Every year around this time, tons of articles and TV spots start appearing with all kinds of ideas on how to make your holiday home perfect. If blogs, magazines and television shows are to be believed, it takes nothing but a glue gun and "a little creativity" to transform your home and heck, even your life into a Rockwellian dream of sugarplum fairies and chestnuts roasting on open fires. I have to admit that I've always found the idea very appealing -- and there were many times in the past that I caught myself saying wistfully, "It's lovely, but I'm just not creative."
I'm just not creative.
I've sort of modified my thinking since then.
I remember the first time I started believing myself to be uncreative: I must have been about 10 or 11, and mentioned to my mother that I thought one day, I might want to be an architect.
"Oh honey," she said, "but you're not artistic. You're not creative. An architect has to be creative. But you're very good at math. You should do something with math."
My mother wasn't trying to be unkind -- it turns out she had data to back her thinking up. Several years later, when I was enrolled in engineering school (I was good at math, after all), my father gave me all my old report cards. One from first grade was particularly telling:
Karen is doing very well in reading and shows a talent for arithmetic, it read, but she shows no aptitude for art.
It's no wonder, then, that neither I nor my parents ever believed that I had a creative or artistic bone in my body; after all, we'd been conditioned not to believe this. So no one is more surprised than I am that I just recently released my first book, filled with my own photography, no less. I think my parents are a little bit stunned as well.
So what happened? Were my parents and my teacher just wrong?
Well, no. And yes.
In my case, my teacher had evaluated my ability to draw something as realistically as possible, and assessed that since I couldn't do it to his liking, I wasn't creative or artistic. On one hand, he was right -- I still can't draw a straight line, even with a ruler. But on the other hand, to defind artistic or creative ability so narrowly is simply myopic in nature.
I've come to believe that in fact, we're all creative beings, and we all have the power within us to create art. The trick, it turns out, is to avoid falling into the trap of believing that art or creativity is limited to the ability to take a pencil and a piece of paper and draw a realistic likeness of something that exists in real life. Art and creativity can, and should, mean so much more than this. Art should mean photography. Writing. Music. Cooking. Building. Needlework. Mechanics.
Creativity and art should be defined as the manner in which we are called to express ourselves, in ways that fill us with joy and grace.
In fact, I'll even take this one step further:
Not only do I believe that we are all creative and artistic, I think it is imperative that we each practice our creativity and art with a certain amount of discipline and regularity. This is not to say, understand, that I think we should all practice our art and creativity in a way that ensures other people see it or critique it -- I think an artistic practice can be a very personal, private undertaking, if that's what makes us comfortable. (For example, I do a lot of art journaling that I share with no one. Perhaps one day, after I'm gone, it will see the light of day). But I think it's important to form a creative practice, and experiment with as many different forms of creativity as we dare, because, and this is important:
Practicing our own ways of self-expression and creativity is how we become confident and secure in our Different. It is one path to owning our beauty.
This month, I want to share with you a conversation I had with my friend Ali Edwards, who makes her living as an artist. Together, we explored what "creativity" means, and here's what she had to say.
See? Ali agrees: creativity is not just about "high art."
And so, as we end this year, let's make a commitment to expand our minds and start viewing ourselves as creative beings -- even if we haven't found our artistic medium quite yet. To help this along, I invite you to join me in a creative exercise that is becoming a yearly ritual for me: the making of a vision board.
Vision boards are simply a visual way of making your intentions concrete, and some people swear by their magic. I don't know how magical they are, but I do love them far more than making annual New Year's resolutions: resolutions have a way of making you feel guilty if you don't accomplish them; however, vision boards are simply beautiful guideposts that help steer you in the direction you hope for yourself -- and for me, the results at the end of the year are often uncanny. The process of putting a vision board together can be an incredibly meditative and reflective time (and therefore a nice break from the end-of-year madness), and best of all, they're incredibly easy to make.
Here's all you'll need:
- some posterboard, or canvas board, or a large surface you feel comfortable gluing things on (nothing smaller than, say, 8x10 inches)
- rubber cement or glue
- a stack of old magazines and/or photographs
- if you participated a few months ago, your list of things that fill you with joy and grace
- some time set aside to daydream (a good hour ought to do it)
The first thing you're going to do is start paging through the magazines and photographs, cutting out or setting aside the ones that speak to you: the images that are reminiscent of your list of things that fill you with joy and grace, or things that you want for yourself in the coming year, or images that typify the kinds of creative activities that you'd like to try, or just words or passages that you find especially stirring. This is a gut thing -- don't think about what you feel "should" inspire you, just notice how you feel when you see the image, and if you get a nice little jolt of happiness or peace, cut it out and set it aside. This is not the time to edit yourself, or start trying to talk yourself out of things -- just create a lovely pile of images and words. (Maybe you even print out your list of things that bring you joy and grace, and cut each of them out, as well.)
Once you've gone through all the images and words, simply collage them onto your posterboard, using your glue. You might want to arrange them before you glue, or, even more intuitive, simply place them wherever it feels right, without thinking about placement so much. Again, whatever feels good.
And that's it -- once you've glued everything down, you've made a vision board! Place it somewhere where you can refer to it often -- up on a bulletin board, near your bedside table, in an unused file cabinet where you can open it up and glance at the vision board day.
As always, you can do this very privately, and share it with no one; however, if you'd like to share your work, I'd love if you'd share a photograph of your vision board in the Own Your Beauty Flickr Pool. And of course, if you blog about the process, I'd love if you share a link to your post below.
And with that, enjoy the rest of the year, and be sure to take some time during this busy season to take care of beautiful, creative you.