I’m not a Type A personality. I’m more like triple AAA.
Thankfully yoga has loosened me up and allowed my creative side to come through. Still, when I used to see ads for art classes I’d feel intrigued but then immediately think “that’s definitely not me.”
When my pal Lindsay and I had a chance to chat about her expressive arts training, and creativity in general, I realized I am definitely not alone when it comes to the artistic fear-factor. In fact, Lindsay doesn’t even like the word creativity because it can do more harm than good.
In her words, “A lot of people have a block around the word “creative.” If you spend your life thinking you aren’t creative, it can be impossible to suddenly switch gears and think that you are. I prefer the word “imagination.” Everyone can imagine something. We tend not to have the same kind of associations with that word.”
As Lindsay spoke, I realized that even if I could use my imagination to create something, it would be a big stretch for me to create a final product as amazing as the art I admire. I could never wrap my head around how artists were able to create their amazing pieces. Of course Lindsay set me straight…
“We equate creativity with being able to produce something that is aesthetically pleasing and polished, something that we can put on our wall or show people. If we let go of the idea that art is a certain thing or looks a certain way we can broaden our definition of art. Art is about exploring and risk-taking. It’s not all about the finished piece. It doesn’t have to look like anything, and it certainly doesn’t have to look pretty to be valuable. It’s more about the process.”
I thought about how growing up I approached art as a task to be completed with a left-brained, logical strategy. I don’t recall my teachers encouraging me to focus on the process. It was more like “here’s what we’re going to make today.” We had a model to go by, and we went through the steps to produce it.
Sadly, we all looked around the room afterward to evaluate whose art was the best. Sometimes the final product was hung up in the hallway for everyone to see–and make comparisons. Lindsay refers to comparing artwork as another creativity blocker:
“Once we start comparing ourselves to other people we put up barriers. Being judgmental of ourselves, or others, damages our creative ability. We all have an inner critic and we must practice separating that voice from the truth. We compare ourselves to others because we have a narrow idea of what art is.”
I asked Lindsay if it might be helpful for someone who wants to free up their imagination and creativity, to learn specific art techniques, and if so, which modalities she recommended studying. Lindsay made the big distinction between formally studying art and expressive arts, the modality she teaches…
“For a lot of people who have a formal art background, expressive arts can be frustrating at first because they have to throw the techniques and forms out the window. It can be challenging to let things emerge intuitively. In some ways, it can be easier for people to come to this process with no art background at all. Expressive arts is not about mastering techniques and being able to draw, paint, sculpt, or even analyze art. Expressive arts uses simple techniques in a lot of different modalities, like storytelling, movement, sound, visual art, and writing. There’s a lot of playfulness and trying out new things.”
Expressive arts was starting to sound like something I could see myself trying. Yet my practical side wanted to know how this was going to benefit my life. If I didn’t see myself as producing art masterpieces for display, aside from being spontaneous and playful, why would I go through this process? How would it help my life?
“Many of us on the path of yoga are cultivating self-awareness or working on releasing old habits and stuck patterns. There are definitely times when I feel stuck and frustrated with how to move forward. There is only so far I can get with thinking and talking about my problems. Expressive art deepens my understanding of myself, and helps me integrate new ideas in an intuitive right-brained way.
By doing things creatively, we almost trick ourselves into revelation.
Some people want to work through emotions, thoughts, and issues but don’t have the words to express them. The cool thing about expressive arts is that the non-verbal modalities like visual arts, sounding, and intuitive movement offer us a way to express something in our experience that has previously been inexpressible.”
Lindsay made it clear that the creative process isn’t black and white. She challenged me to think of myself as imaginative over creative, let go of the end result, and stop comparing my artistic creations.
Still wonder if you’re a creative person? Lindsay gave me tons of examples of everyday creativity, including experimenting in the kitchen when we cook; being innovative with new ideas at work; driving an unexplored road just to see where it leads; dancing around the house; singing in the shower or car; spontaneously creating a new yoga flow, or making up bed time stories for kids.
Lindsay believes there is an artist inside each of us.
That means you too. Here’s a challenge. In the comments below, try writing your life story in exactly five words. You go first and I will follow. I can’t wait to hear what we all come up with!