THE NUMBER ONE QUESTION CREATIVES ASK: AM I AN ARTIST?
Creative hearts needs to be nurtured and it need supports. It needs support from others. Maybe you and your art received applause from your kindergarten teacher. You remember her smile and the gold star she pasted on your colourful drawing of mom, dad and the household pet. Or maybe your childhood drawings got promoted and nominated to hang on the family fridge.
But somewhere that support stopped. Sibblings would tease you about your skinny stick figures or the funny houses you would paint or you were told to stop making so much noise as you practiced playing on your flute.
Somewhere along the line our artist heart decides that it is less painful to stop creating than to face another glare or stab of rejection. You bolted up that part of your heart and posted the sign 'off limits' and got on with your life. Your free, creative spirit went to sleep.
In order for our young, fragile artist heart to grow we need acknowledgements for our attempt and efforts as well as our achievements and breakthroughs.
Some of you may never have had that encouragement and so your artist heart has never been acknowledged. Some of you may not even know that you are an artist.
The inner voice of creativity is persistent and will whisper to you as you fall asleep at night or in the silence of a forest during an afternoon hike.
It will nudge you, poke you and tickle you and you will try your best to ignore it and elegantly stuff it down with busy schedules and argue away its existence.
In Steven Pressfield’s book – The War of Art, he describes how most of us have two lives. The life we live and the unlived life within us.
Between the two stands resistance.
Maybe you have felt this resistance in your life. The chasm between the life you are living and the one you would love to live. There is a gap between feeling creative and actually living a creative life.
According to Steve this is especially true when we are in pursuit of any calling involving creativity… in writing, painting, music, film, dance or any creative art, however insignificant, small or ordinary.
There is a resistance between living with it and living without it.
So how do we fight this resistance and give your creativity the space it deserves? Coming alive as a creative can be extremely confronting, fearful, vulnerable and even painful!
And in order to cover up these emotions or deal with this resistance we have been very creative in inventing excuses.
What excuses have you made to convince yourself that your creative heart can’t and won’t get attention?
A big one I hear creatives say all the time: 'I don’t have TIME.'
As I grow older time seems to be more and more valuable to me.
I once worked as a researcher for a television series. In this series I interviewed couples about their relationships. One of the couple had an incurable disease and knew that they did not have long to live. When I asked them what they would do differently almost all said that they wished they had more time and that they had used there time more wisely. Time is a valuable commodity and you are in charge of it! What are you doing with your time?
Can I get really honest?
You have to own it! You own time it does not own you. You have to fight for your time. You have to fight to have the time to nurture your artist heart.
You can decide what you do with your time. People sometimes get uptight when I talk about this. They say that I should understand that they have kids, a busy schedule and that art won’t put food on the table.
But I think there is a difference between being a victim of your time and choosing to use your time deliberately and with intent, for example to dedicate time to raise your family or follow a certain vocation.
But make it deliberate, otherwise that very thing that is keeping you from being creative will create bitterness and resentment in your heart.
Determine that this may be the time to nurture your family or maybe care for an aging parent and that the season will come that you will nurture your art heart.
As a creative I was allergic to routine. I wanted life to surprise me at every turn. As thrilling as that may seem it takes a lot of energy.
Time slipped through my fingers and before I knew it I was toasting at another New Years Eve party. Where did the time? Where did the years go? I had a good look at my time. I thought I would give routine a try. I created a basic routine in my life and it worked. Instead of routine being stifling it actually gave me the freedom and energy I so treasured and I had time left over time to do the things I really wanted to do.
Research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to create a new habit! It does not come cheap.
A classic example of this is of parents struggling to teach their kids to brush their teeth. It takes lots bribing and begging before can do it on there own. As an adult you don’t think about it anymore. You just brush your teeth. It’s a good habit.
I get up at the same time every morning and I know what I am eating for breakfast, I don’t have to think about it! My body is use to it and I don’t even need an alarm clock. I just wake up.
Your creative heart is the same. It needs routine to grow. It needs to be nurtures and this will take time! Time that only you can give it.
What can you do to start to facilitate your creative dream?
Maybe getting up earlier or planning one hour a week. Or digging up your paints, saving for a potters wheel or taking a class. Maybe it is getting a sitter once a month so that you can draw, write or sing.
It will cost you. The price for this new creative life will be your old one!
I admit it is easier holding on to the familiar, even if the familiar is good, than stepping out on a limb and moving into the unknown.
I have met so many creative that want to do so many things and they find it hard to choose and focus. This is part of our creative nature, we see possibilities everywhere.
We love many things and suffer from have a serious case of what I call FOMOlitis… the fear of missing out.
We feel if we choose the one thing we will have no time to do the other.
But imagine you have 5 balls you can kick once. That ball will only go as far as that one kick. But if you had 1 ball that you can kick 5 x then your ball will go much further. Make a choice. Choose your one thing, your goal for this season and if this is to nurture your creative heart then go for it! You can’t do everything and in order to grow you have to make a choice.
What is the narrative in your head?
What are you telling yourself?
What are the thoughts keeping you from growing creatively?
Is it that you are not smart enough, bold enough, talented enough, educated enough, pretty enough, young enough. What not enough are you telling yourself….?
