As this year (and decade, yikes!) comes to a close, I noticed that everyone is sharing lessons learned from 2019. . As artists/creatives, there are so many things we learn as we continue to create and lessons are good reflection points to start with.
I thought I would share my lessons learned as way to hold myself accountable for them and to let people know that they are not the only ones moving through life, learning, and one thing at a time. I wrote this initial list below in December of 2017 and thought I would share it again here since I received feedback from people who enjoyed it. Who knows, there may be some of the same things listed for you, synchronicity is never a bad sign!
1. Be present: With the national/political landscape and everything else screaming at us daily, there was days where I literally had to shut stuff down. I took mini-breaks from social media (which was ironically right at the time when people decided to tag me on everything on IG or Facebook, LOL!). I decided that constantly being “on” did not help me stay creative, a matter of fact, I turned to the studio more during these times. Also, when I was out, whether it was volunteering for a cause, spending time with a friend, or fully immersed in an experience, I found myself reducing my time checking the phone or not bringing my laptop to work with when traveling to visit people. You catch things in the moment and truly connect with people, which is needed these days.
2. Define What Success Is For You: There is society’s version or definition of “success” and there is yours. Many people boast on social media what society’s version of success is….fabulous trips, awards, speaking engagements, “exclusive” events, sharing about who “beat” their face, what designer clothes they have on. But I had to really take time to define what success was for me. And I realized that although I will always celebrate people’s wins either directly with high fives and you-go-girls or send light their way silently, a lot of that wasn’t my definition of success anymore. It was in small, tangible or intangible ways. Seeing people’s reactions and being able to discuss the art they created in a meaningful way after guiding an intuitive meditative painting class was success for me. Seeing a person who hasn’t drawn or painted in decades create over 100 pieces of art since the spring through my guidance is success for me. Trying new things creatively and other wise is success for me. The bottom line is, success is what you define it is, not what others or society does. Now I believe in reaching high goals and that often includes recognition, material things, etc. and we should strive to reach those goals because they can be important depending on your field. Just be sure that you are in alignment for what success is for you. And be clear, there are almost always sacrifices for any level of success that people may share: which may mean that they took compromises to appear that way including maxed out credit cards, bad or nonexistent personal relationships, or other “trades” so be mindful.
3. Be patient and take your time: It’s not a race. Don’t get caught up trying to rush or push things that energetically is not a good fit or the timing is off. Don’t let what others do make you feel you have to run like hell to catch up. Think through things…research, set pause, educate yourself, and take classes, whatever you need to do to get more information. It’s not about what other people may or may not be thinking, it is about what you want to create or offer the world. And having rushed myself way before time in other pursuits, I am taking my time for my new creative practice. And even though I want to go from 0 to 100, I know it will pay off in the long run to double check and slow down the pace that I normally roll at. If what you are doing is for the long run and is meant to be, it will be….and more.
4. Respect the Muse: I used to ignore my muse, my inner creative that says let’s get up and make this, or an idea for an art series. I would clean the house, go out and do something else….anything but create. That leads to blockages down the road. I believe the muse is an energetic spirit and if it comes to you, embrace it. If it takes a day or two do it, make it happen. Your creative work will thank you.
5. Self-care/spiritual grounding is important: This is probably one of the most important lessons I have learned….self-care in the form of morning pages, yoga and meditation has really helped me this year. It has grounded me on days that went sideways and when disappointments and confusion ruled the day. Spending time in nature has also grounded me in ways that are hard to explain. Find what works for you to help you stay connected to creative muse and your peace of mind.
6. Plans are often fluid- stay flexible: Things we plan for no matter how well we do, can get derailed. Staying flexible, and keep expectations light….things don’t always go perfectly…you might have cancel, postpone or re-design as needed.
