Saturday, April 16, 2011

something inside of me

This post has been brewing in the back of my brain for a long time. A long time = 3 months now. Tonight feels like the perfect night to dive in and just write it. This post is about being creative and what "being creative" means to me and how for the past 3 months or so, I have been on a journey to define my own creative statement and also how to incorporate creativity into my daily life. And so I write.

My Grade School Art History

Grades 1-3: I remember my early art classes in elementary school. We would leave our classroom and walk out to the playground, trek over to a large, 3 story building, the Head Start building, climb two flights of stairs and have art class and music class in two rooms that were very cold, smelled of burnt popcorn, and felt creaky, old and scary. We would paint, create paper mache masks, use charcoal and pastels on newsprint, and get to rip newspaper and magazines up. In music, we played the recorder, danced, and sang-all of this without judging ourselves.

Grades 4-6: Art & music started becoming "competitive." You started to be labeled as "creative." or "athletic." I remember the music classes and the art classes were not very fun for those of us who "struggled." The kids who enjoyed physical education more than the arts sat at tables together and tried to create a representation of the teachers piece, but were very rarely encouraged to continue to express or praised for their work. It was then I started labeling myself as an "athlete," not an "artist."

Grades 7-8: Art was fun again. I had two great art teachers but we only had art for a quarter, We studied Picasso, Miro, the cubists, the impressionists, Monet, Van Gogh, and more. We threw clay, we worked with tons of different mediums and we were encouraged again. But still, I continued to tell myself I sucked at art, that I was an athlete, and I wasn't creative.

Grades 9-12: I had the option to take 2 art classes in 4 years. I took computer generated art and Pottery and Clay 1, basically to meet my graduation requirement. Again, I was pigeonholed by the academic track I was on as well as I had to choose-be in the arts crowd or be in the sports crowd. There really was no way have both.

Why Labeling Is Damaging
As an educator and as someone who works with youth on a daily basis, I know how damaging it is to label and pigeonhole kids into thinking they are not creative. I only know this because of my direct experience. I wouldn't say that I am completely damaged/traumatized/emotionally scarred from my creativity journey through school, but I will say that as I got older, there were fewer and fewer opportunities for me, simply because I shut down the concept that I am a creative being who needs to express herself through writing, dancing, painting, and drawing. 

When we label ourselves, we immediately put up walls, create a box, and have very little flexibility. This labeling carries over to other areas of our life-I am not good enough for that relationship, for that job, for that *fill in the blank.* When we label and pigeonhole, we kill possibilities, opportunities, growth, and experience. All of that stuff that makes life rich, enlivening, empowering, and juicy. 

On Writing
I remember always loving to write, ever since I learned how. I loved to practice my penmanship, write letters on Lisa Frank Stationary, kept journals and diaries, and short stories galore. I remember using my journal to process my dad being gone for months at a time, to process being an athlete and struggling to fit into the high school scene, to process falling in love, breaking up, and broken hearts. I still journal to this day, simply to download and notice patterns in my emotional self. It has always been and always will be the place where I become the most vulnerable.

I took a creative writing class at the public library with a woman named Judith Head. She is an author and wrote the book "Culebra Cut." My mom would take me down to the library on Saturday mornings, I believe I was in 4th grade, and I would write, share, and learn about character development, plot, description, etc. I fell in love with putting words on the paper.

The Bubbling Tea Kettle

For the past three months, my insides have felt as though there was a kettle on the stove at low temperature. Each day, the temperature would increase just a few degrees more. This has been my need to be creative-to play with stuff, to draw, color, paint, experience, write, and get messy. It was like one day, I woke up and I had all these ideas in my head-I wanted to collage, I wanted to buy clay, I wanted to sharpen my colored pencils. It was in that moment that I started to just let go and participate. I started writing more-on the blog and in my journal, I cooked more new meals, I listened to music, I began to meditate, I read more blogs and listened to podcasts on creative living. For the first time in my life, I started to describe myself as creative.

I look at things differently now-when I walk, I move slower, when I eat, I am more mindful. When I do yoga, I do what feels good. When I check e-mail, I smile or listen to music. I browse stores, I bought paints and pastels. I color in a sketch book with colored pencils while The Man watches the news. I don't have nearly as much tension as I used to have in my body. It feels good to be on this side. Yes, I still have my day job, but its not all I have. For the first time ever, I am multidimensional in my approach to life.

I am not the next Picasso. But, I have implemented some daily practices that have facilitated the boiling kettle. Below are my Top 20 practices that can make a difference in your approach to life. Remember, its about embracing the whole of who we are as humans and one of those parts is an inner Picasso waiting to emerge.

My 20 Favorite Creative Practices
1. Make a collage/vision board
2. Drink tea and enjoy a cookie (Uncle Seth;s Pink Cookies are my favorite)
3. Walk in silence outside in the early morning
4. Take photos in nature (Use a simple point & shoot)
5. Buy art supplies (Sketch book, colored pencils, pastels, paints, brushes)
6. Do yoga
7. Meditate-the 15 minutes of silence everyday will shift your life
8. Make a kale salad
9. Bake cookies
10. Browse the library with no time limit
11. Forget about the housework
12. Take a Nap
13. Go buy a blank book and start journaling
14. Check out some awesome creative living blogs for inspiration (See buttons on my blog for Jamie Ridler, Kimberly Wilson, and wishstudio)
15. Eat at a beautiful restaurant
16. Call your mom/dad/best friend and curl up in bed while you talk to them so you are completely present
17. Go to the gym-sweating is the best prescription for lack of motivation
18. Identify your comfy clothes-a good pair of wool socks, stretchy pants, and a hoody/sweater to wear at night after work when you are ready for downtime
19. Hangout with kids
20. Do something that scares you (singing, climbing, asking someone out, or trying Indian Food)


djdodge said...

I learned early that I hated art because I wasn't good at it. Therefore why should I try? I think as an educator today that we need to incorporate art, music and movement into our teaching. Integration not pigeon hole learning is the way to go; in my humble opinion. Thanks for your inspiration, Jen. I have such an urge to go write now!!

Rosaria said...

As you know writing is very painful for me, not because I was ever told that I wasn't a good writer, but I was never told that I was, hence the importance of feedback. I say this in the midst of writing a thesis. I am resentful that it is taking me two days to write one section of the paper. I have never experienced such angst toward a project. I will continue to write until I can successfully finish this thesis, but I struggle with every word. Ask me to make a wedding gown, or cook a meal for 100 people and I will gladly take on the challenge. Our learning experiences are critical in our development, but we should never let them dictate our potential. My solace is that I have produced a young woman who is a gifted writer.
Power to the pen!

::KNB:: said...

art is cool.. i like it!
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