Finding a way to be artistic can add tremendously to your quality of life.
For most of us, much of our active time every day is dominated by task-completion-activities, things that aren’t particularly meaningful or important to us, but just have to get done. Creative practice is about making a time for meaning.
Here are some benefits of a creative practice: (Anywhere where I’ve written ‘writing’ feel free to substitute any other kind of artistic activity).
1) To be happier. Aristotle’s definition of happiness is “deploying your full force along lines of excellence.” Writing allows you to do exactly that. It’s about discipline and seeing something through. And I do find it makes me happier, feeling a piece come to form. As Hugh Macleod says, “Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb.”
2) To learn. People always say, “Write what you know,” but writing is always a process of discovery. By writing you’re not just documenting what you already know, but you’re coming-to-know things you hadn’t yet realized.
3) It’s good for your career. Before I was hired for my most recent job I was Googled by my interviewers. They mentioned in my interview that they’d read by blog about Roger Federer and were impressed. I could tell that they were more comfortable with me because they had some evidence of how my mind works. In a way, they knew me. It made me more of a known entity and slightly less of a risk. I don’t write my blog for the recognition. But it’s nice.
4) To be generous. When you share your art, you’re being generous. Even the tiniest, honest observation is a gift. (That’s what I think anyway). And gift-giving creates community. If you share something that people can read (or look at and see truth in) that, if nothing else, is comforting to people. Also by writing, you put yourself out there. You make yourself a little vulnerable. You show that you’re human and people appreciate that.
5) To keep a record. I sit in airports and cafes around the world, writing mundane minor details about how the light is shining in through the steam of my morning coffee or about how the smell of sawdust takes me back to my dad’s “barn” above the garage on Second Street, where he fixes the world’s big problems. Taking the moment to write these thoughts makes me aware of things I wouldn’t otherwise notice. It helps me appreciate the moment, in the moment. And reading my notes later reminds me of the life I’m living. It shows me what I like about my life and explains, in little ways, how my life is coming together. Catherine Bowen said that, “Writing … is not apart from living. Writing is a kind of double living. The writer experiences everything twice. Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.”
6) To stay balanced. We all want jobs that value our humanness. But it’s okay for a job to just be a job. It doesn’t have to fill absolutely every void in our lives. Hugh MacLeod (in his ebook) shares what he calls his Sex and Cash Theory. He explains it like this: “The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs. One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills. Sometimes the task in hand covers both bases, but not often. This tense duality will always play centre stage. It will never be transcended.” This theory suggests that it’s okay that your colleagues don’t always get your jokes, because it’s just a job. If your high paying job doesn’t value your creative side, well that’s a good problem isn’t it? The tensions of your day job can give you something too write about in the evenings. They can feed your art. A few times, when I finally have no distractions and all the time in the world to write, I just draw a blank.
7) It feels good. Author Natalie Goldberg compares her creative practice with exercise: “Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run… You just do it. And in the middle of the run, you love it. When you come to the end, you never want to stop… That’s how writing is, too. Once you’re deep into it, you wonder what took you so long to finally settle down at the desk.”
In more ways than one, the future belongs to the creative classes, the people who have developed a voice and have bothered to share