Release Your Inner Artist

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We are each of us born brimming with potential, creators in the making. But then something happens – at least for most of us it does. Somewhere between the childhood dreaming, and the adolescent wake-up call we make a decision. For each of us this will be the result of particular, often very painful circumstances, but the outcome will be the same. From that point on we will tell ourselves we are not good enough, and what we do is not good enough and that even if we toil until the crack of doom, it never will be good enough. We give up. Surrender, often before we have given ourselves half a chance. Somehow – through repeated expressions of contempt, denigration, ridicule, bemusement from peers and elders – we learn that it is dangerous to be too extraordinary, and that if we persist in following our dream we will end up alone, and worse still, hated.

At the same time, reinforcing our sense of uselessness, the dominant culture peddles the notion that geniuses are born, and that true talent is ‘natural’. In other words Beethoven’s symphonies, Shakespeare’s plays and Picasso’s Blue Period simply manifested themselves via the gifted hands and minds of said geniuses.

This model of spontaneous creation, artist as divine conduit, somewhat like spontaneous combustion, does not take into account the actual years of preparation that preceded the creation of these works.

To compound this whole misunderstanding of the creative process, there is then the popular belief that ‘inspiration’ is the be all and end all, when in fact it is only the starting point for any work. Added to this are the ideas that you must ‘wait for it’ and thus be someone ‘special’ to receive it at all. Yet in reality ideas do not happen in a vacuum. They  need triggers, and you need to actively invite those triggers otherwise it is indeed a self-fulfilling prophecy; do not engage and sure enough, nothing will come.

I have no idea whether or not geniuses are born rather than nurtured, but my own feeling is that the nurturing has an awful lot to do with it. We all have capacity to create something. We are all artists. What we go on to create, should we be determined enough to follow our inclinations, will be influenced by our experiences, past, present, conscious and subconscious, and by the encouragement, assistance and wisdom we may receive from considerate others.

Sometimes we are lucky to have long-lasting mentors who are generous enough to stand by, ready to open our eyes to new ways of looking and making; sometimes we have to do much of this work for ourselves.  In this sense, then, it is a quest, an honourable labour. The learning process can take a huge amount of time and dedication. It might take a lifetime. There are craft skills to learn and hone, stimuli to absorb and decipher. Most of all, there are failed attempts and mistakes to learn from.  But nothing in this process is ever wasted: every part informs another part, even if you are the only person who knows it is there.

The final onslaught that the dominant culture visits on the creative process is the commoditisation of art, judging it by its selling power. I include in this the idea of competition, and the presumption that it is in some way useful to judge one piece of well-crafted work against another piece of well-crafted work.  Of course it creates publicity, and boosts sales, but this is a distraction from what really matters – the work itself, and how it ‘speaks’ to people.

Creating art is a mediumistic pursuit not a commercial production. Our gut reactions, whether as creators or observers tell us the difference. It is about integrity, craftsmanship and telling the truth at some level. It is about doing the best we can. And we can all choose to take this path, and make of the journey what we will. The things we create are worth creating. So I say again, we are all artists. And if you don’t believe me, imagine yourself at life’s end when you still have hidden, and unrealised in your heart that story you longed to tell, the picture you did not finish, the film script lying in a box in the attic. How does this make you feel – not to have seen them through?

So what are you waiting for then? Set free the captive. Who knows what wonderful things will happen next.

copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

 

This post was inspired by Bill at Pinklightsabre and his poem Moon Song for Marz

Thank you, Bill Star

 

Related:

How I Write: telling the truth in fiction

74 thoughts on “Release Your Inner Artist

  1. The photo truly ‘epic’ as some might say here on the west coast. Lovely piece of work, and I’ll read again and again this week as a good reminder…needed this now, too! Good timing Tish. Thanks for sharing.

      1. Good analogy, as we changed our clocks here yesterday. I’m going to celebrate unemployment on this beautiful, pre-Spring Monday by getting in my car with a new CD and going somewhere, not sure where, but will have my pen and a book handy. Rock on Tish.

  2. So chock-full of truth and said so well! These are important things to hear for those who wish to live a life with creativity. Thanks for the post!

  3. Tish, I think I have an answer partly to what goes wrong. It is education. Our parents, nannies start teaching us words that have no meaning to us then proceed to tell us don’t do this or that when we have not developed the faculty of judgement and as we grow up, we become slavish, doing only what we have been told to do and never learning our greatest potential.
    Great post

    1. Yes, Noel, there’s a lot in what you say. Many parents also try to protect their children from disappointment – so instead of saying ‘try’, find ways to dissuade them, fearful of the pain of failure. As I child, and into adolescence I wanted to be a dancer, but my mother endlessly persuaded me that I would be too tall. I believed her.

      1. Sometimes I try to go back to my childhood and the few things I remember that they should not have done was to spank me for playing too much, I still ended up doing the same thing. But in general I think they did a good job bringing me up

  4. Excellent post, well expressed, Tish. These days, I am always trying to improve my photographic skills and push myself. I had to smile when I was told that I am too hard on myself! We have to make mistakes to learn but not get discouraged….

