Thoughts on “How to Be Creative”

Aisling's BlogThis may be one of the most important things I’ve read about creativity in a long time: How to Be Creative. It’s a 2004 journal entry at I printed it out. (I had to cut & paste it to a Word document because I lost words off the right margin when I printed it from the website.)

It affirms independent thinking, and it’s giving me things to think about, in terms of what I sell. I’m often ambivalent about selling my better paintings, as if I’m depriving myself and my kids of some of my more important art. But, I also need to earn a living; that article addresses this issue.

What’s really interesting is how this fits with what I woke up thinking about: The quality of the art that I work on.

See, for a bunch of years, I worked on art specifically to share the how-to info with others. I wanted people to find their inner creative voices. I wanted to show them that they could create art similar to what I was doing… so I focused on accessible art that could be taught, and broken down into by-the-numbers directions, more or less.

Well… okay, I teach process rather than step-by-step products. But, as the audience changed, more people wanted step-by-step instructions… which have never been my strong suit. In the early days–which wasn’t that long ago–I could show people the basics of new techniques and materials. I’d provide the tools & supplies they’d need. And then, it was about creating a safe and creative space… a place to experiment rather than a “classroom” setting.

My goal was to provide people with the knowledge & confidence in their abilities to explore art, on their own, after they returned home from a class or event.

As paper arts have become enormously popular and the edges have blurred between scrapbooking and what used to be extreme paper arts… well, it’s like the goal has been achieved, and the banner is being carried forward by others. I no longer need to feel responsible for being a teacher, online or in real life.

Oh, the articles will stay at my websites. I just don’t need to grow those sites as aggressively as I did a few years ago. In fact, I may re-integrate some of the articles–from the smaller sites–back into I’m not sure yet.

But, letting go of the need to be a teacher–online and in real life–I’m also aware that I don’t have to be so accessible. Approval and popularity are essential to teachers. For artists who don’t rely on teaching for income, it’s about the art, period. I don’t recall any stories about how charming and personable DaVinci was… or Monet or even Picasso. If an artist is a popular personality, that’s great, but it’s not essential to the art.

As I write this, I’m watching Richie Havens in the movie, Woodstock. I remember seeing him often in Cambridge Common when I’d go there after school. He’d sit on a park bench, play his guitar and sing. If anyone listened, great. If they didn’t, that was okay, too. He was committed to the music, period. I’d listen to him for awhile, and then wander off to see who else was around the Common or Harvard Square. It was an amazing time, and I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time. But, his commitment to the music made an impression on me… one that I’m reviewing right now.

I’ve been listening to podcasts by JoeVitale recently. It’s funny; I didn’t expect to like him. But, he’s been talking about aligning what you do, and understanding how you explain–to yourself–the results that you get in life. It’s about the evidence that you provide to yourself, that reinforce your actual beliefs… not just what you say that you believe, or what you want to believe. That evidence can get in the way of goals that you set, and… well, Dr. Vitale explains it far better than I can in a few sentences.

So, I’m looking at what I do. I’m examining the messages that I send to myself and others, and the context that I’ve created for what I experience in life. I’m working on affirming myself as a unique and talented artist. And, that means creating art that is uniquely mine. Much of it can’t be copied by others; that’s no longer a criteria for art that I create. (Well, not unless it’s for a magazine article or something.)

Reading How to Be Creative is helping me to accept greater authenticity in my life, and let go of the need to be popular. This is a very good thing.

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