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Listen to Your Creative Voice

Well used artist paint brushes in a studio

If you’re alive, you’re a creative person.

-Elizabeth Gilbert

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

Gospel of Thomas

How do you bring forth what is within you? I think the answer lies in creativity–not perfect creations but daring, authentic creations. Like everyone, I have a great desire to create. It took me years to embrace this desire and take the risks necessary to express my creativity. Over the years I have channeled it into photography, learning to draw and paint, and lately into our new venture, Embrace Gallery. I wrote the following blog post in 2015 while on a quest to understand my desire to create. 

December 2015

…In my quest for an outlet for this creative desire, I discovered a book by Elizabeth Gilbert (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) entitled Big Magic. To Gilbert, big magic is inspiration and creativity. She believes that everyone is “inherently creative” and states, “The Universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.” Another important quote from her book, “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem solvers, and embellishers—these are our common ancestors.” 30,000 years before agriculture we were doing “frivolous” things like making art. This is part of what makes us human.

Reporting for The Times Higher Education, Rebecca Attwood wrote a summary of an address given by John Martin, the Director of University College London’s Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine, during the launch of Humanities Matter in 2011. Martin said that science encourages the idea that humans are “molecular machines” but the humanities help people become “true human beings.” He believes that cardiologists repair hearts “so that our patients can fulfill themselves by enjoying, art, literature and music.” Attwood explains the difference between art and science: “If Einstein had not written down E=mc2, another scientist would one day have done so, he claimed, but no one else could have written Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

If you haven’t been creating, you’re stifling a drive deep within you that could be brining you more joy than a Dunkin’ Donut and a spiced pumpkin latte! Creativity is what makes life interesting, it is what makes us interesting. So, why do so many people say that they aren’t creative?  Why did I have to research creativity to find a path to fulfillment? I think it is fear. When you create something, it is revealing a part of you to the world.

Brené Brown discussed living a wholehearted life in her book Daring Greatly. A wholehearted life involves truly being present and expressing who you are. I think this quote from Diane Ackerman explains wholehearted living: “I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” To live the width of life, you have to believe you are worth it and you have to be willing to feel vulnerable. Brown explains that vulnerability does not mean being weak, it means exposing yourself to uncertainty, risk and emotional pain. Vulnerability is actually courage and truth. Brown says, “To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation, that’s vulnerability.” I say that is showing up for life. 

I am not talking about quitting your job and becoming a starving artist. I am talking about getting a hobby to answer the human part of you that needs to create. It could be woodworking, gardening, painting, collecting, writing, baking, redecorating, dancing. Find something that interests you and pursue it. Don’t go into it with the goal of being great, go with the goal of expressing yourself and making your heart glad. For me it was learning to take pictures. When I started portrait photography, I had no idea what I was doing. Although I had been dabbling in photography for years, I had yet to focus on people. I did not like the studio portraits my friends were getting from the local photographers, so I started harassing my children by taking their pictures. They were awful (the pictures, not my babies) at first but I just kept on taking them. Through years of practice, reading, taking classes and watching videos about portrait  photography, I feel confident in my ability to take a very good portrait of anyone anywhere. Photography brings me joy and connects me with others.

If you don’t know what interests you, Gilbert says to start with what makes you curious. She says that “creative living is driven more strongly by curiosity than fear.” So go down some rabbit holes and see what happens.

I’ll leave you with a link to OneRepublic’s I lived: