Explore Your Creative Voice and Speak Up

I wrote this essay 2 years ago in the Spring of 2015 and published it on the medium.com website. The ideas in this essay are the foundational reasons why I started my Studio Notes in January 2016. I write weekly to inspire others to connect to their creativity and reap the benefits of an active creative practice in their lives.  After writing over 70 weekly Studio Notes, I find the ideas in this essay to still ring true for me and hopefully they do for you as well. 

Explore Your Creative Voice and Speak Up

Oak tree in our backyard one summer day 

Imagine your life if you follow your desire to speak up and create more. Ponder this for a minute. Imagine your day, every day, includes some form of creative self expression. Reading the title of this essay, you probably thought this was about singing or acting. Well, maybe, if that is what you are inspired to do. I am referring to any type of creative activity that lights you up. It could be spoken word poetry, singing the blues at an open mic, knitting intricate Norwegian mittens, cooking the best lasagna from your own recipe, sharing photographs on Instagram of your cat, sewing improvisational fabric art like me or creating a body of work for a solo show at an art gallery.

The point is not what you create particularly. It is how you feel when you are creating. This feeling of self expression and speaking from your unique creative voice is the good stuff of life. Creative expression helps us step out of time and enter the creative flow. Creative flow is a state of mind where you are focused on the act of creating with no distraction. I think of it as a creative meditation practice where you can clear your head and just be in the moment. Creative flow can be such a powerful thing that even witnessing someone else in the flow feels good. Most of our pop culture centers on others’ creativity; movies, theater, music, fashion, literature. Imagine our lives without these.

Imagine your life filled with your unique creativity.

So, how do we discover our creative voice? It is a journey, cliche, but true. You just try something that sparks your interest. Maybe you will be lucky and you will hit the bullseye on the first try. Maybe you knew when you were a child that you were going to be a photographer of mountains and forests. Most likely, you will stumble around trying different things as an experiment. Both approaches are valid. There is no contest for finding your creative voice first. There are no false starts. Finding out what you are not inspired to do is just as valid. Cross that off the list. The most important thing is to keep being curious.

“What if I try this?” should be your mantra.

Sometimes our creative expression is shared with others like acting in a local theater production, but sometimes it is just for ourselves, like journalling our deepest thoughts. Again, the point is not how you put your creation out into the world. It is how you feel when you are creating. Speaking your creative truth is a way of respecting yourself, being heard, even if it is only by yourself. Speak to one, speak to many. The first step is the courage to create. The rest will follow.

Unfortunately, we need to talk about shame. So many people feel they are not creative because________. Fill in the blank. Bull****. I know about this subject intimately. I thought for decades I could not be creative because I could not draw. Students in my fabric art workshops say things like “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” or “ My sister is the creative one in the family.”

I am not sure who is on the committee to say “Yes, you are creative or No, you are not creative.”

Was it art teachers in school? Is it our own perfectionism? Fear of not being able to enter a beginner’s mind to learn a new subject as an adult? Whatever the source, the solution is rather simple. Bring it out in the light of day. Speak this to yourself or share it. “I am afraid to ______.” Fill in the blank. For example…I am afraid to take this pottery class using the wheel because I don’t think I will be very good. Then just go do it.

Surround yourself with people who are curious also. If you take a class and are surrounded by “judgy” people, you will feel bad. Find another teacher that attracts positive people. Find other curious creatives to hang out with. Sometimes it feels good to share your creative journey with others. Sometimes you want to go solo. You get to decide.

Many creative pursuits demand that you spend time alone during your creative practice. Sometimes the “judgy” critic is you. Whatever you create may not be great at first. It most likely will not be great. But judging yourself will stop you in your tracks. Helpful critiquing can be good. Be curious. What does not work here? What would I do different next time? This stuff is helpful. Comparing yourself to professionals when you are a beginner and then wanting to give up is a bad idea. Think about the joy in the process. The creative flow is the bonus. Doing work, making art that speaks to you in the moment is the heart of the matter. We are not motivated by fame and glory or only to get our art into museums or have the number 1 song on the billboard charts. Yes, this may happen. But right now, we are just using our creative voice in our daily regular lives as a form of self expression. To speak up. To share our inner world, our inner visions.

How will you know if this is your one and true creative voice? You practice regularly. Start a habit of a creative practice. I cannot say this enough. Pick a frequency like 5 days a week or whatever. Pick a time like after breakfast. Pick a space like the guest bedroom will now be my studio. Keep learning about this area of creativity that lit a spark in your imagination. Research online, in your local library. Talk to people who may know anything about it. Teach yourself. Some people like to figure out things on their own. Some people like to learn in groups. Take a class. If you want to keep exploring, this is a good sign. If not, find something else that lights you up. Go explore.

So start your creative journey. Find your creative voice. Speak up. Enjoy the ride.

If this spurs you on to start your unique creative practice, let me know.