There's a lot of pressure on 20-somethings these days to discover your calling, define yourself or find your passion. We read blogs or hear speeches by creative types who are living the dream: they have that "spark" in their career, they're making something meaningful and they're loving it.
For many people, it can be both inspiring and scary because you know you'd like to do something creative or artistic but you just don't know what. When your days are filled with a lengthy commute, eight (or more) hours in the office and downtime on the couch, it can be easy to say, "artists are other people." But I believe we all have the ability to create something unique and special, and expressing this creative side can open the door to wondrous opportunities elsewhere in our lives too.
One of my favourite books about developing your own sense of creativity is called The Artist's Way. First published in 1992, author Julia Cameron leads readers on a "spiritual path to higher creativity" -- but what that really means is she helps you find your creative self. Here's how you can do it too:
It's not about giving up your job and becoming a starving artist. It's about incorporating small steps into your life that will lead you towards discovering your own creativity. When you're not sure where to start looking for your creative calling, Cameron suggests setting your alarm clock 30 minutes earlier and getting up to write "morning pages."
This is basically a brain dump; you write in a journal, stream-of-conscious style, for three pages. I have found that this practice clears my head of worries and issues that I would have carried with me during the day. By putting those worrisome thoughts on paper... I need to finish that presentation, I should call my parents more often, I want to lose 10lbs... you will free your mind to allow creative thoughts to flow in. Journaling has many benefits, and it's amazing what does come into your life once you make room for it to arrive.
Take yourself out on a weekly date. Once you get the hang of morning pages, the next step in The Artist's Way is the artist date. We often make plans with other people, and although being generous and charitable is a good thing, it's also beneficial to take some 'me time' as well. Once a week, go somewhere on your own that inspires you. It doesn't have to be somewhere grand; it could be going for a cappuccino, but instead of taking it to go, sit in the coffee shop and read. Or perhaps there's an exhibit on at a museum you'd love to see. The key here is to pick something that tugs at your heartstrings, that reminds you of what it was like to be young and curious, and that you do it just for you.
What you loved most as kids is probably what you'd love to try again. Most of us were creative as children; we would explore, discover, build and grow. Later, we tend to forgo playfulness in lieu of responsibility; adults focus on building security with careers that pay the bills. But what about nourishing our core - our soul - with the things that inspired us before? By using self-reflection as a tool to connect with the world around you, you can open your eyes to the wonder in everyday life and allow yourself the simple pleasure of being 'childish'. Pablo Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist; the problem is staying an artist when you grow up." Even Zen Buddhism stresses the importance of a 'child's mind' (or beginner's mind); there's just something pure and true about our earliest, childhood passions. One of the exercises in The Artist's Way is to write a list of 20 things you loved as a kid and beside each one add when you did it last. You will be shocked at how long it's been since you took part in some of the things that used to mean the world to you.
Trust that the universe wants you to be happy. A large part of The Artist's Way involves believing that there's a higher power in the world; Julia Cameron calls this the 'creator' but it's up to you to determine how you want to interpret this. I'm not a religious person but I am spiritual, and I do like the idea of everything being connected in life. I feel this most strongly when I wish for certain things to happen -- and they do! The book calls it 'synchronicity' -- but a lot of people call it fate. It's like finding yourself thinking about taking a poetry course, and the next day seeing a poster advertising one - and it takes place one block away from your office -- and starts tomorrow. In The Artist's Way, every page is full of inspirational quotes, and one of the lines that speaks to me is: "Dream, ask, believe, receive." It's amazing how much synchronicity comes into your life when you start believing in it. I believe it has a lot to do with momentum and the power of positive thought.
The Artist's Way doesn't seek to change you into someone new; it helps discover the creativity that already exists inside you. As advertising icon Leo Burnett said, "Curiosity about life...is the secret of great creative people." So let's make 2014 our most creative year yet!
How do you try to be more creative? Leave your comments below or tweet me @NatashaNKPR. I would love to read your experiences!