Another Path Towards Creativity

“We are who we think we are”

“There is no greater enemy in your life than your own thoughts”

These statements come from Buddhist Philosophy and I see them as some of the greatest truths.  Following this practice is very much to do with being aware of yourself, your thoughts and how they can be a good or a bad influence on your life.  The study and its practice teaches awareness, compassion and equanimity.

The statements are easily applicable to the need or search for Creativity. Having trouble with finding or being creative is rooted in, fear, distraction, lack of motivation, handicap of personal obligations and self-applied rules.  All these limitations and emotions are rooted in our own thoughts about ourselves and, therefore, how we live our lives.

You may not be inclined to explore further in this philosophy but I think the statements are indisputable.  Even if you look outside of yourself and find other reasons for your conclusions about your emotions and/or limitations, you still, at one time,  accepted those outside influences and made them part of your repertoire of thoughts, behavior and perception.

So, if you are convinced of the truth of these statements you have to accept your own self-imposed limitations and behaviors.  This is GOOD NEWS.  You know who is responsible and taking that responsibility is the first step to change!

Here are just a few suggestions:

Surround yourself in inspiration – a forest, a beach, a mountain, a garden, a religious service, a good book, a museum, study.   Find your place that positively feeds your senses.

Find and Feed your Passion. Read about it, visit centers, museums showing works of people who have succeeded in their passion. Examine, explore. Read biographies for inspiration.

Be around inspiring people.  If there is someone or maybe even more than one person who you find a drag or a negative influence to your life, reject and stay away from them.  If this does not seem possible to you, just realize their influence, personally reject it and plan for a future where you know you will not be influenced by them.  Find like-minded people and exchange ideas. Make this part of your mission.

Visualize how you will feel when you reach your goals.  This is part of the work of Becoming.

Do the Work.

Replace the rules you have set for yourself, your habits, your routine.  Reject procrastination as your worse enemy.

Write your own Mission Statement:  This is your step towards self-awareness.  Be as creative you can be about where you are and where you would prefer to be.  It may seem far out and challenging at first because your habitual thoughts, rules and self-limitations will try to sneak in and may tell you to be ‘reasonable’.  But take over, don’t be in the least bit ‘reasonable’ and allow yourself the freedom to dream.

Welcome Rejection

Turning rejection around and use it as an opportunity for growth

Once gain Jeremy Sutton writes:

“Embrace Every Problem as a Gift

Creativity starts with an inspiration. That inspiration can be an idea you have or a problem you face. Every idea presents a problem as well as an opportunity. Put another way, Inspiration = Problem + Opportunity. The problem, or challenge, is how to manifest and realize the idea. The opportunity is to engage in the process of exploring solutions and to bring something into existence that didn’t exist before. With this perspective you can now embrace every problem and challenge as a gift. Every problem is an opportunity for creativity.”

We learn more from failure than success.  If all we get is praise, how do we handle rejection and where do the opportunities for change or growth exist?

With failure, after digestion, comes the motivation to look at what we are doing from another perspective.  To explore other solutions to problem(s). It is a nudge to take a fresher look or create another perspective

The idea is not to feel defeated but to welcome critique and failure to question our complacency and look at things afresh.  Few of us do not ride on the coattails of our successes and keep repeating over and over again until Bam!!  From our inner voice or critic: “No, that’s enough, not anymore”. “You are quite capable of exploring something new.”

As a watercolor painter one of my goals is to work towards recognition by my peers and gain acceptance into a Watercolor Society Juried Exhibitions.  I have had my fair share of rejections and, after the initial disappointment and feeling of deflation, I take another look at my submission.  I nearly always try to look with a objectivity and more critical, fresher eye. 

I hardly ever redo a painting, but the experience of rejection always makes me try a little harder with a new painting in whatever area I have judged to be the reason for rejection.  It could be the color palette or the something in the composition.   It could be the subject matter and the submission is judged as being ho-hum and “Oh, not another view of the Bridge of Sighs”.  Sometimes I decide on several facets of a particular painting that could benefit a second approach.  But, for sure, the rejections have prompted me to look more critically, nudge complacency and offer an opportunity for growth.

