It's Not What You Create, It's That You Create
By Kate Quinlan | Updated July 7, 2018
It's as important to recognize attributes that you must resist as it is to determine the behaviors to take with you on your personal creative adventure. Many will give the advice that it is essential to not be afraid of failure. They are right, but they are also oversimplifying the dilemma of feeling uncreative. It's easier to say don't be afraid than to figure out what to do with your fear. To act courageously is not to be without fear; rather, it is to go forward in spite of fear. That's the start of the adventure, taking that first step and daring to begin.
You must have the courage to begin anywhere, anytime. Better yet, you must dare to begin creating here and now. Dare to follow an unexpected direction, to take a side road that appears, to create the unforeseen. Dare to make the sky yellow. Dare to tear rather than cut the paper. Dare to photograph out of focus. Dare to put a bit of yourself into your work.
When you are creating, you are exploring what you see and feel, playing with ways to use materials and tools, combining what you discover, and creating something that didn't exist before. That takes some nerve! And it takes trial and error, and trying over again. But daring will take you to the discovery of new entities, visually, audibly, tactilely, and emotionally. In the process, you will learn great things about yourself, your vision, your heart, your endurance, perseverance, stamina, and your sense of joy.
If you never create anything that takes the art world by storm, wouldn't you still gain great things? Wouldn't you still benefit from the experience? You can't make mistakes, because there are none. So dare to begin. Think about it, talk about it, gather the materials. Pick up the brush, dab it in paint and make a mark. Now keep going. Keep trying, exploring, and daring. It will get you much further than being afraid of making a mistake.
You simply cannot be fully aware of all that your mind holds. You can't hear every message your brain sends. Many messages you act on automatically, many are pondered, and many are dismissed or ignored. It's easy when life gets too busy to miss some of the quieter messages, the zephyr of thought that is barely perceptible with all else that is going on. But those little whispered suggestions, echoed bits of self knowledge and kernels of wisdom you've filed away are the inklings, the keys to unlocking information and ideas that reside in the back of your mind. From these inklings emerge ideas from which you can create. They are the non-automatic, the less expected, the stuff from which you can generate the extraordinary.
You need to silence the pragmatic voice and listen carefully to the more fanciful, the less reasonable, the impish, obscure and outrageous. It is definitely there, even when seemingly silenced. Listen for the voice that has ideas. Honor your intuition. Quiet the boisterous brain that says, "We should do it like this!" Hear the timid whisper that says, "What if we tried it another way?" As you practice such listening, the voice of inkling will develop the courage to speak up more frequently. You will learn to hear it more clearly, and grow more appreciative of what it has to offer.
This is the quintessence of it all. You've planted the seeds, watered, fed, and eliminated the weeds. Your creativity must blossom. The clay hits the wheel, the chisel strikes the stone, the glass goes into the flame. The creation is created.
Planning to create, yearning for it, dreaming of it, collecting the materials for it these are the preparations to create. At some point, you must take the risk, listen to your intuition, get your hands dirty, make a mess, and create something. Create anything! All of the notions that get in your way, the intimidation, the expectations, the fear of not making the mark must be thwarted, and you must pick up the pencil and draw. Open your mouth and sing. Thread the needle and sew. Whatever it is you've wanted to do, you must get to the beginning of it and do it.
It won't be quick or easy. Life will interfere. Time and money will run short. At times you will be overwhelmed, frustrated, and discouraged. This is an integral part of the process. It makes you no less capable that you face adversity. But it does make you less productive if you don't forge ahead in spite of the adversity.
Creativity is instinctual; nevertheless it requires time, space, and commitment. Despairing that you cannot create is using energy that could be applied to creating something. Creating anything is better than perpetuating your own despair. Feeling "I'm just not very creative" is more likely an excuse for "I'm just not willing to do it."
When observing a piece of art work, we've all overheard someone say, "Sheez! I could have done that." My response is "Yes, you possibly could have done something like that!" But "could have" is not the point. The point is that someone did it! They took the time, gathered the materials, put their ego on the line, took a leap of faith and did it! We don't have to appreciate the creative efforts of everyone. But we do have to honor that the artist took steps in their personal creative journey, made their mark, and dared to display it. That's a whole lot more than saying, "I could have done that!" Doing it is the difference.
The reason to create artistically is to experience the process. What you create is not necessarily the objective. That you create is the profound proof of your process. You must feel the process physically and emotionally. Get your hands dirty. Feel your muscles ache. Watch the colors blend and contrast. Touch the textures you're creating. Write down and tweak and rewrite and revise and start over and try again. You want to experience getting lost in the work, totally engrossed in the task at hand.
Merriam Webster defines creativity as "to bring into existence something new." The crucial point is that creativity is not defined as the new thing produced; it is the act of bringing forth.
Do not procrastinate nor rush through the process, but savor it and tend to it with delight. If you've ever been told to hurry up and finish or to not make a mess, you will benefit by deleting those words from your memory. Linger. Thrash about. Daydream. Get things in a jumble. Be there in the Zen sense of living every moment. Mentally leave the everyday world and become oblivious to time and place. Be fully engaged. You will experience something new as it emerges before your eyes. And therein lies the bliss. Therein lies the frustration, and the excitement, and the tedium, and the gratification, and the joy. Feeling the diverse emotional range that is the process of your creating is confirmation of your being fully alive. Looking forward to the process can make you want to live a little longer and with greater satisfaction. Experiencing the creative process can get your endorphins flowing, uplift, heal, and energize you. Sharing your creativity will connect you to people and places you would not have known otherwise. The experience can expose qualities about yourself that you were previously unaware of. This is the payoff. Installation in a gallery is fantastic. Rave reviews, hundreds sold, reprints, and repeat commissions are exhilarating and perhaps profitable. But what you create is the simply the evidence. That you live the experience is the true reward.
By all means, celebrate your creative efforts! Set aside modesty and revel in a bit of self appreciation. Be pleased! Be proud! Show some excitement that you've created something! Hang your work on the living room wall. Wear your art when you're out and about. Say "Thank you! I made this!" Have an open house to show your work. Approach a gallery. Submit to a publisher. Toast your accomplishment. Giggle over it a bit. Pat yourself on the back and acknowledge a job well done. You have earned the privilege to indulge. Take pleasure in what you experienced and what you have to show for it. You resisted the intimidation, ignored the assumptions and implications. You kept your mind open and your hands busy. You dared to take the leap and enjoyed your journey. You created your own work. Congratulations are definitely in order!
It is imperative that we all discover and encourage our own creativity. We must be wary of that which becomes an obstacle and embolden that which will open the doors. Creativity is waiting to seep out, to flow, and to tumble forth in torrents. We are healthier and happier when we dare to act on our creativity, when we foster the creative ability within us and all around us! While nurturing our own creative instincts, by example we encourage the creative abilities of others. Much psychology can be explored as to why we lose our creative vitality. Imagine how wonderful if throughout our lives we were encouraged to pursue our ideas and enjoy our creative experience. All of us need to recognize and hold on to the truth that it's not what we create, it's that we create.
©2005 Kate Quinlan. All rights reserved.
This collection of insights for successful creating is based on Rick Benzel's anthology Inspiring Creativity: Powerful Insights and Practical Ideas to Guide You to Successful Creating and published with permission in collaboration with the following authors.