(Laini’s Ladies “Blue Wings”)
I am committed to living a magical, creative life. I’m a writer, as you know. Writing’s not always easy, and I don’t do it as regularly as I wish, but I am a writer, and I make stories. But there are other ways creativity manifests in my life, and I want to talk about them now.
When I was younger, I drew and painted and made things out of Sculpey clay. I came up with magical adventures I went on both in my backyard and in my head. I put myself into the stories I read. If in life I thought something bad might happen, I brainstormed many different, richly detailed potential solutions. I imagined objects that no one had invented yet (I was so excited the day I learned there was a thing like GPS after years of yearning for it!). My thoughts narrated my life as though I were the heroine in a novel. I felt magic in the air around me. In short, I was a very creative child.
But in high school, when I had to draw a portrait, when I had to draw a plant from, when I had to do a cut-paper record album, and everyone else in my art class was clearly so much better at all those things, my already bruised and beaten self-confidence crumbled. (I had a terrible, terrible time in high school.) I wasn’t anywhere close to what some of the other students could do without even trying, and so, I quit art altogether.
I was terrible, so why bother, right?
The sad thing is, there was no one to tell me I had talent and just needed more practice, more training. That I could do this, too, if I just stuck with it. That maybe I didn’t know the difference between a 2H pencil and a 4B, but my shapes and my eye were good. So I went off to college, became even more intimidated, and then spent most of my adulthood convinced I was not creative.
That’s right; the incredibly imaginative child grew into an adult who thought she wasn’t creative. And she suffered for it.
As a kid, I wanted to learn how to dance. I wanted to learn how to sing. As an adult, I had no idea how people made things, how they played instruments, how they envisioned things. That was totally beyond me, right?
Any time I did dare to start something, I never stuck with it. I couldn’t make myself, not when I didn’t believe in myself. Instead, I just felt like a failure and quietly envied others.
But in 2006, I wanted to write fantasy starring people who looked like me, and somehow I applied and got into the Clarion workshop, and I began to study the craft of writing. I’ve been learning ever since.
Yet I still didn’t think of myself as a creative person. In 2010, I felt the strangest nudge inside me: it suggested I should take harp lessons! I had no musical training, no idea how to read music, no clue what the levers were for. But I found a teacher, I leased a harp, and I started learning how to pluck the strings–and for a year, I kept the whole thing a secret, just to show myself I could do it.
And I started to learn songs! Me, who thought she could never do anything like that!
In 2012, I began dabbling in the crafting I so admired other people doing: paper crafts, felt pillows, hair accessories. And to my surprise, I found I could do it. My anxious mind loved coming up with ideas, and I kept trying them out, and the cycle began to feed itself.
Last month, I decided it was time to commit to learning how to draw. Enough of saying I couldn’t do it. Sure, I wish I hadn’t quit when I was seventeen, but I did, so all I can do now is move forward.
And I am. It’s frustrating, and of course I would love to be a lot further along than I am, but the only way to get there is to keep going. I’ve sprinkled the still lifes I’ve done recently throughout the post, mistakes and all. (Note: I’m not looking for critique on the art. It’s scary enough making these public!) I know they’re flawed. But I think it’s worth sharing them to prove that you really can start doing what you want at any age.
As poetess Mary Oliver said, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do/With your one wild and precious life?”
Dreams aren’t just important; they’re vital. When we live our passions, when we use our gifts, we add to the beauty and light in the world, and we inspire others to do the same. Whether or not reincarnation exists, we only live this particular life once, so we might as well live it to the fullest.
If I can do this, so can you.
So tell me, what are the things you’ve always wanted to do but never have? And what’s stopping you from doing them now?