Out on my daily walkabout through adjacent neighborhoods, I spotted a young lady wearing a t-shirt that read, “Make Smart Choices In Your Life” but the “sm” in smart and the words “choices in” were grayed out so that the message that stood out read:
Make Art Your Life
A quick internet search at home revealed it to be a popular slogan (as made evident by my ability to find the above image) but it was the first time I came across it and it sparked an idea, so naturally I had to blog about it.
Art somehow resonates with us on a positive level, permeating the pleasure centers of our brains to alleviate stress, aid in mental and emotional healing, and alter our thoughts and perceptions of the world around us. It’s also a valuable tool for increasing creativity as well as productivity.
Art offers an escape from everyday life and is, in my humble opinion, the best holistic medicine because it opens your heart and feeds your mind. Art enables us to look within and to listen to ourselves, to realize who we truly are, and what we actually care about. And the right work of art allows us to have an appreciation and gratification for the things that exist in our lives.
Now, when the average person talks about “art” they’re typically referring to pigments brushed on canvas or images molded in clay or carved from stone, but we, as writers, know better than that, don’t we? Art, as defined by the dictionary is:
the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination
which means your writing, be it acrostic, a six-word or six-sentence story, flash or micro fiction, haiku, tanka, or somonka, a drabble, musing or journal entry, is a work of art. So, how do you make art your life, or better yet, make your life a work of art? Why, by following a few of the suggestions below (oh come on now, you knew there had to be a list, didn’t you?):
- Make time to sit in solitude and just imagine. Henry David Thoreau once said, “I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude” and I have to agree that there is a simple kind of joy in taking a break from human beings (spoken like a true introvert, I know). Solitude-by-choice not only gives your soul a chance to recharge, but it also opens the imagination gates and lets your mind run barefoot in the garden of creativity. And while you’re there, feel free to explore and be willing to get lost in the undiscovered country (don’t worry, you’ll somehow find your way home again).
- Let unnecessary things slip through your fingers. We all have our own special brand of toxicity (anger, self-loathing, self-doubt, etc.) that sometimes prevents us from starting or completing a writing project. Learn to treat it like you would any other bit of clutter and bin it in order to make space for something a little more productive. And yes, I realize that’s easier said than done, but nothing beats a failure like a try, and don’t you owe it to yourself to at least make the attempt?
- Be bold in your intention to write. I know I keep banging on about this but commitment is what transforms an idea floating around in your noggin into reality. Putting pen to paper speaks boldly of your intentions and are the actions which speak louder than the words. It’s making the time when there is none. Coming through time after time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff character is made of; the power to shape ethereal things. It’s the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism. You can do it. I believe in you.
- Become your own best audience. Sometimes you have to ignore what’s popular at the moment and what you think people want to read and simply write something that you want to read. Write something that makes you happy, that makes you cry, that makes you angry enough to want to scream it to the world, as long as what you write makes you proud that you’ve written it. And if you really enjoy the finished product, because we’re more alike than we are different, chances are that someone out there will appreciate it, too.
- Embrace the act of self-attaboys<—(gender-neutral). Wake up to the truth that praise need not only come from an outside source. When you’ve sculpted the quintessential sentence or paragraph, you know what? That deserves a pat on the back. Created a clever turn of phrase? Found an ingenious way to yank your protagonist’s butt out of an impossible situation? Painted pivotal poetic pictures of pure perfection? Pat, pat, and pat. Acknowledging and complimenting yourself on even a minor accomplishment gives you an emotional boost that will make you happy and hopefully encourages you to continue creating greatness (yeah, I called your work greatness, wanna make something of it?).
- Stop being afraid of change. It’s oh so easy to get stuck in a writer’s rut, the telltale sign of which is Oculos Computator, better known as The Stare, and you know exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re parked in your favorite writing chair, knuckles cracked, fingers nimble and hovering above your keyboard…and nothing happens. Your brain vapor-locks and creativity has hung a “Gone Fishing” sign on the door. Now, I know I don’t need to tell you this because you’re much smarter than I am (I can see it in your eyes) but your tummy (how dare you mock my use of the word tummy!) isn’t the only thing that requires sustenance. If you want to keep the creativity engine running, you have to get in the habit of feeding your grey matter and the best way to do this is to try something different. Visit a new place, try new food, hell, even take a stab at an activity you think you wouldn’t like or that holds no interest for you. Inspiration sometimes comes from the damnedest places and when you least expect it and like that old saying goes: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. So, I double-dog dare you to put a twist on your average day (that oughta motivate you).
- Hang your expectations on a hook outside, and concentrate on creating. You’ve done all your research, you’ve studied the rules of writing, and that’s all well and good. But when you first begin a new writing project, put all that stuff to the side, as well as your determination to create the bestest thing ever written in the history of writing, and just let go and have fun. Embrace your inner child and mess around! Throw yourself into the process of being a creative entity and just play. Right about now, the author in you is giving me pushback because you want to be viewed as a professional and taken seriously, but take it from a guy who turns off the editor and perfectionist and starts his writing day with stream of consciousness freewriting (which I usually post on this blog). The act of uninhibited writing, of making art, induces feelings of stress relief and positive energy, and once my positive mood is achieved, then I turn my attention to “serious” writing. I began this practice because of the two essential phrases I came across while taking various writing courses. The first is:
Nothing is written, it’s rewritten.
and the second:
First you get it written, then you get it right.
“But what does this have to do with making art your life?” I hear you ask.
Patience, Grasshopper, patience.
The above list was designed to help you achieve what mystics describe as being in ecstasy (get your mind out of the gutter, this is a family channel), which is just another way of saying getting into the flow or being in the zone. It’s when you become completely absorbed in the act of writing, when concentration and enjoyment become one and time simply vanishes.
To make art your life, you need to become an artist, which means you need to master the skill of writing to the degree where you don’t consciously think about it, thus giving you the freedom to focus on creating something from nothingness. And the best way to develop your craft is to ease your foot off the gas pedal, quiet your mind, and allow the process to swallow you whole. At this point of the process, your concern shouldn’t be about creating a masterpiece, but instead finding that sweet spot where creative imagination begins to rise to the surface.
A few of you are probably going to take me to task for using the phrase, “creating something from nothingness” because we all know our writing comes from somewhere. Emotional truths, cultural values, sensory experiences, any and every thing that forces us to dig beneath the surface appearance down to the bone where honesty and inevitability exist.
And we’re the perfect one’s for the job because writers pay attention. We have the ability to alter our senses and perceptions to see through new pairs of eyes and find the beauty in ugliness, the elegance in coarseness, the rhythm in incoordination, the harmony in discord, and the composition in imbalance.
Making art your life or living artfully is about finding ways to transform the mundane things in this sometimes gray and frustrating world into the beautiful and awe-inspiring things that we often overlook or ignore completely. But simply being imaginative, picturing things in your mind, isn’t enough. To truly be creative you have to act, because actions bring ideas to life.
Sally forth and be making-art-your-lifingly writeful.