The arts, sports, a sales career, college studies, even parenthood are all areas where  disappointment and rejection is a part of the experience.  I remember as a parent, consoling my son during an experience of rejection and reassuring him to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow.  We all have hurdles to jump and the more experience we have in jumping, the higher our poles and aims may go.  So welcome the challenge and never, ever take it personally.

It makes acceptance and success all the more rewarding.


Exploring Creativity

Erick Wahl writes…..

“The purpose of art is not to produce a product. The purpose of art is to produce thinking. The secret is not the mechanics or technical skill that create art – but the process of introspection and different levels of contemplation that generate it. Once you learn to embrace this process, your creative potential is limitless.

Artwork should be an active verb (a lens by which to view the world) not a passive noun (a painting that sits dormant in a museum). Creativity lies NOT in the done but in the doing. Art is active and incomplete. Always shifting, always becoming. Art is a sneak peak into the future of potential, of what could be. Not a past result of what has been already done. Art is a process not a product.

Art is a human act. Art is Risky. Generous. Courageous. Provocative. You can be perfect, or you can make art. You can keep track of what you will get in return for your effort, or you can make art. You can enjoy the status quo, or you can make art.

This is the purpose for why art should not be cut from education.

Erick obviously has some very narrow ideas about the definition of art.  He would have it that it is all in the process and gives no credibility to a product of that process.  I agree, if becoming more creative is the goal, then forgetting about the product and just ‘do it’ is certainly good advise.  So many ‘artists’ spend their time judging what art trends are, designated color of the year, what architects and designers are looking for, or checking out a juror’s art work to sway their style of painting.  

Historically, his claim was very evident in art schools of the 1960’s through 80’s.  Painting teachers were reluctant to lay down any rules and expected students to find their own means of expression.  The student needed to attend a design class to learn about standard guidelines.  The Painting teacher came from the Expressionist era where the goal was ‘autonomy’ between the painters’ more subjective feelings, heart/ soul in order to produce something with more spontaneity and ‘expression’.  The artists’ goal was more revelation than intention.  Those ideas still exist today, although there is more of an emphasis on content to express reality, or the artists view of their perceived reality, rather than it being just a vehicle for internal expression.  

As a student, on the first day of painting class, it was an exercise in frustration with a feeling similar to getting ready to jump in the deep end of a pool from a high diving platform.  We didn’t know anything about materials, paint, brush and surface characteristics, plus the added intimidation of being a freshman trying to deal with acceptance.  What a relief to have permission to set up a still life and the principle of just ‘blocking in’.  It got me in the pool.  Then we found out there was something called ‘critique’ at the end of every class. It helped to take a philosophy class in conjunction with art classes.  I think we earned our initiation.

As a teacher I have noticed how so many beginners are nervous to even start a painting, some even freeze up.  As if laying out their souls to the world or revealing something very personal.  I’ve seen how students can intimidate themselves.  The is probably what Wahl alludes to when he wrote about the idea of ‘perfection’  The student is afraid not to be perfect.  So, yes, I agree, the creative process is not about the product but a concentration on the enjoyment of the process and a degree of ‘introspection’ that brings success, ironically, in the end product.  Rather than a headache, the student experience becomes more aligned with meditation, with time just disappearing.

I don’t like Erik’s claim that all paintings in museums were not created in the pursuit of art.  Maybe we call them art works.  But, just like science, we need to know where we have been in order to move towards innovation.  What is the purpose of studying Art History if this were not true?

The truest statement he made:  Art should not be cut from Eduction.


