"THE DREAMERS are the saviors of the world... Composer, sculptor, painter, poet, prophet, sage, these are the makers of the after-world, the architects of heaven. The world is beautiful because they have lived.
"Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish what stirs in your heart and what forms in your mind. Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become... The smallest and the greatest achievements were at first and for a time only dreams."
- As a Man Thinketh (One of the original “power of positive thinking" books, written over 100 years ago.)
I believe everyone is an artist.
But if you look around, it’s not uncommon to mostly see “normal”, every-day people looking back at you. Most of these people have ordinary jobs and lead ordinary lives. They tend to their families and bills and obligations just like everybody else. But if you take just a moment to peak beyond the façade of a “normal human” - you will often see some sort of extraordinary creator.
I look at my partner who loves apparel design and dreams of having a hand at it one day. I scroll through social media and see countless friends who are photographers and writers and painters. Friends who adorn their bodies with intricate, one-of-a-kind tattoos. My father and stepmother, whose house decor changes every time I see it, are always refreshing the old… painting, building, gardening, decorating. My older sister built a Tesla coil from scratch. My younger sister loves to paint.
It’s everywhere you look; whether you build houses or resumes, paint nails or paint canvases, bake delectable pastries or landscape or knit; no matter how you look at it, we were all born to create. To make something from nothing. And in return, like some sort of reprieve, our creations often save us from the monotony that binds us.
We are all artists.
"Filling a space in a beautiful way. That's what art means to me."
– Georgia O'Keeffe
Of course a few people will clear their throats and declare, “Nope. Not me. Not even close.”
Okay, well… I won't argue with you. But I can't help but wonder – really? You never know.
After I wrote my first book, I took a little break from writing. And then one day a friend nonchalantly asked over coffee, "What about writing fiction?"
I have never written fiction. I’ve spent the last twenty years journaling. And then I blogged. And then I wrote a memoir... all non-fiction.
I responded, "No. Never. I write about things in the here and now. I can’t make up stories and characters and plots… my brain just doesn't think that way."
I said this as a factual statement. At 32 years old, I had a pretty clear idea of who I was.
So you can imagine my surprise, when six months after I published my first book, an IDEA dropped from the sky. Out of nowhere.
A scene… for a fiction book.
I sat with this idea for six long months. It tapped into my consciousness daily, persistently whispering that it was more stubborn than me (and that says a lot). I stared back at it in horror, like a leprechaun had taken up residence on my shoulder.
What is this thing and what does it want from me?
I was petrified at the thought of writing something I had KNOWN my entire life I couldn't do.
Six months later, after my idea had refused to budge, I decided to give it a try. I set aside time every morning before work to start writing fiction - for the first time in my life.
And I'm pretty sure you know what I'm going to say next.
I didn't just like it - I absolutely, wholeheartedly, almost painfully, fell head-over-heals in love with it.
I am at the point where I can't imagine my life without it. Fiction. This idea. Which is now, after two years, a completed draft of my novel.
"I can't write fiction."
I lived with that notion my entire life.
You just never know.
SO in honor of all things "creative" and to possibly invoke a little inspiration for your own inner muse, I’d like to offer three gems of encouragement from one of my favorite books on the subject; Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic.
Liz writes that in order to be free to create, “You must possess a fierce sense of personal entitlement.”
Now, she’s not advising you be a demanding matriarch with a little bell to ring for service, but to believe in your right to be here and to have a voice and a dream of your own. It doesn’t mean we all get to quit our day jobs and move to LA and be famous (I’m pretty sure most of us don’t even want that, right?), but to do what makes us happy. To create an authentic life that will feed our truest selves. Even if THAT is your art - your life.
Make your life a work of art.
“You will never be able to create anything interesting out of your life if you don’t believe that you’re entitled to at least try.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
The famous poet David Whyte also discusses this in his speech on the “arrogance of belonging.” When looking it up I was met with countless blogs already discussing this idea. It seems to be a common theme among artists.
Liz clarifies, "The arrogance of belonging is not about egotism or self-absorption. In a strange way, it's the opposite; it is a divine force that will actually take you out of yourself and allow you to engage more fully with life. Because often what keeps you from creative living is your self-absorption (your self-doubt, your self-disgust, your self-judgement, your crushing sense of self-protection.)"
We all need to belong; it’s in our DNA. But in that need most of us become locked up and boxed up in the same constraining labels and standards in order to fit in. My brain says, “If I put this blog out, I set myself apart. I put myself on a pedestal for you to look at and judge.”
