The Creative Life
"I live a creative life."
This feels like an odd thing to say because this is the life I have always lived and I don't know any different. The only reason I know that this is true is because people tell me. They say things like, "You are so creative." or "You are always making things."
And I am. I am always making things. Making things is my default setting.
Firstly, let me acknowledge my privilege. I believe the greatest asset in living a creative life is time. Money helps with that. However, in saying this, I know people who work full time with children and modest incomes who live rich creative lives, regardless, or in spite of the seeming limitations of lack of time and finance.
What is it to live a creative life? I have thought long and hard about this and it's not really very easy to define. Every life is inherently creative - in fact creativity is one of those phenomena that make us most human! I have seen people adamant that they are not creative beam with soft pride at the end of a workshop. I love seeing the joy that making something can bring! Whilst I feel that every human holds creative potential, there are those who craft a life that is dominated by their love of creative pursuits, who manage to weave their own unique vision of the world into everything they do.
For me creative living manifests in several ways. No matter where I go, or what I am doing, I will be reimagining what is in front of me, processing my experiences through creative filters that have been developed over the course of my lifetime. For example, on a recent trip to the Great Barrier Reef, I documented many of the creatures I met on my snorkels through sketches and then compiled a small zine of these drawings alongside written impressions. Similarly, on a trip to Scotland I carried a sketchbook with me and crafted small pictorial vignettes illustrating the highlights of our trip. On plane flights I will sketch to pass the time or take photos of the landscape below and edit them on my phone - I have a beautiful series of aerial shots of central Australia taken this way. Whilst exploring landscapes I will look for abstract lines in rock seams, or interesting plays of shadow and light. I will weave grasses into ephemeral baskets whilst sitting at our campsite, or smear muddy fingers onto a clean piece of paper. Only two weeks ago I spent over an hour documenting washed up jellyfish on a popular Sunshine Coast beach whilst others splashed in the breakers and bathed in the sun.
In my domestic life I am always experimenting with modes of creative expression. Even small, mundane tasks can become beautiful acts of self expression if done with an open mind. In saying that, I've never found a way of channelling the energy required to vacuum or clean the bathroom that feels particularly creative! But I do love being in an environment that nourishes me aesthetically and objects hold great meaning for me. They needn't be expensive or precious to be beautiful or of creative value. Through gathering and arranging objects, I find that my home has become a kind of scrapbook or visual diary from where I can draw inspiration. I am rarely void of ideas - usually any block comes from having too many and not knowing which direction to take!
Apart from weaving creativity into everyday life, I also carve out a lot of time for my own art practice. I don't treat it like a job (to do so would certainly make me not want to do it!), but I do treat it like something sacred. It doesn't matter to me how good I am, or what others think, it only matters that I have time to devote to my craft. Set and setting is important. I always work alone, with music or a podcast, in a space that is reasonably neat and tidy. Sometimes I draw funny little pictures in my sketchbook, other times I go ballistic and drop paint on paper or make collages in a big, heavy journal. Occasionally I decide to pull out the sewing machine and attempt a soft sculpture. Lately I have been thinking really hard about starting oil painting again. It doesn't really matter what it is that I am doing, all that matters is that I get time to spend in the process of creation. I won't say that the results don't matter to me, because they do, but they aren't as important as being in that time.
Single mindedness is not one of my strengths, and though I admire people who can dedicate their practice, and indeed their lives, to one concept or a single creative pursuit, that is not how I function. I need variety and will often jump from one creative endeavour to another in the blink of an eye. Some of my other creative pursuits include basket weaving (which I often do whilst watching movies), gardening (which is most humbling), and pottery (I take regular classes). In the winter I often hand sew or embroider because it feels so good and romantic. In the Spring I dry flowers and concoct herbal potions because that season makes everything feel so alive! In the summer my studio becomes a sweaty den, too hot for inhabiting, so I do a lot of daydreaming, reassess my creative goals, de-clutter, shift my priorities, make plans and draw in the comfort of my air conditioned bedroom. But mostly I get out into the world and collect experiences which fill my pool of inspiration! Then in the autumn I fall into a well-worn rhythm of making again. These are the cycles I find myself repeating.
You don’t have to travel the world, join a rockband or live in a tiny house to live creatively (although all those things sound hella fun to me!), but you do have to be able to find the adventure in all things! The creative life is about observation, curiosity, openness, and a willingness to fail repeatedly. It is about making mistakes and learning from them, embracing murkiness and ugliness, taking the beauty and the muck and transforming it into something else. It is about seeing the potential in all things, understanding that there are possibilities beyond what we see or have heard about. It is belief and knowing. It is experimentation and mess. It is chaos and order, darkness and light. It is about engaging in the world in a way that recognises the significance of everything. Living a creative life is play. And I’d highly recommend it!