Photo by Nandhu Kumar on

How do we define Creativity?  Is it a natural, innate or learned trait? Does it mean production of something new?  In the practice of making things and finding ways to get them to market?  What about the idea of being a creative thinker.  Thinking of the possibilities rather than allowing the handicaps to hinder.  Why something positive should happen rather than spending energy on why it shouldn’t.  I guess this is the difference between an optimism and a pessimism.  Can a pessimist be creative?  Does it need to be expressed in a product?  Or maybe it is just in the ideas.  Do the ideas need to be put into action or produced?  Is a poem a poem only when it is written down?  Certainly an idea for a novel cannot materialize until it is written.  But does it need to be published to be considered creative.  Is the word ‘Creative’ a noun, and adjective or a verb?  Is the process of a actually writing the book the creative endeavor?  

I like Jeremy Sutton’s definition:

It is All in Your Attitude

“What is this mysterious sought-after thing called “creativity” and how can we nurture it in our lives? Creativity is defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica as “the ability to make or otherwise bring into existence something new, whether a new solution to a problem, a new method or device, or a new artistic object or form.” The Merriam Webster’s Dictionary describes creativity as “a quality of making, or an ability to make, something original rather than copied.” Both definitions reflect originality and newness. Creativity can be looked at as the bringing together of an idea or problem (inspiration) with action that manifests the idea, resolves the problem and results in something that didn’t exist before. That is, Creativity = Inspiration + Action. Creativity can be applied in all aspects of your life, not just creating expressive art. When it boils down to it I see creativity as an attitude. It is all in your attitude how you respond to an inspiration or a challenge or an idea, and whether you transform potential into process and succeed in working through, resolving and manifesting your ideas. Are you called to action? It is the Creativity Attitude! that calls you to action that I wish to share with you here.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Jeremy.  It is all in the attitude and how we respond to life’s stimuli.  Nurturing creativity we have prioritized it in our lives.  Some people say, “One day I want to…”,  Others, “I have a plan which I will start as soon as……”…Still some will say, “I know what I am doing and, I may be taking some chances here, but here I go”.   Even others will say, “I’m just doing it and I don’t have a choice but to follow my instincts.”

I know many productive people… (maybe that is another aspect of creativity…surrounding yourself with other ‘creatives’ with whom you can share, motivate, inspire)  Who think of their expression of their Creativity as a job.  Most don’t necessarily get on the job at a specific time of the day, take regular breaks and work until dark.   I’ve known some who prefer the night hours liking the silence and stillness.  Nearly all of them, including me, have a dedicated space.  That is extremely important.  

Having to set up the materials of your Creativity every day can easily become an excuse not to get on with it.  Although that is probably where everyone starts – the kitchen or dining table while baby or kids sleep or at school.  The other side is to actually produce and that is where the equation would extend:

 Idea or Inspiration + Action = Creativity = Product.  

But I also think the mulling of the idea and/or inspiration as a creative process.  I am a painter and, when I travel, especially as a passenger, I constantly think about how I can interpret the scene in front of me, what colors do I see in nature. what colors would I use.  Unless I take a photograph, I rarely end up with a product of those thoughts and ideas, especially as they change with every few miles of travel.  But I believe I am thinking creatively.

So how can we actually choose to have a Creative Attitude.  I think it starts with the way we think about ourselves and how we fit into the world.  This produces our ‘self-image’.  Authors have written books about how Creativity can be learned and how their book will give all the answers.  A very creative marketing plea?  I am a bit skeptical of those claims.  I just don’t see that it can be prescribed.  I think, we face decisions every waking minute of our day and deciding to be creative is, in itself, a creative decision.

It probably helps to be given permission to be creative.  Not just to ourselves, but the people with whom we share our lives.  I am lucky that my husband gives me the freedom to explore my creativity and supports my efforts to expand creatively.  I guess, in that regard, we can think of Maslow’s Triangle with the necessities to sustain life at the very bottom of the triangle and self-actualization at the very peak.   

So is practicing creativity the same thing as Self-Actualization?  Or maybe creativity has nothing to do with reaching Self-Actualization?  Can those with only physiological needs be creative?  If so, from where do they get the inspiration?  So much to ponder and this subject is one of my favorites. Please join the conversation…