Monday, March 4, 2013

Permission to Creatively Express Yourself

Back in early November I decided to take on a small part time job, working a few hours each week at a home decorating store. I greet and assist customers who are looking to accessorize their homes, whether it be a new vase along with something to put in it, some accent pillows for their couch, some candles for the mantle... you get the drift. I am continually surprised by the number of folks who ask me to tell them what they should pick to display in their home, as they are too intimidated and afraid of doing something "wrong". And when they do have some idea of what they may want, they then ask for my permission, wanting validation that it's ok to go ahead. They would rather trust the input of a complete stranger, (me) then trust their own inner guidance. While I am happy to help, it makes me sad to find so many adults disconnected from their own personal self-expression.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised. I am well aware that somewhere along our formative years, too many children get the message that their ideas aren't good enough. That their "mistakes" void their successes. Teenage years hammer home the importance of conformity, (even when it is disguised as nonconformity). It's no wonder that we continually produce grown-ups who can't even display a group of candlesticks without a small panic attack.

The act of allowing yourself to tap into the vein of creativity, (which runs through all of us) and to trust where it will take you, is essential for the well being and growth of a healthy society. Without it the Wright Brothers would have never gotten in the air, Jonas Salk would not have found the cure for polio, and Georgia O'Keeffe never would have had what it must have taken to move away from NewYork and the power of Stieglitz, out to the barren terrain and big sky of New Mexico, painting in a way that no one else had ever done before.

This is what I wish I could convey about expressing yourself and creativity...

You have the right to decide what you like and don't like, even if it is not the popular choice at the moment. (Remember, the popular choice is a fickle thing... what is in today will be out tomorrow because it is manufactured that way by an industry that wants to keep you buying, whether it be home goods, fashion, kitchen cabinetry, etc., etc.) So pay attention to what attracts you. Don't get hung up on having all your likes fit neatly into the same category... I like the look of worn and weathered as well as streamlined Mid Century. Remember, God created a diverse world. It's okay for you to have diverse tastes. (Pinterest is a great tool for collecting and organizing diverse image collections of things that you are pulled to).

Despite what you have been led to believe, there is no right and wrong when it comes to creativity. You have a right to play and experiment. It is the only authentic way to get from point A to point B. And remember, your creative path will be different from my path, and her path, and his path, because it will be your path. Just like your fingerprint is uniquely yours, so should your path be.

While traveling your path expect to stumble and fall sometimes, as well as travel in the dark at times. Do it without fear, and it will strengthen all of your senses and instincts. Before you know it, you will be more sure of foot and confident in your creative ability and decisions.

Be careful of who you listen to and whose creative advice you seek. Some people are creatively toxic, (intentionally or not) and sadly, not everyone has your best interest at heart. Absolutely learn from those that you respect, but pay attention to your gut. Take what feels right and dismiss the rest. Just because it's right for one or some, doesn't mean it's right for you or everyone. Again, this is all about forging your path, not blindly walking the paths others have forged, (no matter how attractive or appealing they may seem. Remember... all paths start out with some rough bumps and thick undergrowth).

Embrace day dreaming. Despite what they told you in school, it is not a waste of time. Day dreaming strengthens your imagination. Close your eyes, or stare out the window, and inwardly focus on something you would like to work on. Let your mind wander and allow images and thoughts to come to you. If an idea pops up that seems worthy of further examination, delve deeper into it. Let more thoughts and images come to you. Jot down notes and doodle if you need help remembering. Then try out those ideas. Some will work, others won't. That is just how it is. Embrace what works, learn from what doesn't.

That's how you grow creatively. That's how you find and strengthen your voice. That's how you put your fingerprint on this world, because no matter how large or how small,
it has a right to be there.

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Thanks for indulging me and my soapbox. I'll be back next post with some photos of new work. xo

33 comments:

Annie said...

What fantastic advice!!! We need to spread the word, and you have done it so well here. I too get sad to hear people say "I'm not creative" it just shows that they're not willing to step out of that comfort zone, and speaks volumes. Great post!

Sandy said...

Well said! You are so right! We should decorate with things we love and then love the look. Thanks.

Rumi said...

Thanks for sharing your observations. You are absolutely right - many people want to know it something is modern before put it at their homes. I am wandering why I need someone's approval if it is my home.

Brenda said...

thanks for the thoughtful post. I've also found that adults don't trust themselves either in the creative process, while children absolutely do. I've made several group quilts, and adults are the hardest participants to work with,because they often don't believe they can do it. Children just do it.

Sara said...

True to the heart what you have said here! Everyone has a creative side---some REALLY don't understand that do they?! Very sad to know,but people like you or I can definitely let them know it!

mjb said...

Thank you for these words. So so good.

pklaw said...

Thank you for your excellent observation and advice! Today I am inspired not only by your work but by your words as well!

Esch House Quilts said...

Well said, Victoria!

kathrynclark said...

Oh so true! What shocks me is I see my daughter's fellow students already 'losing' that creative confidence, and they're only eight! At a recent parent conference, the teacher was concerned that our daughter seemed to spend a lot of time trying to come up with a different solution to a problem than the rest of the kids. I'm working hard to make sure she doesn't lose that ability. Sad to think that is pushed aside .. and this is a creative school!