This narrative will keep that creative heart closed.
There were moments in my creative life that I felt that I was just not good enough.
I was facing too many technical problems in my work. I just could draw how I wanted, I could get the colours right and as I started compare myself to others. I was just so frustrated and my insecurities raised their ugly heads.
I threw away all my brushes and I had a season that I did not create and of course I was miserable and unhappy.
Maybe you have vowed never to be creative again. Maybe others have thought of you as not arty enough. They may say, 'But you are just a mom! How can you be an artist?'
The opinions of people start to overshadow our own thoughts about ourselves. It takes courage to stand again this and the expectations of people and follow your dreams.
A met a young lawyer at a conference where I was speaking. As I shared my artist story and the importance of the art in healing our world I caught a glimpse of her in the audience. She was nodding and I could see that my words were resonating.
She rushed over to see me at the end the session. She thanked me for validating the arts and that it had stirred something in her heart.
She went on tell me her story.
Her parents had urged her to attend law school and pursue a vocation as a lawyer. Although she loved her job and was helping many people, deep down she knew she was an artist. This left a creative chasm in her artist heart. During my talk she was inspired to give her artist heart more attention. Toward the end of the conversation her husband joined us and he lovingly put his arm around her and said. 'Did you know my wife is also an artist?' Her battle was half won. She had support and was well on her was to creative freedom. Now she only needed to utter these words! I am an artist!
Maybe you have always longed to be creative but have never had the opportunity or time to nurture your creativity.
Maybe you grew up in a home where art had no place or attended a school that had no art program.
Or maybe you lived in a country where art is not valued or encouraged.
Maybe you use to be creative but the challenges of life choked your creativity.
Or maybe you have spent time looking after others with little time left for yourself.
Many parents discourage their children from becoming artist or consider a career as an artist. Instead they are encouraged to become teachers, lawyers, or choose a sensible career.
Too intimidate to become artists themselves they neglect to recognize that they have an artistic dream and instead they then become a shadow artist. Shadow artists are found shadowing other established artists.
They are oblivious of their own identity; unable to recognize that they themselves process the creativity they so admire in others.
Shadow artist choose shadow careers.
Potential writers become lawyers, painters become teachers, dancers become therapists.
They hide in the shadows, afraid to step out and expose their dream.
It takes courage to say I am an artist.
Shadow artists are the worst critics, judging themselves for not pursuing their art dreams. They want to write, paint, draw but they are afraid to take themselves seriously. It is COURAGE not TALENT that makes one person an artist and the other a shadow artist,
Whatever your situation is…It is never too late. You are not too old, you are not too broke, you are not to broken. Embracing your creativity, or maybe even re-embracing your creativity will give you the strength and healing to emerge. Just like a seed… once it is planted and watered it will grow…it just can’t help itself…it is its nature… it can squeeze between the tiniest cracks in the paving, under rocks and stones.
I AM AN ARTIST
Piet Mondriaan, a dutch painter…you know the one famous for his painting with the red, yellow and blue squares grew up in Amersfoort, a Dutch city not far from where I live. His father was school teacher and he strongly encouraged his son the pursue the same profession. Although Piet completed his teaching studies, he knew one thing…He wanted to be an artist and left Amersfoort to study art in Amsterdam. He could often be found painting and drawing along the canals and rivers around Amsterdam. He decided to come out of the shadows and took action steps. We are not all able to head off to art school but we can decide to take little steps towards.
You may feel artistic but being called an artist seems out of reach. Maybe it is too abstract or you feel inadequate.
Maybe the real question is not …Am I an artist…but more… Will other people believe I am an artist?
What if you don’t get the affirmation? What if my paintings don't sell? Or what if don’t feel inspired or are having a rough day…. Are you still an artist?
The distance between being an artist and not being an artist is 30 cm / 12 inches for my American friends. It is the distance between your head and your heart.
Proverbs 23:7 hits the nail on the head:
'As a man thinks in his heart…so he is.'
Decide you are an artist and that you will do what it takes to nurture your artist heart. The resistance, I talked about earlier; the gap between the life you are living now and the life you want to live…. hates decisions.
With just one brushstroke you can turn this all around. With just one music note everything can change. There will be an before and an after. It is an act of our will. We make up our mind and we do it. Decide these three things:
Only one voice matters and that is your own, coming from deep down in your soul. I see it as the voice of the Creator whispering over you when you were made in His image. Your creativity is His breathe of life, which is your breathe of life and the fuel that moves you forward.
Your creative GIFT cannot be sold, traded off or given to somebody else.
Only you have your voice, your song, your sound, your colour, your little piece of God.
The dictionary describes an artist as someone who creates things with skill and imagination.
This starts with a decision. Develop your gifting, nurture your talents and take every opportunity to mature in your art. Embrace this journey of self-discovery as you grow from being artistic to becoming an artist.
PRACTICAL ACTIONABLE STEPS
What do you need in order to start your creative journey?
Because I want this blog to be as actionable as possible I have made a worksheet for you to download.
The questions will help you detect your creative blocks and barriers and the exercises will help release a new flow of creativity.
To access this worksheet go to www.sonjasmalheer.com/002
It’s time to take yourself serious. With gentle, deliberate effort start to nurture your artist heart today.
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