I’ve had a lot of people say to me after hearing the performances: “You are so creative”!!! because I sing, write and quilt too. As if they are not creative themselves.
One of the things I’m happiest about in my life is that I’ve had the luxury of being able to indulge myself with my creative whims. It hasn’t always been the easiest of choices, in terms of financial security or being able to do things I wanted to do, but I’ve always made the decision to follow my creativity, where it leads. I guess it all boils down to: when I’m 95 years of age, will I look back and say “I wish I’d done……”? I always ask myself that when I’m faced with a big decision.
Anyway, following your creativity is like stepping off a cliff sometimes, and sometimes it’s like wrapping yourself up in a favourite blanket (or quilt). It just fits. Or it’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done. Usually, I don’t get nervous anymore, except when I’m premiering a new song on stage. In front of an audence of more than 50… But long ago, I learned that being scared or nervous isn’t a bad thing. Ask any performer about adrenaline and they will say it’s there to help their performance. To give them the energy they need to do what they have to do. Yes, it can be crippling on occasion, but usually it is your friend.
So stepping off a cliff, so to speak, as a creative person, isn’t such a bad thing. In my classes (both teaching singing for 25 years and teaching quilting just recently), I’ve encountered many people who say they just can’t do something. Their minds get in the way. Their inner judges line up and scream at them that they are not allowed to do it. It’s like having Simon Cowell living inside your head all the time. My job, as the teacher, is to figure out how to get him to leave, and let us get back to work. To give permission to my student to be creative, to play, to loosen up. I think this is very healthy, and I believe this approach has helped me deal with lots of things in my life.
It’s what keeps me going, trying new things, learning more about the things I already do. Sometimes you can’t do it all yourself. I’ve joined a songwriting group here in Victoria. Every two weeks we get together to talk about writing songs, discuss what makes a song work, critique and challenge each other. Quilters do the same thing – quilting challenges have stretched many quilters to do outstanding work. Deadlines are good too, I find. Usually I book my time in the recording studio BEFORE I’ve finished writing all the songs I want to record. It helps keep me focused.
When I lived in Calgary in the 1990s, I bought the book “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I did her exercises over a period of 12 weeks, and at the end of it, I had written more songs in that period than I ever had in my life before. I had also worked my way through lots of garbage that kept getting in the way of my creative expression. It really worked. I should do it again.
She suggested two very important things: first, keep a daily journal. She calls them “morning pages” and they are to get rid of all the mundane things that are life, but don’t always make great art. Three pages, that’s all. Every day.
The second things she suggests is to take your “Artist” out for a date every week. A museum, a walk in the woods, a coffee at the corner cafe, where you let yourself see the world as a creative person. Listen to the conversations around you, notice the interactions, the colour of the floor, the design on the ceiling. Smell the coffee. And the roses, if there are roses. Re-awaken your senses. They will lead you to creativity.
What about you? How does creativity fit into your life? And how do you keep it flowing, amid all the rest of the things going on?