Sydnie, watercolour, 16x12"
The Creative Life

Creative Courage

The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Even a dead fish can go with the flow. –Jim Hightower

Reasons or excuses?

Matisse’s famous quote  “Creativity takes courage” is almost a cliché, we’ve heard it so often. It’s everywhere in memes and posters but maybe that’s because as artists, we know it’s true. If fear wasn’t part of the creative experience, we’d be neck-deep in new art, products, recipes, gardens, etc., etc.

Sadly, fear holds too many of us back from our creative potential. 

It took me a long time to get past my own fears, most of which were related to perfectionism. However, I called it “being responsible”. After all, I had a family to care for and a business to build. 

They turned out to be my excuses.

Creative Fear and CourageNot what it seems

We all have our own justifications but if you actually look at what’s lurking behind our wall of words, we find fear. 

It took me a long time to understand that staying in my comfort zone robbed me of too much. The price is high. Actually, not to put too fine a point on it, it costs our lives.

By avoiding the full creative life available to us, we simply keep repeating what looks (falsely) safe and sure. The same thing, over and over. We never actually live. We become dead fish. 

It’s okay to be afraid

Think of your fear as a gift. It’s a signal that you’re up to something and it’s the only way to experience that courage Matisse speaks of.  Working through it builds confidence, stretching our capacity to create.

Each of us must come to terms with it because it’s an integral part of the process. The truth is, not one of us can grow creatively without some stress and learning to live with discomfort. Answering the call means a willingness to be seen, warts and all, because art is deeply personal and uncertain. There’s no such thing as ‘fearless creating’, no matter what the gurus say.

Don’t tell me exposure isn’t scary!  And, after accepting the risk and doing our work, nothing is guaranteed except a need to continue creating.

How to manage the fear

After all my years of excuses, I finally realized the work itself (and the risk) could be “chunked down” again and again until the fear felt manageable. It needed to be small enough not to wake up my flight-or-fight mode

With practice, I built a tolerance for discomfort and found myself able to take bigger creative risks. The blank canvas stopped looking like a chasm and more like an opportunity.

If you’re avoiding your own creative nudge, start with small steps. Three years ago, I committed to 15 minutes of creative action every day for 30 days. Often it was just a doodle in a sketchbook but if I spent those 15 minutes, it counted.

I ended up with a book of little sketches but I also built my creative muscle and developed a habit. And I still refer back to those sketches for inspiration. 

What you choose may be different (although if my example works for you, please use it!) The point is to make it small enough that it doesn’t scare off your inner child, the muse or whatever you want to call that urge.

Courage is not the absence of fear.

Like sunshine and shadow, we need fear to experience courage. When we tiptoe past our fears, something pretty amazing waits for us. Our real life. 

I highly recommend this book about the Kaizen way for help on how to “feel the fear and do it anyway”.

(*affiliate link*)

The Creative Life

Muse Flash: Creative Flow

Flow — the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task — is a strong contributor to creativity. When in flow, the creator and the universe become one, outside distractions recede from consciousness and one’s mind is fully open and attuned to the act of creating. — Scott Barry Kaufman, Huffington Post

I love it when I get into flow. I mentioned once that I have this inner clock that never seems to stop ticking. It can be a royal pain at times.

However the clock stands still when I enter that mental state called “flow”.

I’ve been doing some digging, hoping to understand what it takes to achieve that sense of timelessness.  I’ve discovered its like trying to fall asleep by trying to fall asleep. Doesn’t work so well.

There’s good news, however. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who has studied this phenomenon extensively, this state of mind happens when we challenge ourselves by doing things that require some skill and commitment on our part.

Its about being awake to our life and paying attention, not just living on auto-pilot. (He has also written quite a few books about this subject which you can find here.)

He calls Flow the “joy of complete engagement.” Sure sounds like something I’d like more of in my creative life.

So if I’m understanding this right, it’s about paying attention and being willing to challenge myself. To get comfortable with being a little uncomfortable.

That means something different for each of us but I know what I will do to find more Flow.

How about you?

Creative Friends

Meet My Creative Friend: Victoria Lynn Hall

I believe in the power of art partly because of my creative friend, Victoria Lynn Hall.  She is a truly multi-talented, multi-passionate Renaissance Soul. As an artist, blogger and musician, I’m in awe of how creativity permeates everything she does.

