Why trying new things and even making mistakes is good for your creativity
When you're learning how to do something or if you're building up a business, it's important to focus your energy in one direction.
When I first started teaching myself to paint I didn't do that. I sewed. I crocheted. I was selling handmade purses and jewelry on Etsy. I was trying all sorts of things and learning and experimenting. Eventually I came to realize what I wanted to do more than any of those other things was paint.
At first I didn't want to "give up" everything else. Even with the advice I kept running across, I was hesitant to focus on just one thing. But over time I saw how valuable such focus could be. Focus allows you the most growth. It gives you purpose, direction. It makes everything clearer.
And so I painted, letting go of my other projects, narrowing my attention to art. It made a huge difference to my development as an artist and it brought some wonderful opportunities.
I'm a naturally creative and curious person, constantly overflowing with ideas. I have so many projects I want to tackle and things I want to try, but I also know I can't do everything.
Despite what it might look like sometimes on social media, no one can do everything. We must choose how we spend our time and that means something always gets left out.
While pondering this I went back to my old blog and found these words in a post written about three and a half years ago:
"I've come to realize it's not abandoning dreams that's happening when we let go of ideas and desires which aren't right for us, it's refining an understanding of who we truly are."
Isn't that a powerful thought? It's beautiful to imagine this clarified understanding. To me it sounds filled with self-love.
On Instagram I'd seen a few people mention Lilla Rogers' new class on Creativebug. It's called Treasure Hunt Your Artistic Style. When I first heard about the class I discounted its usefulness. I know what my artistic style is; I don't need to hunt for it. But I was curious and yesterday I watched part of it.
It's so interesting to look at what I like and dislike. To nestle in to what I love and think about why I love it, about how what I love and who I am influences my style.
But what does any of this have to do with trying new things and making mistakes?
Both trying new things and making mistakes help us refine our understanding of who we are. More than that, trying new things keeps us curious. It keeps us moving forward. Almost two years ago I went through a long creative slump. Since then I've thought a lot about creativity, inspiration and creative energy.
Creativity is not a static thing, but sometimes we can get stuck in a rut. Although focus is a wonderful thing, it can sometimes lead us into the rut. Being ok with the idea of creative ebbs and flows helps a lot, but so does being open to new things. Experimenting. Changing gears. Having fun.*
The "It's supposed to be fun" note came from Ria Sharon, a gift in one of her newsletters. It's a great reminder not to take things to seriously, a reminder I often need.
Although it takes time and energy to try something new, we need to remember to hold onto the fun.
I recently started crocheting again in the evenings. Instead of hemming and hawing I simply chose a pattern (the hardest part for me) and got to work.
It was a simple pattern, but in picking up crochet I challenged myself to try something different and to learn something new. The pattern taught me a new technique which started with quite a bit of mistake-making, but ended up empowering me with a new skill.
Last weekend I pulled out my fabric stash, unearthed my sewing machine and sewed a top. Trying a new sewing pattern, looking at fabrics and matching them up, thinking about future projects... all of those things stretch my creativity. They help me problem solve. They open me up to new ideas and possibilities. This carries over into my art, too.
The tomato and eggplant pieces I painted last week were a change of gears for me. A slight shift of subject matter, yes, but also a change of format -- square -- and a change of paper type -- cold pressed after painting mainly on hot. Doing something different doesn't have to be BIG, but it can open up big possibilities.
Trying something new can help you face your fears, too. I never draw or paint people, in part because I find it a bit scary. But I think in order to continue to grow as an artist I need to stretch myself and face those fears. I've been dipping my toes into those waters with Charlotte Hamilton's 31 Days of Faces Creativebug class (talk about making mistakes!).
It feels good. All these creative experiments. All this play.
Trying new things gives you a different perspective. It makes you ask the question "what if?". Like the question I asked last week: What if I roast eggplant with taco seasonings and use it instead of meat in my tacos? I did that this week, too.
My focus has not changed. Watercolor is still my passion.
I might be sewing and crocheting in my free time. I might be drawing wonky-looking people in my sketchbook. I might be experimenting in the kitchen and even making soap, but I'll still be painting every day. I think my paintings will be enhanced by all my other creative play.
So what about you? Have you tried anything new lately? Or maybe come back to something you love but haven't done in a while? The changing of the seasons and beginning of the school year is a perfect time to embrace "back to school" thinking. I'd love to hear about it!
*Working through my own creative slump and pondering it afterwards helped me to create a Skillshare class designed to help you break out of a creative slump