Creative Living with Jamie Episode 284:
How Do You Find Creative Joy?
Where did you lose your creative joy? For many hidden artists it was when assessment came into play. Someone’s criticism shut us down and made us believe that the arts were outside our reach. This is never true. Let’s look at the ways we can bring back that joy – along with another secret ingredient you might not expect!
Take It to Your Journal
- What were you doing the last time you felt creative joy?
- What steals your creative joy?
- What gives it back?
- What were you like as a creative kid?
- What would that creative kid say to you right now?
Resources & Mentions
- Do you have a question you’d like to ask a creative mentor? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Join the Studio and get access to 5 free Creative Practice Workshops
- Howard Ikemoto
Welcome to Creative Living with Jamie. I’m your guide Jamie Ridler and on this podcast you and I are going to go on a great many adventures together. We’ll explore all aspects of what it means to live a creative life and we’ll embrace ourselves as artists. We’ll get curious, we’ll wonder and we’ll follow inspiration. We’ll wrestle with tough questions and we’ll brave challenges and sometimes will ask our friends for help. Along the way we will discover our courage, our confidence, ourselves and one another. We’ll come to know our artistic hearts and from there we will create. And that’s when the magic happens.
Hey there, everybody. Well, it looks like I am slipping into a bit of a biweekly rhythm with the podcast. Honestly, I’m kind of breaking all the rules here and settling in to create when I have a moment. I am trusting that as this show starts to take root, it will begin to take up more and more space and will find a regular home in the Studio.
This is a bit odd for me because the truth is I love consistency except for when it gets in the way.
Consistency is a great way to establish trust and a sense of safety. It’s a great way to honour your work and your commitment to it. Consistency is a great way to find a rhythm that will hold you even when your energy is bucking with the wild horse of resistance. Consistency is a gift to your creativity in so many ways. If you are a part of the Studio, and I hope you are – if not put me on pause and run on over to openthedoor.ca and join – and if you are, you’ll know that I generally like to run things with consistency. My newsletter comes out at 6:00 am EST on Sundays and has for well over a decade. I love knowing that I’m spending Sunday morning with readers and that they are starting their day with some creative inspiration and something to ponder, that we are sharing that moment of connection. Consistency really can be a gift.
But it can also be a roadblock. How often do you not do something at all because you’re not sure you can do it always?
Always is such an unreasonable expectation, especially when you are doing something new. How do you know you’re going to thrive with a daily drawing practice until you’ve tried it out? How do you know the time and energy it’s going to take to make a show on YouTube every week if you’ve never done it before? You just don’t. So you make a start and see what it feels like. You give yourself permission to make adjustments as you go. You do what you can because showing up to your creative impulses is far more important than showing up to an arbitrary schedule.
So here I am. And for now, I’m going to think of the newsletter as somewhere you know you’re going to see me every week and the podcast as something you’ll be delighted to discover on your doorstep whenever it arrives. And then we’ll see where this particular adventure leads.
Today it’s leading to joy.
I want to talk to you about the power and importance of your creative joy. I want you to think about it for a moment. Cast back into your creative life and ask yourself, when was the last time I felt creative joy? It might have been puttering in your garden or arranging tulips in a vase. It might have been throwing a dinner party. It might have been giving yourself permission to doodle for hours. It might have been yesterday. It might have been a long time ago.
When was it for you?
As creative people we sometimes expect that every time we do something creative it will be a joy. Has that been true for you? It hasn’t been for me.
I can tell you that one of the heartbreaks that so many of my clients have been through is that when they finally give themselves time to do their art what they feel is anything but. They find themselves weeping or frustrated or full of resistance. They wonder, “What happened to my joy?” They worry, “Will I ever find it again?”
They will. They do. And so will you.
One of the ways to do this is to call on the wisdom of your little kid artist.
When we were little, if we had the freedom and the opportunity, we loved to create! We would draw monsters and dinosaurs and bears and castles and you name it. We wiggled to music before we could walk. We built sandcastles and made up games and conjured costumes. All of it with great seriousness and joy.
Did you notice I said seriousness? I want you to hold onto that thought for a moment.
But first let’s talk about joy. When did we lose the joy? When I talk to recovering artists, it is almost always the moment assessment or critique became involved. It’s when someone said you couldn’t sing. Or someone told you that you couldn’t dance. Maybe someone laughed at your clay pot or criticized your drawing or painting. When that happened, you took in that destructive notion that you were somehow not good enough, that art wasn’t for you – even if it brought you joy. Joy simply wasn’t enough. Joy was for children. Now that you were 9, 12, 17, 42, 72, if you want to be an artist, you better demonstrate aptitude, talent, some skill or move on to something else.
What utter garbage!
But we take it in. We leave art behind as a childish love or maybe, maybe we let it find some space in our lives as a hobby. And that’s often how secret artists find their way back to creative joy. They start knitting or calligraphy or scrapbooking or photography. It lights them up in a way they haven’t felt in years. Was that you?
When that happens, that spark of joy starts to rise and it is awesome! Suddenly they are taking classes, buying supplies, taking up space and feeling inspired. Ideas are flourishing and there just isn’t enough time in the day for them to do what the love to do. The artist and the joy are present, awake and alive.
And then, at this point, because we instinctively know that part of the reason we got shut down in the first place was assessment and criticism, we decide to throw it away. We simply refuse to engage in that approach. We embrace the process and release ourselves from the pressure of a precious outcome. We want to bring back that childhood joy and we just want to play. And playing is awesome. Every artist needs it. Creative play gives us a gorgeous sense of freedom, joy release, and often innovation and originality, until it doesn’t.
Because at some point, for some artists, it becomes hideout.
You see, if we declare that what we are doing is play and that we don’t care about the results at all, we are safe. No one can say we aren’t good enough because we’re not trying to be good enough. We’re just mucking about. And if something we make happens to be “good” well, isn’t that a surprise? How amazing! How unexpected! Then we can say, “Hey, everybody, look at this. I wasn’t even trying but this is pretty good, isn’t’ it?”
We do this is because the world has taught us that we can either play at art or we can be a professional and nothing in between. I’m here to tell you this is absolutely and totally untrue.
Let’s go back for a moment to that thought I asked you to hold onto earlier: that little kids create with joy, yes, but also with seriousness. Think about the kid you were. Think about the kids you know. Can you see their sweet faces deep in focus and concentration? I can literally see my sister Suzie with her hand on her forehead.
When you see a kid making a fort or putting on a play or creating a sculpture, that kid is often trying to make something great or cool or epic or amazing. They aren’t thinking of it as ‘little kid stuff’. That’s our projection. That’s our judgment. And when we foist it on them, we perpetuate this cycle.
What the little kids artist in our heart is teaching us about creative joy is not just about freedom and play – though it is certainly that – it is also to give yourself over to what you are making. Dare to dream. If you don’t know how to do something, improvise. Give your art your all and believe in your ability to create something wonderful.
Criticism, assessment and the velvet ropes have convinced us that the only way we can find joy is to engage in the process and let go of our art but I want you to know that you can have both. Creative joy is available to you as you wiggle and giggle and doodle and paint a mess. Creative joy is also available to you as believe in your artistic vision as you bring it to life, as you learn and grow every step of the way.
Have you heard this tale from Howard Ikemoto? Here’s what he said: “When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?””
Never forget, dear listener. That artist is alive inside of you and creative joy is right at your fingertips. Make something this week. See what magic might be unlocked if you embrace the alchemy of joy and seriousness.
Have a wonderful week in your studio and remember, your life is your studio. I’ll see you soon.