Pursuing a Creative Life

There is a lot of talk about creativity these days. But just what is creativity? "Creativity" derives from the word 'create," or to make something. But creativity is about more than just creating something. It's about doing so in an imaginative, resourceful or original way.

In her book, The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp notes that creativity requires both skill and passion. She says, "Without passion, all the skill in the world won't lift you above craft. Without skill, all the passion in the world will leave you eager but floundering."

For those who lead a creative life--particularly in the fine arts, commercial arts or performing arts--I'd like to add a third requirement--determination, or perseverance.

First, explore your passions--not just the passion you have for your work or art form but for other subjects and activities as well. They feed off of each other, and inform each other. While I may have a passion for photography, it is worth little unless I also have passion for a subject that I'd like to photograph. For me, those passions have included the natural world, gardens, design in all its many forms, and books of all kinds.

Next hone your skills. The importance of practice--mastering your tools and craft--cannot be over-emphasized. Practice allows you to work more instinctively and intuitively. It's like driving a car: If you don't have to think about shifting gears, turning the steering wheel, stepping on the brake and flipping on the blinker, you can relax and enjoy the scenery. I'm not sure I could even tell you what all the controls on the back of my camera do, but I know which ones are important, and my hands know exactly where to go and what to do when I'm shooting. It comes to me intuitively from years of practice, and allows me to focus my energies on observing my subject, studying the light, and contemplating my composition. What practice does is allow you to master the craft or mechanics so that you can focus on seeing, interpreting and responding with emotion.

And finally, there is the element of determination, or perseverance. It's that ongoing commitment you make to yourself to keep working, keep practicing and keep exploring your passions and vision--because it can take years to hone skills and develop a signature style. I believe there are actually two types of determination required. The first is required in the moments of creating your work. It has to do with pushing yourself to continually experiment, to think outside the box and to push beyond your comfort zone. That's how we make new discoveries and develop our own style. Determination is also about believing in yourself--even if there are times it seems no one else does. If you believe in something strongly, stick with it and fight for it. After all, if you don't, who will?

If we want to live a creative life, we have to make it happen. As artists, we must also be entrepreneurs. We must find ways to stay motivated and grow throughout our careers. But that's a subject I'll save for upcoming blog posts. Stay tuned.