Watercolor Painting

Creativity: Motherhood vs. Art

Creativity, Motherhood

I met a woman recently who commented that she had never pursued her art as fully as she’d have liked because her mother had discouraged her with the message that she couldn’t make any money doing art; that it wasn’t practical.
My heart broke for her. I could see her passion as well as feel the hurt and hesitation that crippled her inner artist. My immediate desire was to help, to encourage and try to counter the damage that had been done. I told her it is never too late, that she is already an artist.

I was simultaneously grateful for such supportive parents of my own who have always encourage and praised my creative endeavors.

This beautiful woman, is the mother of six children.

In addition to being horrified that she was discouraged from being an artist, my mind also immediately thought of all the times I’ve heard motherhood put down as an un-lofty or unworthy endeavor. Motherhood certainly doesn’t make any money- less money even than being an artist! While I hope she has not suffered similarly for her choices about motherhood as she was discouraged about pursuing art, in our day and age, I’m not optimistic. I’ve been exposed to these horrible ideas all too often myself to be naive enough to think that another has been sheltered from them.

It represents the sad state of our society today that two of the most worthwhile creative endeavors are demeaned so horribly. I cannot think of a higher more divine mode of creativity than that of creating human life. And I don’t know a single artist who doesn’t seek to influence the world in some way with their art. Is there any greater, more accessible method of influencing the world than through the next generation? These lofty goals should be praised! Not discouraged. Especially in a society that claims a woman is capable and free enough to pursue whatever she wants.

Creativity is a divine endowment. A unique and exclusive gift from deity to humankind. Creativity ought to be celebrated and re-enthroned as the virtue it is.

Creativity transforms lives, whether through a painting, a song, a story, an entrepreneurial endeavor, a delicious meal, or simply, noble motherhood.

Be Creative

The Creativity Myth

Creativity

There are two kinds of people in the world. People who are creative and people who believe the lie that they’re not. The idea that some select chosen few are creative while the everyone else is left to languish is a complete myth. Everyone has the capacity to be creative. Unfortunately for many people their creative efforts were stifled at a young age. Even more unfortunate is when it is never recovered.

In truth it is never really lost, just neglected; abandoned for the belief that it never existed to begin with. Creativity, like a muscle, will atrophy when underused. One’s creative faculties must be exercised. Luckily they can never atrophy into extinction. The flames of passionate creativity can always be rekindled. However this process does require work, sometimes difficult work. Just like the necessity for physical therapy to recover capacity in muscle functioning. Severely malnourished creativity may need to undergo some intense therapy.

The false beliefs of inability, skepticism and doubt must be extricated. To be creative is a choice. It is a purposeful and conscious shift in mindset. Here’s how:

First accept that you are creative. Creativity is part of our divine endowment as humans. You have the capacity like everyone else. Believing this may require redefining your self image. The way to change your beliefs about being creative is to stop telling yourself that you’re not. Abolish the negative internal dialogue that tells you can’t or that you aren’t. You can create! You are creative!

Second, develop skills. Know that your ability to be creative has nothing to do with drawing skills. Those who are creative are not so because they draw, but rather those who draw do so because they love the creative process. Although drawing skills are not prerequisite, skills and expertise of any kind are imperative to enhancing creative capacity. Or rather the ability to develop skills. Happily, if you can do it once you can absolutely repeat the process with a new set of skills. Skill, the ability to do something well, is one of the raw materials of creativity. For example, in order to create music, one must first learn (and perhaps even master- to some extent) the fundamentals of music. Even a musical prodigy like Mozart wasn’t a prodigy because he was some how magically able to create music ex nihilo, with no prior knowledge, study or experimentation. Rather, he was a prodigy because he had mastered the necessary skills at an early age.

Third, learn to make connections. This is related to the idea of having vision, or the ability to see or make seen things otherwise obscure. Unlike developing skills which is primarily a physical activity, the ability to make connections is a mental capacity. It to must be exercised. In their book, Creative Confidence, the Kelley brothers, Tom and David, talk about developing empathy as a way to tap into our creative resources. They argue that the ability to relate, and connect with others is another vital resource of creativity. Jacob Bronowski in his essay The Creative Mind talks about creativity as the ability to find hidden likenesses between two seemingly unrelated things. He describes this process as a way of recognizing and identifying parallels similar to the way poetic metaphors juxtapose subject matter to create a harmony of idea. He further describes the unique connection that happens between creator (or artist) and observer when the observer rediscovers for himself that which the creator has presented.

