It’s been a little over a year since I published the first reading series installment about Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work. In that original post I committed to sharing the insights about being a writer and an artist that I gained from books. Over the past thirteen months, I’ve meandered a bit, writing about the false idol of publication, the sanctity of the every day, the power of words, the gender expectations I’m not going to live up to, and the way introversion influences worship style preference. Today we’re going to return to the spirit of the first reading series post and talk about the big idea of what being an artist looks like for me.
I read through Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet this summer and had to restrain myself from copying pretty much the whole book into my journal. Her words have a way of helping me see myself more clearly and live bravely through the hard parts of life. One line I did end up copying from Bittersweet was,
The world will survive without your art—but you might not.
This piece of wisdom has helped me structure my days and weeks as I figure out how to be not a student anymore. There has been a lot of trial and error experimentation as I learn how to prioritize tasks when deadlines aren’t as pressing as they used to be and figure out what I want to do with the months and years ahead of me. It’s easy to despair in this place I’m in: unemployed, living with my parents in rural Nebraska, hours away from the creative community I found at college. It’s easy to start believing that my creative aspirations are a waste of time; that I should just settle for an ordinary job instead of holding out for grad school and the opportunities it could open up for me.
But Shauna’s words remind me that art is important to my survival, so I have been trying to make it a priority in this weird in-between place. Here are a few practices I have been employing to nurture my creativity over the past months:
- #weeknightcreatives #midweeksabbath: A few weeks ago, I was reorganizing my Pinterest boards (because, yes, that’s what I prioritize) and realized I had a lot of crafty ideas pinned that were never going to get done unless I started dedicating time to them. I decided I should set aside an afternoon or evening each week to work on creative projects. A few days later, I was visiting my sister, and she said something similar, about how she wished she crafted more often. We decided to sync our schedules and have a creative night/sister night each week. Scheduling this into my week has been so refreshing. Of course there are nights when I am exhausted or too busy and just don’t want to put forth the effort of being creative. But I try to push through those feelings and make something, because I am learning that the act of creation makes me feel energized and generative and accomplished. It helps me connect with my spirit. This practice is shaping the way I think about creating; shifting my perception of it from a frivolous hobby to a crucial method of self-care.
- Made Vibrant Better Lettering Course: One day, when I was feeling altogether isolated from my college friends, I decided to finally join this e-course/Instagram community created by Caroline Kelso that I had been following for months. The e-course is a collection of resources to help participants improve their hand lettering skills, but the part that really appealed to me is the interaction on Instagram. I needed some accountability, some connection, and some ideas to get my creativity started. I also love the course’s focus of giving words extra dimension by connecting them with visual art.
- On Being and Magic Lessons: These two podcasts are nourishment for my creativity. On Being episodes are extended interviews about “the big questions of meaning,” often with a spiritual aspect. My favorite episodes have been about poetry (surprise!): Marie Howe on the poetry of ordinary time, Mary Oliver on listening to the world, and Walter Brueggemann on the prophetic imagination. Magic Lessons are conversations between Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic) and other creatives about the problems and solutions of artistic endeavors. Every episode (so far, I’ve only listened to four at this point) offers practical and philosophical advice on making.
- This blog: I treat this blog as I would a job or a school assignment: I make it a priority and give myself deadlines. It gets me writing and thinking consistently somewhere other than my journal. I use the reading series posts on this blog as an excuse to set aside at least a half hour every night to ignore text messages and dive into a story. It motivates me to keep turning the pages. Every post I write is an effort to work through ideas that are floating around my head, to decide what I think about a topic, to tell my truth.
What practices nurture your creativity? My routines are always changing, so I’d love some new ideas!