Creating art was an essential part of my youth. If I wasn’t taking or painting pictures, I was writing stories. Art school was an obvious choice for me. In 1979, I graduated from college in Moorhead, Minn. with a double major in fine arts and art education.
Then I moved to Minneapolis, and spent the next ten years creating art, working with galleries and exhibition spaces, and, yes, sometimes being the “starving artist.”
A few family complications later, and I found that I had to get a “real job,” or at least find a regular source of income. Healing and wellness had also always been a deep interest so I began to “reschool” in wellness and healing arts.
I have continued to write and create art even with less time to put a pen to a page or a brush to a canvas. But I have learned that creativity does not always need to be about creating art. It can be used in all aspects of life. Art and creativity can even be an act of wellness and healing.
When faced with any “blank canvas” in life, meaning any endeavor with an unknown outcome, you can follow these steps to nurture your creativity:
1. Be present. I have adapted an exercise called, “Morning Pages,” from Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Cameron recommends doing three pages of long-hand, stream-of-conciousness writing first thing in the morning. She says, “There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages – they are not high art. … They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind – and they are for your eyes only. [They] provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
You don’t have to write three full pages. Begin by writing for five to 10 minutes. It can help you feel anchored and face the day with clarity.
2. Do creative work in the morning. The creative impulse is fresher and clearer in the morning.
3. Forget about talent. What will the outcome be? Will anyone like it? Those are questions that can suppress the creative spirit. Try to start a creative process without detailed outcomes.
4. Stay open. There really are no dumb ideas. Go ahead and make a mistake. Often mistakes lead to new breakthroughs.
5. Keep it simple. Leave the details for later. Trust that they will fall into place. The creative spark is a time for simplicity. Most painters start with a broad simple sketch on the blank canvas before any paint is used.
6. Manage anxiety. Anxiety can be the subject of paintings and writing but it is hard to create when the artist is in a state of anxiety. Regular yoga, breath work and meditation can help with anxiety reduction.
7. Be brave. All of the above suggestions need a bit of bravery. Forget what others think.
8. Have fun. The creative process is closely aligned with having fun. Joy is a creative state of mind.
There is no such thing as “being more creative.” You already are creative. The creative spark lives in all of us and can be nurtured with intentional practice. And anyone on a healing journey can use a brave creative spirit, allowing room for new solutions and broadening the breadth of discovery.
For more information on art and healing, read LiveWell blog entry, “Art as an act of healing.”