I’m sure she’ll inspire you as much as she does me.

What does “being creative” mean to you?

Being creative means a lot of things to me. It means focusing on possibilities rather than limitations. It means problem solving and trying to make order out of chaos. And it means recognizing beauty and doing something to bring that beauty into the light for others to see. 

When did you first realize that you absolutely had to lead a creative life?

I think I’ve always led a creative life, I just didn’t always value it. I spent way too much of my early life wishing I was more normal and yet all the people I admired were extremely creative in one way or another. 

It was reading and practicing the tenets of “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron in my twenties that finally made me take myself more seriously as an artist and see myself as in the same league as the people I idolized. It started me on a path of healing the wounds that told me my creative and imaginative talents were something frivolous so that I could see them and utilize them as the incredible gifts that they really are.

It’s a path I’m still walking.

What inspires you?Creative art by Victoria Lynn Hall

Color, pattern, form. Music, art, nature. Questions, mysteries, possibilities.

Almost anything can spark my imagination and once a vision is formed there of something that could be created or transformed, it’s impossible for me not to pursue it.

What do you want your art to communicate?

I see making art as a communication between myself and my higher self (and perhaps even something beyond that).

I don’t seek to control that conversation but rather focus on expressing my thoughts, feelings, hopes and visions as honestly as possible through whatever medium I am using and trusting the response I get back from that. However, almost always what comes out of that collaboration conveys a story of hope, beauty and transformation.

Creative art by Victoria Lynn HallDescribe your creative process. What kind of patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

My most faithful creative routine is journaling.

It is how I check in with myself and it helps me prioritize my creative passions. Writing down what I am thinking, feeling and envisioning for my life shows me where my imagination is engaged and everything flows from there.

What is the most challenging part of the creative process for you and how do you meet that challenge?

The most challenging part of the creative process, for me, is just getting started on something. Usually, I meet that challenge by getting started on or finishing something else.

Having many different types of creative projects going on at once makes me a “productive procrastinator”. I focus on the task that I have the least resistance to and accomplishing that gives me the energy and confidence to take on the next task (or inspires a completely new one).

What’s the best advice you were ever given about how to be more creative?Creative art by Victoria Lynn Hall

This is a tough one for me because I’m not sure I need advice on how to be more creative.

There are actually some days when I would prefer to be less creative, at least long enough to get my laundry put away. But I will tell you one of the mottos I live by, which is engraved in gold letters on a little journal I keep close to me at all times: Trust Your Crazy Ideas.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask?

I would just like to say that I believe in the magic of kindness, especially when it comes to artists encouraging, inspiring and supporting each other.

Thank you Aprille, for being that magic for me and for inviting me to explore these questions.

Here’s how you can connect with Victoria:

You can find my blog at http://www.ibelieveinart.com/

For creative inspiration and encouragement like my I Believe In Art Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/IBelieveInArtBlog/

You can also connect with me through my I Believe In Art account on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ibelieveinartblog/

And find fun and creative products to inspire your creative soul at http://www.ibelieveinartshop.com/

The Creative Life

Permission: What are you waiting for?

As I look back on the early part of my adult life, it seems like I was always stuck, waiting for “permission”.

Permission to…

…be creative rather than “practical”.

…take time to do something about my dreams.

…create visions rather than set goals.

…be different and do things my way.

…explore many projects at once.

…start projects and not finish them.

I’m sure you have a few of your own you could add to my list.

PermissionIt’s funny really, when you think about it. As kids we think being an adult means doing whatever we want. Then we become adults and we get stuck in a holding pattern, waiting for someone to tell us it’s okay to do the thing we long to do.

But who did I think would tell me to go ahead? I’m not sure I ever really thought that far. I just said things like “I could never…I can’t…Not right now…etc, etc.”

Until the day I asked myself, “Who’s making these rules?”

Oh. Right. Me.

Here’s what I realized:

There was no one else to go to for this elusive ‘permisson’.  It was my fear that withheld consent to go-ahead.

Oh and by the way? While you’re at it, you might inspire someone else to get out of their own way, too.

Cool beans, eh?

As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

What are you waiting for?

Fill in the blank and share in the comments :

I give myself permission to _______________________