Making art is a deeply personal affair. Putting our soul on display by giving a voice to our creativity can put us at our most vulnerable, and vulnerability never fails to inspire fear, often stopping us dead in our tracks.
Likewise, I know of far too many artists and other creatives who view their work as self-serving, often tabling it in favor of other “obligations” -- family, friends, pets, bosses, colleagues...anyone but themselves.
I did this, putting my creativity on the backburner and neglecting my pull to paint, for far too long. Entire years went by without a brushstroke to be had, and dreams of spending weeks upon weeks in the European countryside and running my own artist retreats were abandoned in the name of responsibility, mostly to others.
Now, please don’t misunderstand: The people in my life are very important to me. My kids are my everything; my husband is my ultimate partner. My family, friends, and pets hold a very high regard in my life, and I know I’d be lost without them. I have no doubt you have those people and responsibilities that you’d never give up, as well.
But the mistake we make is in thinking that creativity and responsibility are mutually exclusive. If we are putting our creativity to work -- actually creating, that is -- we must not be responsible, right? If we are fulfilling our own creative desires and doing the work that is deeply personal to us, we must be neglecting the other people and things that need our attention, mustn't we?
This is where I beg you to pause. To pull back for a minute. To join me in a very important realization that changed the way I create and put painting back in the forefront of my life:
The world deserves your creativity.
Your creativity, while deeply personal, is not selfish. Your creativity, when expressed and shared, is something the world can experience. Bear with me here, my fellow former martyr:
First, your creative work has the potential to change a life. A simple interaction with a painting, a novel, a sculpture, a textile -- no matter the medium -- can have an unforeseen effect in the most unlikely of places, and when we least expect it.
Second, your creative work has the potential to change your life. Since I’ve made painting a prominent part of my life, and stopped putting my dreams on the backburner, I’ve become a better person. A more patient person. A more generous person. A more joyful person. That, my friends, is doing the world a favor.
Art is generosity. Creativity is a gift. The only selfish act is in keeping it to yourself.