7. Connect with new people and experiences: For over twelve years much of my networking and social interaction was at fine art exhibition openings, fairs, talks and related events. As I changed my interests and my business model, I found some of these events not feeding my inspiration or were not aligned with the person I was becoming. Some were beginning to be downright boring because I had seen a lot of the artwork before, I was among the same art crowd and not seeing or meeting anyone new. I decided to open myself up to new experiences and to interact with others in expansive creative circles. I started attending expressive arts conferences, podcast seminars and taking in more live musical and dance performances than ever before. I also participated in arts advocacy and education events which expanded my interest and knowledge of different areas of the arts community. I met new people and was exposed to new ideas and information. Shake up your world, widen it and explore other interests that fuel your creativity and understanding of the community at large. You will be surprised on what you learn but also new things that may inspire you to explore other areas of your creativity. For example, I started painting rocks (something that I considered serious fine artists never should do), creating a shell wind chime, decorating journals and creating manifestation boxes as part of my creative practice! I started including hiking as part of my fitness/self-care routine and not only have a better appreciation of nature but met some wonderful people I consider my friends in the process.
8. Only make high-vibration commitments: A few years ago I started working with Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map process, which includes really defining core desired feelings (CDFs)….more on how you want to feel instead of identifying a thing or achievement you want to receive. For me as a creative, focusing on how I want to feel was more important….you can receive and achieve a lot and still not feel satisfied or really much of anything about it. I found this really helped in making business decisions or major decisions that involved my time and resources. If the energy or vibe wasn’t right or if things showed up a certain way that did not honor my CDFs, I either postponed, cancelled or stopped the planning process altogether, said “no”, or just didn’t commit in some way. It has been a life saver for me in many of my decisions this year.
9. Unfollow/Disconnect what no longer resonates: We are responsible for much of the vibes we choose to take in daily, especially on social media. As the world and I have changed during the last three years, what and who inspires me and the messages they share also has changed. I decided that what inspired me and aligned with my values was more important to be reflected in my social media timelines than even some people who I considered friends were showing up as. Nothing against them, everyone has an audience to cater to, but I had to honor what was right for me and realize I was no longer a part of their audience/squad/fan club and started to focus on who inspired me to be who I am becoming. And vice versa….some people were not feeling how I was showing up and I had to give them permission to do the same. I decided that it was not a reflection of who people are negatively, its natural evolution and growth. Staying the same and dealing with things that no longer inspired or interested me just to get along was not serving me well. Growth and change continue to be.
10. Celebrate your wins no matter how big or small: Often we look to others to give us the kudos we need to keep going. Often, the reality is that may not happen. The people you want to receive high-fives from may be indifferent or could care less, may be self-absorbed in other issues, or don’t even realize how much the accomplishment may mean to you. The most important person to get kudos from is you….celebrate every win, no matter how big or small, whether by treating yourself to something special, an impromptu dance around your living room, or a loud squeal….give you the love you think you need from others to keep you going. Share it with the world despite what people may do or think….when you shower the love on yourself, others do take notice and will give it back to you.
11. Keep those who celebrate your creativity close and show appreciation for their support. Number 10 leads me to this lesson– celebrate and show appreciation to those who celebrate your creativity either as patrons, supporters, or compliments. These are the people who show up to your openings, participate in your events, and share their thoughts. They may not be the people you thought would show up or those you feel will validate your work, these are the people who are your squad, the folks who are watching and admiring your courage and talent. Don’t forget them during the holidays or to celebrate their wins when things go well for them. These are the people you need to keep close and honor at all costs.
12. Find a way to use your creativity for the greater good that works for you. A lot of social justice issues found national platforms this year and people were very vocal and active in addressing them. Some did marches, others demonstrations, and the creative community was one of the most visible this past year. Many people used their art and creativity in response to it, whether by participating in exhibitions or doing things independently. Others focused on immediate issues in their communities and used their creativity as appropriate. Many of us tried to explore ways to share our passions for causes that worked for us. There will always be someone who will say that the level you participate in these issues wasn’t enough….follow your intuition as to where, how and when to enter and share your creativity as form of healing or to support a cause. One size does not fit all, and everyone has situations which may allow for different levels of participation. Work with what you feel most comfortable but by all means don’t shy from sharing your creativity for the benefits of others.