    1. That’s a fine balance between learning from mistakes and not being discouraged. The pushing is needed though, but yes, you need to be kind to yourself too, and be pleased with all the good work you have done along the way.

  5. Excellent post Tish. We all need that push to open up our potential, it is hard to get started, always saying “I can’t” instead of trying. As the ad says “Just do it”….

  6. Tish this morning as I was just writing like a mad person as some silly thing jumped into my head I thought this is how I wish writing could feel all the time. No restrictions like grammar and headings, just flowing freely. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Finding one’s flow – that is a blessed state, Sue. Writing like that as a daily practise for 10 mins or so is recommended by some writers. As you say, it frees things up. Also things can rise from the subconscious when you’re not making yourself follow rules.

  7. Hello Tish,
    I’ve re-read this many times since your first posted it. It really struck a chord in me, and I’m sure many others feel the same way. Thank you much.
    Best wishes,
    Takami

  8. So well said, Tish. I love the fact that I’ve been able to make more time available for artistic pursuits lately…even if nothing spectacular comes out at the end, at least I have enjoyed the creative process 🙂 We are all artists – amen to that!

    1. Showing up it the creative space is what counts. Intention. One thing I didn’t mention in the post is how long it can take to make something. That’s another thing the media misleads us on – the new book out at set 12 monthly intervals regime. Hugo took over 20 years to write Les Miserables. It clearly did not emerge in the white heat of creation then. Little by little is how things get crafted. But then you KNOW that, Tiny. 🙂

  9. An excellent post. I’m spurred on by Picasso’s quote ‘Inspiration comes, but it has to find you working’. ‘Working’ means just doing something – and that really does ‘work’! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Absolutely. Sometimes it is simply a matter of asking oneself questions, preferably out loud. Also to be on the look out – a bit like a scavenger. Much of my own fiction began with newspaper stories that caught my fancy. Then you start interrogating them…

  10. Wonderful words of challenge and encouragement, Tish. And so expertly written. I hear echos of so many things I’ve tried to share with students in my creative writing classes and online – trying to help them see that it doesn’t take a major production to create something beautiful and meaningful. I tell writers that they must come to the realization the once they have written even one sentence out of their own hearts, then they have created something that NEVER BEFORE EXISTED. The same is true of the tiniest ink sketch, a lilting chorus, or a small personal garden spot. Recognizing that we are creating something that exists only because we released it out of ourselves is such a powerful truth and can set us free from so much that is negative in life. Thank you for these mighty words of encouragement and empowerment. Hopefully many, many people will take them to heart. I MUST re-blog this on my own site.

    Now for a request: Would you be willing for me to make some copies (with all due copyright credits, of course,) and share this article with my creative writing students in my next class? If you prefer that I don’t, I will understand, but I felt it wouldn’t hurt to ask.

    1. Sandra, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. I do so admire the way you are passing on such life-enhancing wisdom to your students. By all means make copies of my post. As long as I have a credit, I don’t mind at all. And thank you for asking. I am only too pleased that you feel my words hit the mark. I know from my own experience, one can waste so much creative time labouring under misconceptions, and not actually doing ANYTHING at all. In fact I’m just concocting a post on this topic. All the best. T

  11. I know it’s a cliche expression, but I love your post. It speaks to my heart, particularly on Mondays.
    Having been successful as a global executive for many years, and having decided to change path, it’s not something that some people in my environment take lightly.
    They don’t miss any opportunity to ask me how do I feel by not ‘doing’ anymore what they do, implying that there isn’t anything else worthier to live for; and reinforcing what you called the “sense of uselessness”.
    I saw more unhappy people in corporate life than I had expected, exactly because they gave up passions and kept looking for their hidden ‘talent’, never daring though to ‘free the captive’ and leave the (perceived) comfort of what they were doing.
    Thank you so much Tish. It was an enlightening way to start my week. Have a good one.

  12. Very powerful words. The statement thatwe learn that it is dangerous to be extraordinary really resonated with me. How sad that often our upbringing creates a need to fit it rather than stand out.

    This was a wonderful reminder to nurture what’s in our hearts 🙂

  13. Wow ! – some post ! Suzy Su, my Kiwi mate, referred her readers on to this, and how right she was to do so …
    I agree 100%. It’s the nurturing: the way in which we were encouraged or not; how we were bent into the ‘normal’ shape or not; to what degree our parents wanted us to conform.
    I was the 4th of 5 daughters, and had been told constantly how brilliant were my two oldest sisters (and, much later, my little sister). I and no. 3 were, apparently, ‘different’. On the other hand, no-one minded that I followed my own path in all things: I believe that it was being one of a group that drove me to do it.
    Bloody marvellous bit of thinking and writing – complimenti !!

    1. Phew, Margaret, you hit a few nails on heads there. Good on you for following your own path. I can imagine (at least a little) how hard it must have been to have your identity squashed between more brilliant older sisters and one little sister. My own younger sister had a bad enough time playing second fiddle to me, while I was quite unaware how people (especially teachers) compared her unfavourably to me while not noticing her own gifts. When you think of it, it’s a terrible thing to do to any child. And I know the idea was often to shame said child into pulling up its socks. The things we have to learn to grow out of 🙂

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