work of professional artists. Basically, begin to piece together the story behind the art. This will help you to understand how this art form relates to other people’s lives – and will lead you to a deeper connection with your own.