The Bible says that you are made in the image of the Creator God, endowed with great capacity for creativity, and called to use your unique creative gifts to bring beauty, goodness and light into this broken, hurting and dark world. Here are ten practical ways to grow your creativity and share it with others in 2019. I’ll start at #10 and work down to #1, easiest to hardest.
10. Take time each day to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.
This can be as simple as stopping to breathe the fresh air after a rain or to look at the raindrops glisten on the branches of a bush at your front door. It is about being aware of and thankful for the beauty and gift of creation, in all its manifold glory. It includes going for walks, but also reading a good book, hearing a loved song, enjoying a fine painting. It will probably include putting your phone away, and being present in the place where you are. The point is, you have to stop what you are doing, and take time to enjoy the beauty. As the German writer Goethe put it:
“Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and — if at all possible — speak a few sensible words.” Goethe
9. Make flower arrangements and other pretty things to bring beauty into your home, workplace.
Growing up in a family of artists we were very poor. But my mother brought beauty into the home by making flower arrangements, and displays of pretty things. Even though for the first 12 or so years of my life, we used sheets/blankets for many of the inside doors of our home, it was, nonetheless a place of beauty. Don’t let the grind of life, the gloom of poverty, the sense of being powerless crush your heart and cripple your love for beauty. You are in charge. You can do something. That something might be to go outside, cut some flowers and branches, and make an arrangement as your revolt against the mundane routine and victim posture.
8. Set creative goals.
As the saying goes, if we aim at nothing we’ll hit it every time. So take time at the start of this new year to think about your creative gifts. They might be gifts of problem-solving, or woodworking, or landscaping, or writing poetry, or story-telling, or composing music, or creativity in leadership. There are countless ways that you can be creative. Once you have determined how you are uniquely wired as a creative person, make some goals for how you want to encourage your creativity in this new year. Don’t let the tyranny of the urgent, your shame at the thought of failure, your lack of time, etc. keep you from taking steps, even if they are only baby steps, in creativity. This year, I’m hoping to complete one of the largest creative projects of my life: a documentary movie that has taken almost 5 years to make. But it started with my going out an buying a video camera. Make a goal. Start somewhere.
7. Coordinate a poetry reading night.
One of the great gifts my mom gave to us kids was reading poetry. She had inherited her love of reading poems from her mother, Sayre, who had a beloved book of poems called 101 Famous Poems. Mom read them to us and encouraged us to memorize them. Still today I can recite many of these beloved poems. Poetry is becoming a lost art, but the crafting of words into potent phrases bursts open doors of meaning and unlocks the emotions of the heart. Some of my friends, Ed Nudelman and Anne Doe Overstreet, are modern day poets and their books are worth turning to. So too are the poets of olden days. For religious poets, John Donne, George Herbert and John Milton can’t be beat. I also love the Romantic poets: Woordsworth, Keats and Cooleridge. Shakespeare is wonderful too. I quoted two Shakespeare poems to Jenny the night I asked her to marry me. One fun way to build community is to host a poetry reading night with your family, or widened to include friends and neighbors. Light your fire (if you have one) or some candles, open a bottle of wine, circle up the chairs, and read, laugh and cry as your hearts come alive and share in beauty together.
6. Make little creative gifts that are “you” and share them with others.
In the olden days, when money was short, people made a lot more gifts. We spend way more money, but I wonder if our gifts are nearly as meaningful as they once were. A way to put your creative self out there (see #2) without too much risk is to give away gifts that you have made. After all, who is going to be mean and reject a gift. Again, there are so many different kinds of gifts you can give that tap into your creativity. You may be creative as a trip planner. So give away to someone your “trip planning” creativity by gifting them by planning an upcoming trip with them, bringing into it your special creativity in how to enjoy and engage in a new place. You could make a flower arrangement and give it as a birthday gift, or make a card with a little painting and poem. My great-grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory made the card below that went with a gift of towels: it was kept by our family, while so many other store bought cards have been thrown away. Your creativity will be valued by others!
