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Helen C. Read : Staying Creative During Difficult Times

Staying Creative During Difficult Times

By Helen C. Read

In a season when financial difficulties are breeding a sense of fear that seems to permeate our culture, the artist may well ask, "how can I continue to create and to grow and to sustain my creative spirit?" I suspect that many of us face this as we look at the reality of diminished sales, the practical need to pay bills, and the responsibility to provide for our dependants. It is easy to find ourselves being swept up by the dismal news and its paralyzing effects.

What can we do, as artists, to maintain a creative spirit and continue to create and grow in our craft? Many of us already have another income source, which must be prioritized. Many of us find ourselves with time at a premium because of the need to develop income from other venues. Nevertheless, the creative spirit within cannot be allowed to atrophy or to disappear; it is essential to how we have been created!

In these recent months of gloomy news, I have taken a few steps that have been essential to my artistic spirit. Perhaps they will be of help to others, as well. I have also found that the following order of steps is significant.

Commit. Recognize that one of the essential ingredients of my heart, spirit, and personality is creativity. Commit to honor that and cultivate it regardless of circumstances. This is a way that I honor my Creator, who is the very Author of Creativity.

Pray. Believing that God honors the creative spirit, I pray specifically for ideas, for possibilities, for energy to pursue them, for open doors. I love the answers! So often they are way beyond anything I could have dreamed up.

Brainstorm. I work with pencil and paper in hand. What are the wackiest ideas I can dream up? What are practical ideas? How can I experiment with old methods and ideas? Write everything down, no matter how ridiculous! I keep a journal just for this purpose. On the right side of the page spread I date and write my ideas — on the left side I date and write the ways I've put them into practice. Most of the time, one idea leads to another… the idea that really works may be several generations from the first inkling! I write it all down because great ideas have a way of slipping away!

Act. Prioritize and refine those ideas. Put 1 or 2 good ones into practice! See where they will go. Give it a try. What happens if it doesn't succeed? Try again from a different approach. This can sometimes be the most difficult step. This is where it either fails or succeeds…. Yet, to never try is certain failure! Georgia O'Keeffe is reported to have said, "You must never think you will fail." That seems like sound advice.

Then, continue the cycle! Recommit. Continue to pray. Keep thinking of new ideas. Don't stop trying!

Who knows what might be? None of us knows what the future might hold. However, we all have the choice of seeing the glass half-empty or half-full. For myself, I'm choosing to see the glass half-full, waiting for the other half to be filled with new ideas, new possibilities, new creative works that are waiting to take form. This attitude of "what might be" takes us much farther down the road of adventure and success than being stuck in the reality of "what is." Perhaps another word for this could be faith. As artists, we need this quality of spirit. But just as significantly, in this particular time, our culture needs this from us as well. •

© 2009, Helen C. Read

Helen Read graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in art in 1977, and received a Masters of Arts in Teaching from National Louis University in 2001. She currently lives in the midwest where she is an artist, writer, parent, and high school teacher. More »

1/13/09