Starting a Creative Life in the New Year

farolitos or luminaria

Is this the year that you are going to finally commit to starting your art practice? I know that I prioritize my work life over my creative life, because it’s a necessity for living in the expensive Northeast, but it’s also a reality that it doesn’t take much time to start a creative practice with the right mindset.

Here is a collection of advice culled from a few authors with recent books on the arts. One author who can help us with our mindset is Elle Luna, known for her book “The Crossroads of Should and Must, Find and Follow Your Passion,” who encourages us to reflect on our passions and purpose. One notable idea she presents is the dichotomy between “should” and “must” in life. Luna suggests that “should” represents societal expectations and obligations, while “must” embodies one’s true calling and authentic desires. She encourages people to pursue their “must” wholeheartedly, as it leads to a more fulfilling and purpose-driven life.

If you need more proof to help you stay on the creative path you could read Susan Magsamen and Ivy Ross’s book, “Your Brain on Art: How the Arts Transform Us.” Ivy Ross said, “It took a while to get people to exercise 20 minutes a day, and now it’s drilled into our head that you have to find a way to walk or get on the treadmill…it’s important to understand that what art does to rewire your brain is just as important as those 20 minutes exercising.” Susan Magsamen, said “Just twenty minutes of doodling or humming can provide immediate support for your physical and mental state. Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin are released in the making of music and art and can help to relieve anxiety and depression.” Their book explores the relatively new field of neuroaesthetics- the study of the brain’s responses to art and aesthetic experiences.

One of the first authors to write and encourage people to tap into their creativity was Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” published in 1992, who introduced the concept of daily writing morning pages and setting aside time to have artist dates with oneself to help with inspiration.

Another very enjoyable book to read and follow on Instagram is Jerry Saltz, author of ““How To Be An Artist,” Instagram handle, @JerrySaltz, who gives us practical advice such as:

“Keep a pocket-size sketch pad with you at all times. Whenever you have an odd moment—over your morning coffee…practice looking at your own hands and drawing them. Fill your pages with hands, lots of them on the same page, hands over hands over hands…The goal is first to learn how to look—and then to describe, with your pencil or pen, what you see.” Jerry also recommends, “Start working when you wake up, or as soon as possible thereafter. If you can get into it within the first two hours of the day, that should be early enough to get around the pesky demons of daily life…your body and mind will thank you.”

Two more books that help with taking the time to start a creative life as we enter what used to be a quieter time of year, “Wintering,” by Katherine May, a memoir that explores the restorative power of rest during life’s difficult times. It encourages shifting our mindset from constant productivity to healing and renewal.

My favorite children’s book “Frederick,” by Leo Lionni, tells the story of a little mouse named Frederick who, while his fellow mice gather food for winter, collects sunlight, colors, and words that he turns into story to lift everyone’s spirits when the winter comes and food runs out.  A wonderful story of the importance of creativity and the different ways individuals contribute to a community.

A list to encourage you to get started on your creative life:

1. Start Small: Begin with short, manageable sessions. Dedicate just a few minutes each day to your art.

2. Set Realistic Goals: Define achievable goals for your artistic practice. These could be as simple as completing a quick sketch or spending a set amount of time experimenting with different techniques.

3. Embrace the Learning Process: Give yourself permission to be a beginner and enjoy the learning process. Growth happens through practice and experimentation.

4. Create a Dedicated Space: Establish a designated area for your artistic endeavors. Having a dedicated space can make it easier to transition into a creative mindset.

5. Schedule Creative Time: Treat your artistic practice like any other commitment. Schedule specific times for your creative pursuits, whether it’s early in the morning, during lunch, or in the evening. Jerry Saltz recommends early morning.

6. Join a Community: Connect with other aspiring artists. Online, follow artists on Instagram, take classes to  provide support, encouragement, and valuable feedback. Being with others can be motivating.

7. Give Yourself Permission: Grant yourself the permission to call yourself an artist. It’s not about reaching a certain skill level; it’s about embracing the creative spirit within you.

8. Document Your Progress: Keep a visual journal or sketchbook to document your artistic journey. Looking back at your progress can be both motivating and a reminder of how far you’ve come.

9. Find Inspiration Everywhere: Inspiration is all around you. Pay attention to the world, seek inspiration in everyday experiences, and let your surroundings fuel your creativity.

10. Be Patient and Kind to Yourself: Developing artistic skills takes time. Be patient and kind to yourself during the learning process. Celebrate your strengths and acknowledge areas for improvement without harsh self-judgment.

Remember, the most important part is the act of creating itself. Enjoy the process, and over time, you’ll find your unique artistic voice.

I hope we all give ourselves time and space in this new year to embrace a creative life and start to call ourselves artists.