To be an artist you must learn to let yourself be. Stop getting better. Start appreciating what you are. Do something that simply delights you for no apparent reason. Give in to a little temptation, poke into a strange doorway, buy the weird scrap of silk in a color you never wear. Make it an altar cloth, set your geranium on it, frame it—try letting yourself be that nasty, derogatory little word, “arty.” Drop the rock. A lot of great artists work in their pajamas. Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Hammerstein both worked standing up because they liked that.
Sometimes we get a lot further in our art and in our lives when we let ourselves do a little of what comes easily and naturally. If you like to draw horses, stop drawing chairs. If you would love to take ballet, do it and let modern jazz be someone else’s winter sport. If you have a deep love for Broadway, tell Chopin you’ll be back.
Painting your kitchen is creative. Putting bells on your kid’s school shoes is creative. Restructuring the office is creative. Getting the bad stuff tossed from the closet is creative. None of that’s going to blow up Western civilization, and it is going to cheer us up, our world up, and, by the tiny overflow joie de vivre, help Western civilization by one tiny jot. It is self-expression, not self-scrutiny and “correction,” that brings healing and happiness. Bells on the shoelaces, sonnets in the schools. These are not so far apart. Writing a novel and doing something novel on a Saturday afternoon are both creative leaps—one large and one small, but each is grounded in the right to express creative choice.
Very often a little friendly and easy art can send us back up those other slithery slopes with a bit more humor and optimism.
Artists of all stripe tend to equate difficulty with virtue and ease with slumming. We do not lean into our ease and enjoy the ride of our gift. Instead, we make firm resolves to work on our areas of difficulty. We call this improving ourselves-okay, sometimes we do improve a wobbly area, but if we do not practice the joy of using our talents where they fall easily, we rob ourselves of self-expression. The self has a few things it “selfishly” enjoys—and it is dangerous, as an artist, to ignore these natural affections and predilections.
This is not to say you have to “give up” high art. Instead, I am saying to try “Hi, Art!” like you are waving to someone friendly out the window of your pickup truck.
Excerpt From: Julia Cameron. “Walking in This World.”