And that has always scared me.
But then I woke up one day (actually, I was walking the dog) and realized I didn’t want to do it anymore - hide behind a rock. I’m so much happier when I’m writing and sharing it with the world. And I get to do that, because I have a right to be creative and have fun with it. Even though it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. Even if I put myself out there for people to judge.
And here’s another thing -
People will judge, no matter how perfect or imperfect you are, so you might as well let them sit in their negative stew and go on being you. I can tell you, the stronger the personal issue someone has from pushing down their own creativity (or passion, or work, life choices, weight loss, etc.), the harder they’ll throw a tantrum as you proudly wave yours. I know—I’ve done it myself. Seeing people do what I wanted to do but wasn’t, was painful. They served as a reminder of who I wanted to be and who I needed to be, but was denying. So the judgment - it’s not personal. And it’s none of your business. Just tip your hat to them and move on.
2. Don’t be a TORTURED ARTIST – this one is my favorite.
In the movie Remember Me, Robert Pattinson plays a tortured young soul named Tyler. Brooding, sensitive, and aloof, he carries his tattered journal under his arm and often steals time away to write to his deceased brother. At one point in the movie, Robert's character quotes Mahatma Gandhi, saying, “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
When I first heard this, I kinda hated it. I mean - my ego was bruised! What? Everything I do will be insignificant?
Well actually, yeah... kinda.
Think of it like this – and this may sound dark but just bare with me.
One hundred years from now, will anyone know or care that I ever existed?
I find this thought endlessly freeing.
What stops us from doing most things? Fear. Imagine if you no longer let fear make your decisions, if you worked hard for something without the fear of rejection or judgment? Because at the end of the day, we all move on from this life and the world will keep spinning. Whether we were creative or not.
So the official lesson from Ms. Gilbert is this -
“The paradox that you need to comfortably inhabit, if you wish to live a contented creative life, goes something like this; 'My creative expression must be the most important thing in the world to me (if I am to live artistically), and it almost must not matter at all (if I am to live sanely).'"
If you find, like me, that the heavy shackles of fear are holding you down… you own the key to your freedom.
This is it:
“It matters./It doesn’t matter.”
Let go and create.
When you find something that you love - immerse yourself in it. Liz calls this “a stubborn gladness”. Set aside time for it, almost like an act of prayer. Make this a time just for you, a space of sacred devotion to your love, and don’t give it up for anything.
Not only will your work get better, but you’ll be happier. SO many times I’ve met people that have said, “I want to write a book.” So I ask, “Well, what’s stopping you?” Most don’t really have an answer. The biggest obstacle is often them. They are stopping themselves by not setting aside time to achieve this dream.
Make a space in your life for your endeavor – whatever that may be. Make as much or as little space as you can. And approach that time with a stubborn gladness.
I am a dental hygienist by day, writer by… early morning, lunch break at work, train commute to and from work, and weekends. It is a deep need that often becomes more ravenous the more I feed it. Maybe someday I’ll be lucky enough to write full-time, but until then, I will write in every blank space my day has to offer.
This is actually a huge point Liz Gilbert makes in her book. The art, almost like an entity on its own, wants to be created as much as you want to create it. You know the feeling… that nagging feeling that persists from deep within your gut. That shiver up your spine when it crosses your mind. That glorious yes! bubbling up from within. That is the art. And it’s your divine right to CREATE it. Listen to it.
I love my writing but it’s not always easy. Actually, sometimes it really sucks. I can’t tell you how many days I’ve spent in tears when writing the first draft of both my books. Because all first drafts are generally terrible. And it takes a lot of work (for me at least) to make them … not terrible. But now I am at the editing and cutting and “making things pretty” stage of my latest novel and I’m having a blast. Sometimes I’m awake before my alarm. Four o'clock in the morning and I’m wide awake, writing in my head, squeezing my eyes shut and willing myself to go back to sleep. That is the art. Demanding to be released.
I don’t complain. I get up and I work because I know, as soon as this book goes to my editor, I’ll be right back to square one again - staring at the dreaded BLANK PAGE. I suppose this is like life in general. If you’re lucky – you’ll outgrow yourself and will have to “start over” many times throughout the course of your days.
If you should ever stop, have pity dear friend, because that’s when the fire within you will have extinguished.
Don’t let it.
Your art - whatever it may be - is a beacon of your individuality. It is the only thing keeping this world beautiful - and your life unique. Don't hold back, and I promise I won't either.
The world waits for you.
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