Hello Wonderful, Creative You:
I recently picked up Big Magic* by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Did you catch her podcast interview with Krista Tippet at On Being?) I was excited to hear her talking about how to get inspired to create, and the connections between her creative and spiritual life. While she doesn’t use the term “creative self-care” it’s exciting to hear this well-known author speaking my language.
As I’m reading Big Magic, I find myself nodding a lot, and internally saying, “Yes! YES!” She adeptly explains the evidence of why WE ARE ALL creative beings. Even the most boring person has the capacity for creativity. I would add that one of the reasons we know this because of the way the arts are woven into every day life in the oldest cultures on earth. Everyone takes part in rituals involving song, movement, dance, and body paint. The practice of “the arts” does not belong to a chosen few with special “talent” but to the community.
I love that Gilbert gives us permission to create – not because it will be special, original, important, or even inspiring. She tells us to create because it feels good. Because we need to make something. It’s how we’ve survived for a long time before we sat with our face in a screen waiting for something to happen. Here’s my ideas on how to get inspired to create.
You DO need time to create. It IS essential for your well being. #artheals Click To Tweet
Clear the Obstacles in Your Creative Life
So if you can acknowledge that there is at least some creativity within you, how do you get started? I know there seem to be a lot of obstacles getting in the way of you creating: time, inspiration, clutter, health issues, perfectionism, self-doubt, etc. I have good news and bad news about this. The only way through these obstacles is to decide that you must create. When you decide this, the excuses will clear, the clutter will go (even if you need a little help) you will prioritize creating over something else, and you will find a gentle approach to creating that eases, not causes pain.
Give Yourself Permission to Make Art.
Sometimes hearing someone else tell you that it’s okay to do something can help you give yourself permission. I know it might seem silly, but I know this has worked for me. I’d like to speak straight to your heart, so I’d invite you to open your heart and listen. If it feels right, you might write some of these down, or even make your own permission slip to create, and keep it visible at home.
You have a right to create. As a young child, chances are, you danced, sang, babbled, drew, told stories, and tried new things, all without shame, fear, or critical self-talk. You created because it was natural, and because you experienced the world through your 5 senses as a way of exploring. Somewhere along the line, you let other people tell you to shut all that down, to sit still, and only to pursue those activities in which you had “talent,” if any.
I have to tell you, that’s total bullshit. We are all creative.
Being creative is the exhale to the inhale, the output from the input. It’s the natural order of cause and effect, things moving up and down. We use creative energy in all parts of our lives. If you feel called to write, dance, craft, paint, or make music, why not just do it? What’s the harm in playing if it makes you feel good?
Perhaps you feel stuck because you are think your art isn’t “good enough.” I say, it doesn’t have to be “good enough,” so do it anyway. If you think your paintings are ugly, do it anyway. If you sing off pitch, do it anyway. If you can’t dance on the beat, do it anyway. It’s about the joy of expression. That’s what makes art normal. That’s what makes art healing. That’s what makes art necessary.So you have permission: Create. Do something. Make something. Be wild. #calledtobecreative Click To Tweet
Give Yourself a Simple, Doable Art Assignment.
Even once you give yourself permission to create, staring at a blank white page and a mountain of art supplies and no ideas can be overwhelming. If you are feeling overwhelmed, I suggest structuring your creative life to make it feel a bit more manageable. (That’s a big part of how to get inspired to create.)
To structure things, you might give yourself mini art assignments with small, doable steps and limited materials. Put away everything else and give yourself permission to only focus on the assignment you chose. I’ve set this up as daily art prompt for 5 days, but you can adapt it to a weekend, a month, or whatever makes sense for you.
- Project Idea #1: Focus on Drawing in Pencil.
- Day 1: Spend five minutes looking for 2 – 4 beautiful leaves. Notice the colors, shapes, and textures.
- Day 2: Set your leaves, pencil, sharpener, eraser, and paper out in a visible spot at home.
- Day 3: Choose one of the leaves and draw it. Ask your inner critic to please step aside while you simply enjoy the activity of moving your pencil across the page. Really look at the shapes you are seeing. Forget that it’s a “leaf” and focus on the shapes.
- Day 4: Choose a different leaf and draw it upside down. Get to know a different part of it. Study it. Then draw your special leaf. Give yourself the same creative “permission” to just enjoy the process.
- Day 5: Look your 2 -4 leaves and draw the one which you feel the most affection for, even if you have already drawn it. Feel free to experiment and take some risks. Try shading a bit, or experiment with varying how much pressure you put on your pencil and how that translates on the page.
2. Project Idea #2: Focus on Collage.
- Day 1: Collect 2 – 3 magazines, scissors, glue, and paper, and set them out in a visible place at home.
- Day 2: Turn on some music and begin cutting images that speak to you. Don’t shy away from “odd” images or things you don’t understand. If it speaks to you, cut it out. Spend about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Day 3: Lay your images out in front of you. Which ones catch your attention first? Pick 2 -4 that really catch your eye. Begin laying these out on your page, playing with the arrangement, stepping away to gain perspective, and coming closer. When they feel right, glue them down.
- Day 4: Take out markers or acrylic paint, a brush, water, and a cloth.
- Day 5: Use the paint to “pull together” the magazine cut outs into one art piece. You may paint over parts of the pictures or leave them as is.
3. Project Idea #3: Focus on Watercolor and Black Pen.
- Day 1: Take out your watercolor paints, brush, cloth, and paper, black permanent pen,and put them somewhere visible. Set a timer, and spend 15 minutes looking for inspiring mandala patterns on Pinterest. Screen shot or print anything you like so that you can use it later. Set a timer so you don’t get pulled into a vortex on the web!
- Day 2: Use a cup or circular item to trace several circles on your page. You can decide how big or small you’d like to make them, depending on the size of doodles you enjoy drawing. Paint each circle with watercolor. Repeat this technique for each circle.
- Day 3: Working with your dry circles, keep your mandala inspiration patterns nearby, pick something simple, and work SLOWLY to create a pattern in black pen over the watercolor background. Complete 1 or 2, depending on their size and your time and energy.
- Day 4: Complete one or two more circles, either practicing the same patterns to improve your results, or trying a new pattern. Remember to work slowly and deliberately. Tune into the sounds and colors.
- Day 5: Finish the circles on your page, or start another page, following the same process. With practice, you will enjoy your results a little more each time, and it will encourage you to experiment.
4. Project Idea #4: Your project idea.
- Assign yourself a simple art task.
- Break the task in to small steps: Gather supplies, gather inspiration, work in short sessions.
- Remember that making a plan to be creative IS creative. Creative planning “counts” as art time.
I hope that you have noticed the pattern here: pick something and do it. Then do it again, and again, and be willing to be a beginner. That’s how you make more art. There’s really nothing magical about it. I’ll do another post on clearing away the obstacles that you just can’t seem to get past. There are many things that can trip us up.
How to Get Inspired to Create When You Can’t Clear Creative Blocks
- Take a class. Sometimes the structure of a class, the support of an artistic community, and an infusion of fresh techniques can really fire up your creative practice. Check out my online classes here.
- Hire a creative mentor to help you pinpoint your creative blocks, create a plan to get them out of the way, and support through your journey back to creativity. You can read more about my creative mentoring program here.
I can’t wait to hear more about your creative life and dreams.
*Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. That means that if you choose to click the link and purchase something that at no extra cost to you, you will be supporting the work of empowering artists at Mindful Art Studio. This is how to get inspired to create! Thank you!