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Let's get creative!

I grew up thinking I wasn't a creative person. According to my mother, when I was born, my father walked into the room and completely ignored her. When my mother would talk about my birth it was always that story, "I knew my marriage was over that day." As a child I internalized that so much. I thought I ruined everything, and I went through my life collecting evidence of myself in that role.


I think it was elementary school when I really connected that feeling to art. I remember other children not wanting to sit by me in art class because they would feel bad about what they were drawing. I remember groans from everyone whenever a contest was announced, because if I was entering, they didn't even want to try. As a child who believed that I had some sort of crazy reverse Midas touch, those art class groans turned into, "I'm ruining my friendships by being good at art."


Eventually, I lost all but the most basic confidence in my ability. I thought that I was good at tweaking other people's ideas, but that I couldn't come up with my own. I remember freshman year of high school being selected to be in a special arts study hall and being called up to the teacher's desk to tell her my project idea for approval.


"A tarot card," I said.


"Oh, what kind of tarot card?"


"I was thinking the sun."


"But you could make any tarot card. You could design your own." I looked at my teacher like she had grown a second head. My own?


If my freshman self could see a bookstore now. But there I was, with a free hour and a half to create whatever I wanted, and all of the art department tools at my disposal...and I drew a poster of the Rider Waite sun card.





When the adult coloring book craze started in my 30's I hopped right on board. I thought this was everything my "uncreative, unoriginal" self had ever wanted. However, looking at all of those detailed drawings made me nervous to slap color on them. I felt they were finished works, and that I might ruin them.


I decided that the only way for me to actually relax and color, was if I was coloring my own art. I started drawing again after almost twenty years of barely being creative. I learned that drawing in permanent marker actually gave me a lot more confidence in my abilities, and helped me to figure out how to fix mistakes and keep going, instead of starting over.


I was nearly thwarted in any of my progress when an art gallery employee who knew an acquaintance decided to critique my work as "trendy". I sunk for a little while, thinking that I was, once again, just copying what everyone else was doing; that I was reverting back to my old mindset when I had thought I was moving forward.


Thankfully, I hung on past the doubt and started developing my own style, with my own subjects. I was creating the things I desperately wanted to see on store shelves. I was finding inspiration everywhere, taking hundreds of my own reference photos. Art was finally what it was supposed to be the whole time!


What changed?


I figured out that once I began implementing my own ideas, I had more ideas. Every time I fleshed out whatever crazy thing was in my head, I was helping to make the connection that these things were important and needed to be held onto. Instead of getting fleeting creative impulses, I was slowly gaining long-term focus. I was coming up with ideas for whole illustrations and patterns, entire projects, and even once, tarot cards.





The important thing to take away from this, is what trains your brain to be creative is creating. Starting to respond to your own ideas is what is going to make the magic happen. You don't become a dancer by beating yourself up over your moves. You become a dancer by dancing. You become a dancer with practice. As much as people want to throw art and creativity under this weird magic umbrella, it's the same concept. You become an artist with practice. You become creative by creating.


So how do you start creating? Let's troubleshoot some common blocks.


  • If you're feeling stuck, try taking a walk. Sometimes shaking up your surroundings is exactly what you need to shake up your creative juices.


  • If beginning with a blank page is hard for you, try a drawing prompt book, or Art Dice. Lorna Scobie even has a sketchbook series (365 Days of Art) with partially filled in pages so you rarely start off blank.


  • If you had a great idea, but now you forgot, try taking a photo of what inspires you, or jotting a note down in your phone in the moment.


  • If you feel weird about doing something creative (but you really want to), try finding people who are doing the same thing. Maybe join a daily drawing prompt on Instagram or take a class at a local museum. You will just be one person in a crowd instead of trying something out alone.


  • If you feel guilty for sitting down to play, try giving yourself a creative reward. "After I start the washer, I will paint until the load is done." Now you have done something you needed to do and set a time limit for when you will stop painting. This can be helpful to stop your brain from focusing on the rest of your to-do list.


  • If your brain is not getting the message that you want to be more creative, try using something like my habit tracker to give yourself a small reward every time you sit down to draw. You can even increase this message by buying yourself art supplies or a new book if you color in so many days.

color-in habit tracker
.pdf
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  • If you are still having trouble, having a regular place where you work can trigger creative impulses. I have my desk, and also a lap desk that I always use if I want to draw somewhere else in my home (like on my couch listening to true crime stories).

Pretty soon, you will feel completely comfortable calling yourself a creative, and have more ideas than you can ever work with.





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