13. Good things often come in unexpected ways and packages, stay alert. Sometimes an opportunity or a blessing comes in disguise rather than a trumpet announcing its entrance. The least suspecting person can provide break through and opportunities that others who you may think have the connections, cannot or depending on the circumstances, will not. Be open, observant, and kind to allow for magic to happen.
14. You are often more of an “influencer” than you realize. In social media especially, people throw that word around, she’s/he’s an influencer…they even put it in their bios to tell you so (just in case you didn’t know how important they really are). The media in general may bestow someone as a pop, fashion, music, whatever “influencer.” But I’m here to tell ya, you don’t need to be defined as and “influencer”…in fact that doesn’t make or break you as someone people can be inspired by. There are people who cannot imagine creating art for any reason, or wish they had the talent and courage to show their work publicly. There are others usually the least suspecting person who will let you know how much of a positive influence or inspiration you are to them. Don’t let “titles”, number of followers on social media or likes define your influence on other people…the most effective influencers are those who genuinely show up bravely to express who they are, without apology. I have found that many people are more attractive to authenticity and humility than anything else. And that includes you.
15. Your sensitivity and unique view of the world is a Superpower – Use it! Don’t get caught up in people who want to define your uniqueness as something wrong or needing to be “fixed”….use what some consider a “weakness” as a superpower. Many creatives are Highly Sensitive People and often criticized for that. Use it to identify the person in a crowded room that is most uncomfortable and connect with them, as a way to creativity express yourself about a social justice issue or to look beneath a problem behavior with someone that others have shrugged off. We can all leverage who we are to bring kindness, peace and love in this world…being defined as a “problem child” can block the healing for others you natural possess. Don’t buy it.
We enjoy art and creative activities for a number of reasons. Whether it is dancing, cooking, drawing, playing an instrument, we pursue these activities either as hobbies, professions or somewhere in between. Humans have an innate need for self-expression and exercising our creativity is a way to do just that. However, did you ever wonder if there was any specific health benefits of a creative practice?
Science does support the notion that creative activities is healthy and can benefit us in a number of ways. The article: What are the health benefits of being creative? in MedicalNewsToday.com, author Maria Cohaut identifies three major areas that creative activities helps us with – Mental Health, Improvement to Brain Functioning and Physical Benefits.
Mental Health – According to Cohaut, visual art such as drawing, painting or sculpture has been scientifically proven to help people with trauma. The author states that “in a comprehensive article on The Connection between Art, Healing, and Public Health, Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel say that "[a]rt helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer." She also adds that Stuckey and Nobel note that "[A]rtistic self-expression might contribute to maintenance or reconstruction of a positive identity."
Writing such as morning pages or a regular journaling practice also has mental health benefits. There are a number of studies that exist that support the positive impact of expressive writing which requires participants to “narrate an event and explain how it affected” in assisting people in overcoming trauma and managing negative emotions. “In much the same way as visual expression, this type of writing allows people to take negative situations that cannot be changed and integrate them into their life's story, creating meaning for events that left indelible marks — such as a medical diagnosis, a loved one's death, or a violent experience, “ states Cohaut.
I can share an example from my own life in regards to the power of expressive writing…this summer an idea came to me to create a chapbook of poems and prose I had been writing since early last year in response to a situation with someone I still hold very dear. The situation ended up being devastating, leaving me with a lot of confused emotions and feelings. Unlike other conflicts or endings, this one was very unique due to the history of my relationship with this person. Instead of closure, I found myself the feeling the effects of this more and more intensely, partly due to the fact that the individual in question refused to communicate about seeking resolution.