Fourth, produce. Make production a greater passion than consumption. Put your skills and your ability to make connections to use. Produce something, anything. It doesn’t even have to be a physical thing. Production is where creativity begins to reap the rewards that enrich life. And as Bronowski points out, meaning is enhanced when not only the creator benefits from the process and the product, but the consumer does too. Art, music, poetry, literature, a delicious meal, a relationship, all must first be created, then enjoyed.

Once you stop believing the lie that you are not creative. (especially if you believed it for lack of drawing skills) you are empowered to use your creative abilities to enrich your life. Chances are you already have skills. You can make connections. You can produce. You are creative, even if you can’t draw.

What will you create today? Share in the comments.

Creativity: a contingency

Plan C: Make Lemonade

Creativity, Personal Muse-ings

“C” For Creativity. Creativity isn’t just for making art projects. Creativity is for making life better, no matter your circumstances.

As a child, I always wanted to be a mother when I grew up. That was plan A. There were several influences which contributed to this desire. The primary would be my religious beliefs. The second would have to be that my own mother was a homemaker and raised eight children. I love my big family. The idea of a career never really appealed to me. Another could have been simply that I didn’t really know anything else.

This didn’t really ever change as I got older, though I did learn more about what other pursuits interested me, as well as a broader definition of a career. After I got married, I was fully ready and prepared to put my education on hold for the higher and nobler calling of motherhood. But things didn’t happen as my husband and I had planned. So, on to plan B, I continued my education. I thought, the Lord knows I’m willing to quit school to be a mother, maybe He wants me to graduate. A few years later I graduated. In my personal prayers I started telling the Lord I was ready now. Still no children.

Struggling for answers to why my heart’s desire would be denied to me, wondering what the Lord wanted me to do instead, and even what I wanted to do with my life, I was faced with the awful reality that I hadn’t prepared a contingency. I had no plan C. The necessity of a plan C had never occurred to me.

Practical thinking said, get a job, but I already had two part-time jobs. Teaching positions, plus a few private art students. I was using my degree in art. The thing was that I had never really faced the reality of a career as anything more than temporary or in addition to being a mother.

Facing the reality of plan C after I graduated was a very discouraging and emotional time for me, and I hid this fact from most who knew me, further isolating myself from friends and associates.

What ultimately rescued me from depression and despair was the realization that I’d been given an opportunity. Rather than despairing over my inability to change my circumstances, I needed to focus on being happy doing what I could. There were a lot of things my friends with small children couldn’t do. I’d majored in fine art (entirely impractical, I know) so now I’d have to get creative with my creativity. Rather than focus on what I didn’t have, I started asking myself what else I wanted. What were the things I’d told myself “maybe someday?” Publishing a book was one of them. So, in need of a plan C, I decided to see if this was “someday.”

I know I’m not alone in saying life isn’t always what we expect or want it to be. But there are always possibilities that will bring joy. As Maria said in The Sound of Music, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” The Lord doesn’t always give us what we want, even if it’s a righteous desire. God gave us a portion of his creative powers. (Read more about Art and Creation here.) Sometimes we have to get creative with our contingencies.

Our greatest disappointments just may turn out to be unexpected opportunities, perhaps for something we never would have considered otherwise. Instead of being a mother, I have two dogs, a Bachelor’s degree in fine art and I’m writing a novel. I never would have planned my life like this, but I’m happy. And the next time life hands me lemons, I already have a recipe for lemonade. The key is being creative.

How have you made lemonade out of life’s lemons? Share in the comments.