Bri said...

A very lovely and well said post.

Marg M said...

that was lovely, thank you

Michelle Engel Bencsko said...

I am always perplexed when someone asks my advice for a creative decision. I can share with you what I like, but I can't tell you if what I like will be what you can live with. If you think you like what I like, then you know what you like!

My 5yo is a big time daydreamer and he's filled with a vivid imagination - much to his teacher's dismay. He'll go all day left to his own devises. As such, we've had to tell him that it's not OK to daydream in school when the teacher tells you she needs something done by a certain time. It's also not OK to daydream when Mum-Mum is waiting at the door with your coat in hand. But it is VERY OK to daydream on your own time. I encourage it. I love daydreaming myself and allow myself those moments during my day, because really, it's productive for me. When I catch him "spacing out" I whisper "are you having a nice dream?" and he smiles with his eyes locked on some imaginary prize and whispers back "yes". I wish I could peek inside.

La Antigua said...

Great post, Victoria.

CitricSugar said...

I worked for years in a home decor and gift store. Most people don't have a clue or the confidence and they're hoping for you to be the expert. One of my big things was asking them when they were putting things together if THEY liked something, especially when they've just asked me. I kept telling them that if they didn't like it now, they were not going to like it when they got it home. Or if they were unsure, they could return it and do that a hundred times to make certain they were happy before they committed to it. Oddly, telling people not to buy things made me good at sales (building trust and customer relationships...) But it was tough hearing them say again and again, "I just don't know how to do make things nice." I often felt I was more like a coach for some of them but if they left with a little more confidence, I considered it a win.

Now, I teach high school and hear, "I just don't know how to be creative..." :-) Baby steps.

Nifty Quilts said...

So very well said! Thank you! As you said, the willingness to fall is so essential to creative growth. OK, I'm off to my sewing room right now!

Gina said...

An excellent thought provoking post with great advice for us all!

Corrine at sparkledaysstudio.com said...

Lovely post about telling your own story, critics and hacks be danged. xox

Kim said...

My sister is an interior designer, a very good one and she echo's what you have said. People don't trust themselves to do it "right". While it does keep her in business she is saddened by peoples fear of trying what pleases them. She can pick out every color, every bit of furniture right down to the pictures in the room and it makes her customers happy. they don't voice any opinion other than...just make it look good.

Creativity is so much a part of me and my home, it please me and that is what matters :0).

Nicely said Victoria, I agree 100%.

Happy Sewing

Taos Sunflower said...

Beautifully said. Thank you.

MariQuilts said...

So well said, Victoria.

Anna said...

I really enjoyed reading your post, the key is having the confidence and freedom to be oneself - a great joy.

Sujata Shah said...

Hi Victoria,
Such a lovely post. So well said!

Karen said...

Thanks so much for these words. I see this lack of confidence all over my world. It pains me that people cannot choose what they like as they don't know what that is!

I have been obsessing lately about my two children as I raised them to be creative individuals but they are not successful as the world views it. I have been worrying that I should have not dropped out of the working world and that they would have been more "successful". I can now realize that they are creative, centered, have many wonderful friendships and that is OK and they don't have to be making lots of money! Thanks--I needed that.

patty a. said...

Great post! It hits close to home right now as I am putting the bathroom together. When people ask me about it and I tell them of my plans sometimes they look at me as if I must have fallen down and smacked my head! I am sticking with my plan! I think I will print your post off and re-read it often to remind myself that it is ok to be me.

libbyquilter said...

a very good post and i think even those of us who are creative and brave in their expression of themselves sometimes need a pep talk.

i'm looking forward to seeing your new work.

:-)
libbyQ

Jackie said...

I love this post. It says it all. Especially the day dreaming!
Great advice. I must admit I do need affirmation form others though sometimes. I need to feel I'm touching others with my work so its as well to check, but I also feel the need to follow my own path.
Your work is uniquely your own and obviously born of the sentiments you express here.
Thanks you.

JB said...

I am going to encourage my students to read this post. If fear of failure prevents any attmpts then you have already failed. Why oh why do we need the approval of others to like something. Fashion...is a fickle thing and ever changing. The longer you live the cycles become obvious.

Esther said...

Great soapbox speech! thank you!!!
Art teacher Esther
ipatchandquilt.wordpress.com

Rachaeldaisy said...

Thank you for an inspiring and encouraging post.

Margo said...

Astonishing insight! But it's true that even though I consider myself a creative person who's not trendy for the sake of being trendy, I still want other people to admire my creative impulses. But what I hear you saying over and over in this post is to please MYSELF. So I'm going to ponder that. Thanks for the inspiration!

Corinnea said...

I love this! When I worked at a craft shop, that was my favorite part of my job, helping people find their creative place.

Jo said...

Great blog! Just stumbled upon it. I was just writing myself today about creativity and how do I express it.
solomojo.ca/?p=1280
Lack of confidence definitely gets in the way and essentially, a lack of permission to try something out.
I'll follow you in my rss feed.
Keep it up :-)
Jo

karen said...

Great post!! Thanks for your thoughtful and oh so true reminders to follow our own creative path and claim what we know. I think if one is authentic to oneself, it shines in your work and other will be drawn to it.... or not. Lovely!