5. Take an art class.
One of the very best ways to grow as a creative person is to take an art class, or poetry class, etc. To grow you have to be teachable, and to put yourself under a Master from whom you want to learn. Along these lines, I’m super excited that my brother Jed Dorsey is starting Acrylic University which will make his gifts of teaching, nurture, encouragement more accessible to people all over the world via the web. I’ve personally benefited from many art classes in the past, and feel like I’m ready to give back a little myself. I’m talking with old friends from Seattle about tutoring their middle school aged daughter in art, and with Ben Franklin down the road, about teaching an art class or two. My friend Karla Matzke on Camano Island always has wonderful art classes going on at her place. Check out her Matzke Gallery. Plan this year to take an art workshop or class this year (or two or three), until you find the thing that fits well with who you are and that you enjoy doing.
4. Join an artistic club or community or cohort. Or start your own.
To grow as a creative person, you have to put yourself into creative community with other creatives. You’ll be inspired by your friends, challenged to grow as a creative person, and encouraged along the way. I’m currently a member of the Northwest Watercolor Society and President of the Camano Arts Association. If you want to get really serious about your creativity, you’ll probably have to go smaller and find a few creative friends with who you will really open up your heart, your creative work, to. A great example of the cultural impact of this kind of fellowship is the Inklings, which was a group of friends who met in C.S. Lewis’ rooms in Oxford University, England to talk, smoke, drink and read their latest writings. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Dorothy Sayers were all members of this illustrious group of friends, and the quantity and quality of their culture-shaping, creative work is impressive. But don’t let this intimidate you. Why not do something more simple and humble, like my great grandmother, Fanny Y. Cory did. She started for her grandchildren the “grunt and groan art club”. They met weekly at her home to paint.
You can read more about that here. https://sunnyshorestudio.com/tag/grunt-and-groan-art-club/
3. Work on a creative project.
This one is kind of obvious. But that’s ok. Start a creative project in 2019. Again, the scope of this can be really broad. You may redesign the landscaping of your home, or repaint and redecorate your home to make it more hospitable, or more a still and sacred space, or… You may decide that you are going to take up photography, and chronicle your year with one creative photograph each day. You may decide to finally write that children’s book, or that novel that you have always dreamed of. One of my creative dreams is to write a series of 12 children picture books, which I expect will take me over a decade and be finished when I am in my 60’s. Have a dream and act on it!
2. Share your creative work with others.
Putting your creative work out there, sharing it with others, is SOOOO hard. Why? Because it is so personal. It feels like we are putting ourselves out there, and opening ourselves up to rejection and criticism. And we are, in a way. Even though our creative work is not “us”, in a unique way we do identify with it. So it hurts when people are critical of it. But the only way that we can grow as creative people is to be willing to let our creative work be seen and to be open to critique, even rejection. But we are also opening ourselves up to encouragement and support to. You can’t have one without the other. Growing up, I had both critique and encouragement with my creativity. My dad was my biggest critic and would absolutely rip apart my artworks, telling me where it was bad, where I had screwed up. My mom, on the other hand, was my biggest supporter and encouragement. Between the two of them I had precisely what I needed. When I was 23 years old I was painting watercolors pretty seriously, I started entering them into national and international shows. I was rejected by many of those shows, but accepted into many too (it was about 50/50), and even won some prizes. If you don’t put your creative work out there, you won’t grow as a creator. You need both critique and encouragement from others.
1. Accept that you are hand-crafted by the Creator God with great creative capacities and a creative calling.
I chose this as the first, and hardest, step in the creative journey because it requires faith. Being creative, building creative community, and putting your creative self out there is hard. We are all, to some degree, insecure. But if you accept that you are hand crafted by the Personal Creator God, that this God God endowed you with unique creative gifts and calls you to share them with others, you will be empowered to take big steps, or baby steps as a creative person.
Come on, together with me, daring to be the creative people God has designed us to be for the glory of God and the good of the world! Your never to young, or to old, to start.
Sincerely, Jason Dorsey