Do you remember what you used to love doing when you were a child? When you were young and carefree, how did you occupy your copious amounts of play time?
For me it was always drawing. I would often be found sitting in front of the TV, copying my favourite characters from a freeze frame of a VHS cartoon video, or writing and drawing my own comic books (I wonder if I still have any of those).
When I was too young to draw realistically, my mum would sometimes draw the outline of some of my He-Man figures for me and I would spend hours colouring them in.
Creating drawings and paintings was something that brought me great joy as a child.
But at some point, or perhaps gradually throughout my childhood, art got put on the back-burner. In school there were authority figures telling me how to spend my time, and insisting that academic subjects were more important than art.
Over the years, this message sank in, along with the idea that “it’s impossible to make a living as an artist” and art was eventually well and truly relegated to a spare-time activity, only to be done when there was nothing more ‘important’ to do.
Does this sound familiar? Has your creativity been simmering on the back-burner for years (as mine had for the last 10 or more years)? Have you been slaving away at a job that you don’t even enjoy, all the while wishing you just had more time to create? Then now is the time to reclaim your creativity and get back to doing more of what you love (you can even get paid for the privilege!)
Getting Your Creativity Back
So you’ve acknowledged that you were once a creative child, and that creativity was a big source of joy in your life. And you’ve noticed that the creativity you once had has diminished, along with the joy it used to bring you. So how do you get it back?
Acknowledge the Importance of Creativity
Part of the reason your creativity has suffered is that throughout your life, you have been bombarded with the message that it is not important (or at least not as important as, say, science, history, maths etc.)
The first step in reclaiming your creativity is to realise that it is in fact vitally important.
Creativity gives us the means to express ourselves as individuals. It is an outlet through which we express who we really are.
Without creativity, there would be no culture, no art, no movies, books, or music. The world would be a very dull place.
As Ilse Turnbull says in Rousing Your Muse, “We are human, we need to express ourselves as much as we need the air we breathe.”
Make Time to Create
A lot of people (my past self included) use the excuse that they just don’t have time for creative pursuits. I don’t buy it.
The only way you don’t have enough time is if you are at work from the moment you get up until the moment you go to sleep (in which case you seriously need to reconsider your career choice.)
Ok, maybe you have kids that you need to cook dinner for, and household chores to do, but I believe that everyone could find at least half an hour a day to do something creative.
Instead of watching TV in the evening, do some sketching. You can even sketch people from the TV if you really can’t bear to turn it off.
Instead of checking what’s new on Facebook, write a plot outline for the book you’ve always wanted to write.
If you honestly look at how you waste a lot of your spare time, I’m sure you’ll find you have more of it than you think.
If you still think you don’t have time to be creative, maybe you should get up earlier.
Work Less Hours
If you’re really keen to spend more time being creative, you could think about reducing your working hours.
Take a look at your financial situation and figure out whether you could manage if you only worked four days a week. Imagine how much you could create if you had a whole extra day dedicated to it.
Obviously your employer would need to agree to this, but it’s definitely worth considering if you want to make a gradual transition into a creative career.
If you do start working less, you need to make sure you spend that time doing something creative. Don’t spend the day catching up on chores, or you will just get frustrated that you’re earning less and still not finding time for creativity.
Create Something Every Day
Whether or not you reduce your working hours, it’s important to get back into the habit of being creative.
I recommend doing something creative every day, no matter how small.
Even if you can’t spare an hour or two to do a painting, take ten minutes before you go to bed and just do a quick sketch. It will keep your right brain active and stop you from stagnating again.
Ignore the Naysayers
If you’ve read this far, I would guess that this article resonates with you, and at some point in your life you will have heard people telling you that art is not a realistic career choice, you can’t make any money from it, and you are better off with a ‘normal job’.
Don’t listen to these people!
They may have the best will in the world, they may be friends or family members who are just looking out for you and want you to have some security, but you need to ignore their warnings if you really want to reclaim your creativity.
Most of the people who make these claims are not artists, and don’t know any working artists. Of course it’s possible to make a living as an artist, there are countless people all over the world doing it right now (I spoke to 5 of them recently).
If you need more convincing, I strongly recommend reading Chris Guillebeau’s The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money.
Decide to be Creative
Above all, I would advise you not to be half-hearted about this. If it’s important to you, you need to decide what you’re going to do and stick to it. All the advice in the world won’t help you unless you make the decision to reclaim your creativity.
The important thing here is that YOU have to do the reclaiming. As Emilie Wapnick says in her inspirational article Starving Artist, Meet Web 2.0, nobody is going to suddenly give you permission to be an artist, you have to make that decision for yourself.
Do you have any advice about how you’ve reclaimed your creativity? Or are you still struggling with it? Let me know in the comments.