Hi, welcome to the third and final installment of the Hone Your Creativity at the End of the World series. I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one, folks. Extra sediment. Full-bodied. Creativity. (I’m actually just kidding about the scraping the bottom of the barrel part. Because there IS no bottom of the barrel, because creativity is unlimited. Ha!) Make sure to read Part One and Part Two of this series to get the full story!
12. Practice sharing your art with others
Depending on who you are and what your life’s been like so far, this may seem like a no-brainer, or actually terrify you. Maybe a little of both. Or maybe you think it’s beside the point — if the process is what matters, why should what I do with my art after it’s complete matter? Good question. I, specifically, am generally a very extroverted and attention-loving being, so please take my perspective with a grain of salt, but I think that sharing what you create can be a huge step toward increasing your creative potential. It’s not just extroverted people who desire and benefit from external validation (although we may be more inclined to actively seek it) — we all do. And the only way to get it is by showing other people what you’ve been working on. Nothing feels better than when someone whose opinion you value gives you positive feedback that shows that they understand and appreciate what you’ve created. Also, they may point out something you hadn’t recognized, or interpret something in a way you wouldn’t have expected, making you relate to your work in a new or more complex way, and opening up new pathways for creativity.
In our social-media-made world, sharing your art on the internet can seem daunting. Maybe you would feel like you’re just shouting into a void of influencers and robots who are all more talented and aesthetic-savvy than you. But maybe sharing your art on the internet could lead to authentic connections with people who get you, who like you, who are genuinely moved by what you’re doing, and want to see more. Or maybe a few likes could go a long way towards building up your self-esteem, which I wrote about in part one. Sharing your creations with the world is, if nothing else, an exercise in fearlessness, which is the key ingredient of creativity (did you notice how basically all the “tips” in part one and two were just variations on “don’t be afraid of ____”?
While sharing your work with others can be an overall rewarding experience, at times it can also be a crushing experience. People can be mean, insensitive, or simply unwilling to give you the time of day, and that can hurt, a lot. It’s a risk you choose to take. Also, especially if the subject matter of your work is very personal, sharing it can leave you feeling vulnerable and exposed, opening the door to a million anxieties. Part of the process is learning how to deal with those let-downs, and overcome those anxieties. The more you confront the uncomfortableness, the more comfortable it will feel. (On a good day.)
13. But keep your priorities straight.
Your relationship with your art is delicate and nuanced. You must protect it. Be careful that your relationship with sharing your art is not encroaching on your relationship with your art. I sometimes go through phases where I start writing a song, get excited about how great the song is coming along, stop working on the song in order to make a video and post about my *new song!* on social media, and then never even finish the song! I’m not proud of this. If you find that something like this happens to you, maybe it’s time to take a break, sort out your priorities, and move in the other direction. Challenge yourself to not share what you create. Try to show yourself that the unexamined life is in fact worth living.
14. Finish now or forever hold your piece.
There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of unfinished pieces — in fact, it can be a great sign of creativity, because it shows that you are really enjoying the process. But what I wanted to express here, is that when you make the choice to set something aside to finish later, make that choice knowing realistically how likely or unlikely that is to happen. (Or how much effort and willpower you’re actually able to devote to making that happen.) If you want that work to be finished, and be complete, finish it now. Tomorrow your idea might seem stale. It might no longer “spark joy” in you. Your edits might be disingenuous. Your sentiment, diluted. So, whenever you can, try to push through to the end. Or decide that the end is now. (Apocalypse reference not intended but greatly appreciated.) Learn how to accept that your work is complete as it is. Your song doesn’t need “one more verse,” or your drawing “a little more shading,” to express what it needs to express. Let it be.
15. Switch up your process.
Employing a diversity of approaches can be rewarding in ways you couldn’t imagine (until they happen to you!) If you always follow the same process, making some changes can potentially steer you in a different creative direction. Change your materials, change your work space, change the order of tasks. If you typically write the music first, and then find lyrics to go with it, try writing the lyrics first and then finding the music to with it. Find ways to get your brain to work in different ways. Having lots of approaches handy can be very helpful, because if one isn’t working, chances are another will.
16. Streamline your process.
After the wealth of experiences you have gained by switching up your process, you will have developed a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and can start to synthesize different approaches into one simplified process. You want to set things up (physically and mentally) so that when the time comes to create, going from an idea to a finished product is as smooth as possible. This past weekend at a slightly uncomfortable yet wholly heartwarming digital edition of an art sharing event (#justquarantinethings), I got to see a great example of this. One of the artists, Jacqueline Nicholas, shared some collages she had been working on, and then asked if we wanted to see how she makes them. She took us over to her work space, and over the course of the next thirty seconds or so, proceeded to put together another collage, while talking us through her process. She keeps a series of baggies ready, full of clippings from magazines, sorted into the following categories: figures, text, nature, things, and atmosphere. So when it’s time to create, all she needs to do is select a few items from a couple different categories, fit them together and voila. Having a tailored and streamlined process can make creating so easy.
17. La canción es lo más fácil
The idea for this series on creativity was born out of a project I’ve been working on for the last 89 days, where I write, produce, and record a song each day for 100 days. It’s been a wild ride, and has forced me to get up close and personal with understanding my creative process, limitations, the ups and downs, and the infinite possibilities (and the fact that they don’t always seem so infinite). All of these tips have come out of what’s been going on in my thoughts surrounding the experience of working on this project. Because of the nature of the project, quite a few of the songs to come out of it are songs about songwriting, or songs about creating in general. One of them La canción es lo más fácil (The song is the easiest thing) expresses an idea that I think is central to this whole endeavor. The creation within you already exists; it’s there, it’s natural, it’s easy. Easier than breathing. If you find that it’s difficult to write a song, it’s not the song’s fault, but rather, the 1,001 things that get in its way. Truly letting your creativity flow is about identifying and breaking down all of those things, stripping away everything that makes the song difficult and getting to a place where you can channel it through you just like breathing. Good luck!