5 Cautions for Creative People

5 Cautions for Creative People

Creativity

Every virtue in excess can become a vice. This is true of creativity. Here are five ways creativity can be a vice and how to deal with them. They are:

  1. Distraction
  2. Loneliness
  3. Sensitivity
  4. Perfectionism
  5. Competition
    1. Creative people are easily distracted. There are so many options and ideas to choose from. Learn to focus, work hard, and finish what you start. Finishing what you start will bring the needed closure, clarity and motivation to move forward. It will teach you things that you can’t learn any other way. I know of this first hand. In a conversation with my mother, I made an exasperated statement in discouragement and overwhelm, which was not only self revelatory, but has helped me to overcome the very frustrations that plagued me. I said, “It’s exciting to start new projects, and it’s gratifying to finish them, but the middle part just feels like work.” I remember my mother laughing, and it was her laughter which helped me put things into proper perspective. I realized where I was struggling and what I needed to do to overcome it.
    2. Creative people are subject to loneliness. Learn to balance the introvert that has learned to focus so intently that they inadvertently cut themselves off from the outside world. Introverts risk loneliness and depression if they become too isolated in their quest to create. Learn to collaborate. Get out and meet new people. You will be surprised how this gets the creative juices flowing. Likely you already know, but you need to learn to recognize and regulate when you’re isolating yourself. But also be careful not to self-sabotage because you think your ideas are the best. Creative people are proud of their ideas- all of us. Give yourself both time to socialize and stay connected. Don’t starve your inner muse because you must always be working, but don’t procrastinate by not taking the time to focus on your work when independence and quiet solitude is needed to do this. Remember that it is not only in isolation that we risk loneliness. Being present in public is not the same as connecting with people and maintaining healthy relationships. This too requires work and skill. Loneliness can also stem from feeling misunderstood. It is one thing to create a work, but it is an entirely different skill set to help others see the vision of your work. Know that communicating the vision of your work to others is separate from the work itself. Be patient with others and yourself as you learn this skill too.
    3. Creative people are sensitive. Learn to disassociate your identity and personal worth from your work. You are not your work. This sensitivity is a blessing, but it can also feel like a curse. It is a rose, complete with thorns. This sensitivity infuses your work with meaning that resonates with your audience. You put your heart into your creation, but when it’s finished you have to learn to take it out again. A University professor of mine, Jeffrey Carter (you can see his work here), shared a perspective on this that helped me recognize this mentality in myself for what it was. Recognition is the first step to dealing with it. He said, that his ego wasn’t tied to his art, but that it was tied to his music. I hadn’t thought of this consciously before, but I had felt it. I saw my own experiences in a new light. It shifted my paradigm around my work. It was a message I could implement because it was one I related to. Before I began my journey as a fine artist, I thought I wanted to be a singer, but I had a hard time disassociating myself from my work. My performance never seemed to live up to what I knew was my potential and this was discouraging. Looking back I recognize that although I had learned to sing, I had never learned to perform. That too a different skill set. As a painter I discovered I could stay behind the scenes while my work was on stage. Another professor, James Lorigan, shared this advice with the class: When you create a work of art it’s like a little puppy. You love that little puppy and become attached to it. Sooner or later, every puppy becomes a dog. “Sell it before it’s a dog.”
    4. Creative people are prone to perfectionism. Like distraction, this to can lead to feeling overwhelmed. Creative people constantly face the need, and the desire to improve. This is because we learn and improve in the process of doing. In the time it takes to do something, you’ve learned how to do it better. Leonardo DaVinci said, “Art is never truly finished, only abandoned.” I have learned to tell myself, “I’ll fix it on the next one,” and move on. Another hopefully positive message on this topic is a quote from Ira Glass. ira-glass-quote
    5. Creativity is not a competition! Competition is merely a vehicle for improvement. There will always be those who are better than you and there will always be those who are not as good as you. Let those who are better inspire you to new heights, new ideas. Then turn around and inspire someone else. To lift another is a truly fulfilling experience. One of the most beautiful things about creativity is that it promotes an abundance mindset. Creativity is a well of possibilities that will never run dry. Learn to have the same abundance mindset with your peers that you have within yourself and your work. There is not a limited number of ideas and you won’t run out. Two people can come up with the same good ideas. Your voice is unique even if your ideas aren’t. But so is everyone else’s. Learn to see these would-be competitors as opportunities to network and collaborate not as opponents to beat. Don’t get too hung up on praise. Praise does not make an idea good, just as the lack of praise does not make an idea bad. Recognize that the primary purpose of praise is not accolade or affirmation but connection and rejuvenation. The audience is having their own creative experience that must be respected as part of the whole. Be quick to praise another.

How have you overcome your creative vices? Share in the comments.