Why Creating An Arts Practice is Good For You

For the past three years, I have taught a class called Art Journal Lab in Todos Santos. The goal of the class is to create a safe space for people to write and draw in their journal, and to offer coaching exercises & expressive arts therapy techniques. I try to keep the class open--so that students can explore what is relevant to them, but I also provide structure by bringing in a new theme every week. For the past 20 consecutive weeks, I have brought in a new theme and technique for every class. This certainly has challenged my creativity--always looking for something new and inspiring that could be helpful to my students.

One of the things I recommend to my students is to create their own arts practice. To create a ritualized, and regular activity that awakens their creative flow and engages them more deeply in their life. We have been working on this for the last few weeks. I have been encouraging them to take their time, to explore for a while until they come up with something that ignites their passion. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable pushing people to commit to something, as I believe that each person has their own unique style and pace, and that their commitment needs to come from them, and not necessarily from my recommendation. However, I do believe having an arts practice is a vital part of any creative person's life. I know for myself, when I committed to doing one year of daily blogging (words and image), it changed my life and my relationship to my creativity forever. It helped me to take my passion for creating more seriously, and myself less seriously. It helped me to develop my artistic voice. It helped me to believe in the work I do, and in myself. It helped lift me out of a low level, postpartum depression and into an inspired place of consistent creative flow.

I realized that if I want to encourage people to create their own arts practice that they would need to do know why it's important. Knowing the why of something is very motivating. Here is my "why":

Why do I believe in an arts practice?

Because it’s a structure built into our lives that challenges us to be creative. It helps remind us of the importance of process. It is a built in reminder that our engagement, and the way we engage, is what matters in life. So many of us are trained to overlook or rush the process so that we can get to the result—so we can get to the goodies that come from having a finished product—it can be sold or bought, shown, talked about, appreciated--it becomes proof of our value. I want to return us to valuing the experience of creating. We all could benefit from having a creative practice--it keeps us honest, fresh, child-like in nature. It invites us to keep playing, discovering, asking questions. The moment we give up on the process and instead focus on the result of what we are creating, we cease to be open and relaxed, we lose our sense of humor, our perfectionism takes over and the joy is lost. The good news is that our creativity is always there--it's a flow that can be dropped into whenever we want. We just need to build in a habit that allows us to show up for our creativity regularly--this helps us to let go of the preciousness of art-making. In those moments when we feel alive, and inspired, those are the moments that we want to hold onto. In those moments, we trust that the higher self is speaking for our greatest good--this is the moment we need to commit to an arts practice. Once it is scheduled into our life, we can also find a way to make ourselves accountable--asking a friend, making a public declaration, working with a creativity coach or a therapist.

I care about creativity because I believe that it, along with love, is the greatest human resource. It is the tool that allows us to make the best use of ourselves. Our creativity is a force that works through us. The universe is always creating itself, and we as humans, are the same. It’s just that most of the time we are so distracted by the mind, by the ego’s need to prove its existence, that we don’t always see how every moment is an opportunity to experience life. Nothing creative happens in a vacuum, our creativity is always building upon other experiences and creations. We are drawn to what we love, and what we love is a reflection of something very real in us that has its own driving force.

When we open up to our creativity, both in the personal sense—working through our stories, our conflicts, our dreams—and in the universal sense—working through our humanity, and that which connects us the universe —we engage a deeper reality that is not just of the mind, but includes the body, and soul as well. It is the engagement we are after—-not the end result—it's the experience of feeling our wholeness. The experience of love, newness, beginner’s mind, the experience of play, vulnerability, failure, risk, the experience of being in the mystery, of growth, the experience of our personal, family, or historical legend. We don’t all have to be Artists with a capital A, but we are all are artists in the sense of working with the materials we have, and moving towards that which we love, in how we solve both our daily and deepest problems. Through engaging the truth of who we are, we find art there available to us to help us through.

I recommend creating and committing to an arts practice that is weekly, or preferably daily, that is also do-able and realistic given the current parameters of your life. Try this and you will discover what it is to show up for yourself. Some days you will be inspired and it will be easy. Other days, you will feel like you are forcing yourself into your practice. The point is to keep practicing. It is good for your spirit--it will remind you that the point is not to produce something perfect, the point is to put yourself into your own creative flow and discover much more of who you are. It will humble you. It will keep you in beginner's mind. It will stretch and grow you. It will strengthen you and it will make you see that you are capable of much more than you ever imagined.