I believe everyone is an artist.
We all have the drive to create, to express ourselves, but forces from every angle suppress our creative drives. Societal conceptions of art try to tell us that arts are feminine, that it’s unmanly to participate in the arts, that the arts represent weakness, that they are not a worthy use of time because a job in the arts won’t bring in much money.
Then there’s both the explicit and implicit messages from schools. The arts are mostly thought of as “extras” or “specials” (I always hated being called a “specials teacher” it was so demeaning), not one of the “real subjects.” When there’s a shortage of funding, the arts are the first to go. But there’s also the bigger-picture problems with the way the institution of school functions. School generally focuses on getting the one right answer, punishes taking risks, makes education into a competition where there are winners and losers (smart kids and stupid kids), and judges, grades, and publicly ranks ability levels. School fosters that fear of being judged that is already so hard to confront. All of these things working together stifle creativity. It’s no wonder when we’re done with school that our best skills are doing as we’re told without question and trying to get the right answer first.
What happened to that artist that each one of us started out as? Sometimes, we know it is there, hiding and patiently waiting until it’s safe to come out. Sometimes it defiantly motivates us, despite all of the suppressive forces. And sometimes we think it’s gone, a facet of childhood we grew out of. But after all this bombardment, the artist persists.
Whether we openly think of ourselves as artists or not, the arts are a vital tool that help us make sense of our surroundings, our world, our knowledge, our emotions, our lives and our relationships. They give perspective. They clarify. They allow us to distill meaning out of the chaos and over-stimulation that is our world. They give each of us our own individual voice.
I’ve recently rediscovered my own artist, and it has set me on a wonderful journey.
How can I reawaken MY artist, you might ask? I don’t know, I don’t have the answers. I never embarked on this with the goal of releasing my inner artist, it just sort of happened. But I will share my own advice and what has helped me.
- Read about others’ stories of their own creative struggles. A whole New Mind and The War of Art both really inspired me.
- Let go of your fear of being judged. Nothing good can ever come of it.
- Sing. With the radio, in the car, in the shower, with your ipod, at church, with other people, by yourself, songs you know, songs you make up. Sing whatever, just sing. Find your voice and use it.
- Dance. Take a class, go to a workshop, join a folk dance group, learn choreography, make it up, move to the beat. Trust me, it’s liberating.
- Draw. What you see, what you don’t see, what you wish you saw, what’s real, what you wish was real. Add color or don’t. Don’t worry about if it looks good or not, just get something on the paper. I know there’s no reason to find a blank sheet scary, but I still do sometimes….
- Walk a labirynth. It really helps to clear your head. Find a labyrinth near you here.
- Write. Prose, poetry, whatever. I wasn’t sure what to write about, so I started with what I’m passionate about. And I’m still writing….
- Tell a story. Sharing experiences is inspiring, and there’s just something about spoken words that’s different from writing. Share with family, friends, or online. Don’t know what to tell? Here’s a great site to get you started.
- Drum. On a drum, on the counter, on your lap. Find a recreational drum circle, they’re tons of fun! We all have rhythm: from our step to our breathing to our heartbeat, rhythm is a force of life. And pounding on something provides an excellent release.
- Make a mess. Ideas and art are messy. It’s been hard for me to let go and make a mess, but I’m learning 🙂
- Keep an idea book. “Journal” is just too limiting of a word. My book is a mess of ideas, to-do lists, projects, drawings, swatches of fabric taped in there, postcards, pictures, thoughts, scribbles, poems, everything.
- Work to preserve and honor our natural world. It inspires us and sustains life.
- Go to concerts, museums, plays, shows, performances, and community events: get involved and be inspired.
We can all use the arts to enhance, clarify, and better our lives. Don’t we deserve it?