Art opens my heart wide. It fills me up to the brim with possibility. I can have an idea, a wild and crazy, wonderful flowing idea, and I can put it down on paper in myriad ways. The actual act of making art is expansive too—it’s the opportunity to lose yourself in materials and process, to fall in love with handmade paper, to be awestruck by pens, to hypnotize yourself with the feeling of smearing deep blue paint smoothly over the surface of a board.
Making art is an expansive process. We all construct a lot of roadblocks in our minds about art, some common ones: “I can’t draw,” “I’m just not creative.” But the truth is, we were all freely creative once, and all that was different then, when we were kids, was that we didn’t care what anyone else thought, and we didn’t have years of judgments echoing in our minds. The real difference between being actively creative and not creative, between being able to draw and not being able to draw is your perception.
You may say, “that still doesn’t make me good at drawing.” But who said anything about needing to be good? Drawing is about putting pen to paper. The goal is to live, and if you want to live expansively, your life will be about doing, not judging.
My particular favorite art is pen and ink drawing. I make quirky, whimsical drawings, I love to draw words in made-up, lively fonts. I am in love with the alphabet—the different personalities the letter “k” can have depending on how you draw it (with a loop or with straight limbs), how a lowercase “e” can zip across the page like a little tyke, or command an audience as a standup uppercase. When drawing letters, I often feel like I’m running wildly with crayons, drawing with my toes. It’s an amazing, silly, childlike feeling that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Every day, I’m trying to understand how to bring that feeling of wide-open possibility and joy into other parts of my life. Is it possible to pay the bills with wild abandon? Can I market my art business with the same playful nature that I use to draw? Can I come up with a whimsical creative idea to end the recurring disagreement between me and my husband?
It’s funny how as we grow up we let go of the open creativity of childhood. Somehow becoming a responsible adult is connected to the idea of being serious, losing the silliness, the wildness, the free-spirited whims of childhood, and yet it’s often because of our lack of creativity that as adults, we’re unable to see a way out of things, and we get ourselves stuck in ruts. Perhaps throwing a tantrum, wailing and crying on the floor is not the best way to deal with not wanting to go to the grocery store, but could we learn something from our free-flowing younger selves that could make our adult lives more free, genuine, and creative?
Children admit it when they don’t like doing something, they’re willing to try something new even if they don’t know how to do it, they regularly get lost in the creative process, they live in the moment and don’t spend hours and hours worrying about how things will turn out. They dare to dream—spend the better part of their lives dreaming, but they let the dreams be dreams, slowly growing into them and refining them, and don’t beat themselves up every day about why they haven’t become a doctor yet.
When you’re a kid, anything is possible—your life is not written. Every day is full of newness. You want to be an astronaut, a doctor, and a mermaid at the same time. Today, you’re a ballerina, tomorrow you’ll be a painter. There are no limits to ideas or outcomes.
If we as adults sought to live this way, think this way, take that fancy-free outlook and put a grown-up slant on it, there would be no limit to the joyful lives we could create. No tantrums at the supermarket, but yes, I will have a fudgesicle in the middle of January. No crying when I can’t find my favorite toy, but yes, I will lose myself up to my wrists in paint for the afternoon. No running, screaming out of the board meeting at work, but yes why don’t we try that wild idea and send coloring books to all of our clients?
Some may say we need to be realistic, but dreams and visions aren’t made of realism, and beautiful, wild, flowing lives are made of dreams. So the next time you’re about to say, “I couldn’t do that” or “I’m not creative” or the next time you’re about to live the same old boring scenario you’ve struggled with as long as you can remember, why not ask, “How could I be wild and creative here? How could I make this fun and childlike? What would my child self have done here?” and give it a try. Remember, you’ve got nothing to lose. Anything is possible.