“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
– Howard Thurman
“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
For the last few months, I’ve been reading “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. And I’ve learned a lot. In fact I’ve learned so much that I need to continue processing and re-reading and *learning* for a long time to come.
But I want to share with you the singular most important thing I learned from this whole process of reading and journaling and pondering and working through the book, and it’s applicable whether you have any interest in the book or not. It’s this:
Creativity is not a choice.
For some reason there’s this weird belief that creativity is just something “fruity” that people choose to do. It’s not. Creativity is inherent in us, just like any other trait. Some people are born with a beautiful singing voice, some people have tremendous amounts of compassion and love, some people are born to be over 6’ tall. And some people are born to be creative.
We can’t change these things. We can alter them like we can dye our hair or learn to either minimize their influence on life or let them shine, but those traits are in us.
For some reason, we were given the creative perspective. It’s our job, our *human obligation*, to see it through.
Want a quick way to prove this? Have a conversation with someone who swears they are not creative. They’ll tell you very quickly how much they wish they “had it”. They’ll encourage you to use it. They’ll admire it.
And then have a conversation with someone who is skilled and passionate in a way *you* admire. They’ll tell you that they need to do “it”, whatever “it” is. Volunteering, saving lives, accounting, riding horses, being a champion triathalete. They can’t *not* do it.
Art is important. There’s a reason that some of the most revered cultural institutions are museums and libraries, theaters and performing halls. There’s a reason that most of our historical artifacts are painting on cave walls and bits of narrative on scraps of disintegrating paper and stone. Art tells a story. It creates more than just understanding. It does more than teach. It reaches people milleniums apart. It tells a story we can all understand, no matter our place or time.
And you know, we might not be the ones who makes the paintings that end up in the Louvre, or the author who writes the books that get revered for lifetimes, or the performer that sings the arias that move people to tears and define a generation.
But our contribution matters. Why? Because even if our art is not museum-quality, our writing publishable, our songs catchy, it will be our heart-felt and deep COMMITMENT to our creativity that will spark something in someone else. Just by embracing our creativity and not being ashamed of it, we inspire those around us to embrace something that they might have been told was frivolous or unimportant.
And that person might be the one who changes the world.
The important thing is if we embrace our creativity, if we commit to it, and take it seriously, if we nourish it, if we make it a non-negotiable part of our daily life, if we stop apologizing and feelings shame for wanting to do it so badly, we are showing others that it’s okay to do the same.
Be that spark. Someone, somewhere needs your creativity. Provide it for them. It’s your creative *obligation*, it’s what you were born to do, and don’t ever forget it.
Chel Micheline is a mixed-media artist, curator, writer, and avid gardener/reader/swimmer who lives in Southwest Florida with her husband and daughter. When Chel’s not making art or pondering the Bliss Habits, she’s blogging at gingerblue.com (come say hi!) or posting new things in the gingerblue etsy shop.