I found myself writing more and more and feeling more in control of my emotions. I did not see this coming into a formal “project” like a chapbook, but I became more enamored with writing and using words to convey my confusion in a systematic way. I started sharing a little of the poetry in open mics which received good responses. I also started writing more often….recalling scenes, words, emotions, like from a movie or play that left a profound effect on me. After sharing my thoughts with a few trusted friends, I was encouraged to write the material as collection of poems. In this way, I could get what I felt out on paper, share it with the world and take control of the narrative for closure for myself, whether or not the individual in question ever sees or acknowledges it.
Brain Power: It appears that music training, acting and writing (once again!) can provide benefits in the area of brain power. Research has shown that in the area of writing, actually writing with a pen a paper versus typing can enhance learning and memorization. It actually can help us learn at a faster rate as well.
Cohaut shared that a review published in 2014 ”suggests that individuals with musical training — such as those who learned how to play an instrument — have improved connectivity between the two hemispheres of their brains.”
Did you know that play acting can actually help improve psychological well-being if pursued on a regular basis? Cohaut shared that a study from 2004 “found that older individuals who were encouraged to participate in theater performances had improved psychological well-being after 4 weeks. They also exhibited better cognitive functioning. In particular, the participants experienced better word and listening recall, as well as improved problem-solving abilities.”
Physical Benefits: According to the author, the researchers Stuckey and Nobel stated that, "studies have shown that [...] individuals who have written about their own traumatic experiences exhibit statistically significant improvements in various measures of physical health, reductions in visits to physicians, and better immune system functioning.” Once again writing is a very effective method of reducing physical illness as well as mental health and enhanced brain functioning.
If you are like me, listening to music can put the mind at ease. And there is scientific proof of that ability. Cohaut shared that “music affects our brains in complex ways, stimulating the limbic system and moderating our response to stressful stimuli.” In addition, listening to music "may help to restore effective functioning in the immune system partly via the actions of the amygdala and hypothalamus." These brain regions are implicated in mood regulation and hormonal processes, as well as in the body's inflammatory response” according to researchers Stuckey and Nobel.
As we know, creative expression can also be very physical, such as dancing which has demonstrated benefits that can last a life time. Cohaut shared that a study focusing on breast cancer survivors found that dancing “helped to improve shoulder function in participants, and that it had a positive impact on their body image.” The ever popular Zumba dance based exercise routines have been shown in recent studies to improve blood pressure and triglyceride levels, “while previous studies linked aerobic dance with better weight management.”
As you consider keeping up with pursuing your chosen creative practice, remember that it cannot only serve as self-care, but it has many health benefits as well, supported by science.
Have you experienced health benefits from pursuing the arts or creative activities? Share in the comments below!
As a creative who is immersed with my own art making ventures it is important that I take the time to be clear on what I want, what matters and what doesn’t. Since we are on the cusp of spring, I am taking time to revisit my intentions and goals for my creative practice. I have found in the past when I did not take the time to “feel” my way into my intentions the grounding doesn’t happen and I end disappointed and a bit frazzled at the end of the year.
I talk a lot about the importance of setting some intentions and goals in relation to your creative practice. Today, I wanted to share a tool that I use to make sure that I keep on track with what I have set for the year, quarter, month or week. One of the methods I have been working for the last four years with is the Desire Mapping process, which helps identify the “feelings” you want to experience with all aspect of your life, rather than tangible, concrete resolutions or goals for any given year. As a creative individual, this process appeals to me because it allows me to look at major goals and opportunities based more on energy/vibes than a check mark for my resume. The Desire Mapping process focuses on “Core Desired Feelings” or CDFs that you identify after a fairly lengthy process which focuses on what you want to feel about all aspects of your life.. At the end of the year, I completed my CDFs for this year and much of what I decide to engage in or be informed by will be based on these CDFs.
I also use the Desire Map planner to review my progress toward my goals and make sure that my CDFs are in alignment with my plans for the week, month or quarter. The planners are very attractive and provides helpful quotes and prompts to guide you in making the best decisions that align with what you desire to feel.
What process do you use for setting intentions or goals? How do you track them? Do you use any special planners or guiding imagery or words to keep you on track? Please share in the comments.