Why Do We Create? And Why Now?
By Lain Ehmann
As I’ve cruised around the web, following the seemingly endless chain of cool blog links from one site to the next and back again, a thought struck me: Are we feeling a greater call to create? Are more of us sensing a need to knit, sew, write, paint, scrapbook, crochet, or is it just my imagination? And if so, why?
After all, all across the Internet we can see “ordinary people” creating amazing works of art and craft (and let me just say that I do not attempt to distinguish between the two). Moms, neighbors, friends, co-workers, are all sharing their creations with the world through their blogs and online communities. I am continually blown away by the waves of creative genius that just pour onto my computer screen.
So what’s going on? Where is all this creative energy coming from? Is it a new phenomenon, or has it been around and I just didn’t notice it? For answers, I decided to have a conversation with life coach, speaker, author, artist, visionary, and my good friend Jennifer Louden. Jennifer writes, teaches and speaks on the topic of women and creativity, art, spirituality, and self-care.
Jennifer agrees that there is a tangible trend of greater creativity sweeping our culture. “I see it as a conduit for a rising consciousness, a ‘God’ energy,” she says. The trend can be traced in part to the greater availability of free time and monetary resources than ever before. “We don’t have to spend all day Monday baking bread!” she laughs. The combination of a world in pain and a class of women who have the resources to spare makes the time ripe for an upsurge in creative energy. “It’s a very positive way to heal yourself and others,” Jennifer says. “Art is a community builder and a community healer.”
Here’s a synopsis of our conversation:
Lain: No question that the world could use some healing right about now. How does creating art help heal?
Jennifer: To create anything is to choose, to make choices. It’s also to do what you want to do in some way. Creating something – whether a scrapbook page or a meal or a painting – gives the busy woman the reminder that we are free, we are important, we matter. And that is so important. And if we can choose what colors to use in our next painting and see that it works, we empower ourselves to choose in other arenas too. It reminds us we have choices – in EVERY aspect of our lives. We need to remind ourselves that every moment of our lives is the same, whether we’re creating “art” or creating our future. Anything can happen. You can open yourself up and let yourself surrender and see what happens.
L: What kind of changes can art bring into our everyday life outside the studio?
J: Almost across the board, people say that when they create, they are in “the zone.” And that is where we want to live – where we are completely present in the here and now. Reaching that state through our art can give us a direct bodily experience, which we then can translate into other areas of our lives, like being with your kids and playing on the floor – being totally in that moment as you do it.
L: So, in a sense, how we create art can be a gateway into how we create our lives.
J: Exactly. You start asking yourself to be creative in how you get up in the morning, how you talk to your family. Those can all be just as wonderful and creative as picking up the needles or going to the loom. Truly, life is the ultimate creative act.
L: Let’s talk about the tendency to amass. Almost every crafter or artist I know goes through a stage of accumulation. What’s with that? And how do we know when it’s part of the creative process, and when it’s something more insidious?
J: Shopping can definitely become a shadow comfort. The creative energy rises in you like sap but instead of sitting with it and seeing what comes of it, you go shopping. You say, “I’ve got this energy and I’ve got to do something with it. I want to accumulate with it. I want to own it.”
L: I think it’s a way of taking an experience that can be uncomfortable and strange – creating – and making it familiar. We may not know what to do to create, but we can buy more art supplies. It’s productive!
J: And familiar. And comforting. It’s also that wonderful beginning place, where we haven’t hit the hard spot yet. And that’s what we have to have courage to see through – the point where you say to yourself, “This is really bad. Can I handle being bad?” You have to have the courage to stick with it, and have the courage to suck, and have the courage to keep going no matter what the voices in your head say.
L: How do you get that courage?
J: You remind yourself that you’re not the bad painting on the easel. You’re not. It’s paint and canvas. That is not you. You also can find your own conditions of satisfaction that are not assessment-based – that are not open to interpretation. Set intentions for yourself. For instance, for the next painting you make, you may want to set the intention of generating a feeling of movement, or using a new technique, or trying a different perspective. You can’t say, “I want to make a good painting.” It’s not building a stone wall. It’s not a three-minute egg. It’s not controllable like that. Creation is about self-discovery, and by definition it means we don’t know it all.