When you’re young, it’s all about coloring, gluing, splashing paint across the canvas in all directions, learning how to write and read with the help of fantastical bedtime stories and singing with all your heart. But somewhere along the way, we stop being encouraged to create and express ourselves through art.
The focus shifts from having fun to being the best. And having to be the best often robs us of trying something new. We become afraid of being bad, of failing. But being a beginner necessarily means failing at first—that’s how we learn and become better.
While it’s great to be really good in certain areas of our lives and push ourselves to excel, we shouldn’t exclusively aim at being perfect in everything we do or extricate ourselves from things we’re not immediately great in. Sometimes it’s okay to be completely awful at something and still do it anyway.
When I first moved to Toronto, I felt pretty isolated. I didn’t know anyone in the city and I didn’t have much opportunity to be around people my age. On a whim, I decided to take a watercolour class to get out of my apartment, socialize and try something I’d always been really afraid to do: make art.
Thankfully, my desire to make some friends pushed me out of my comfort zone. While my first painting didn’t really amount to much, the act of creating unlocked something in me that I’d let slip away a long time ago. I’d gone years without expressing myself creatively through art or writing and forgotten somewhere along the way how wonderful it feels until it all came washing back to me over those few weeks of running a brush of paint and water along paper.
I’d been too afraid to try anything artistic before that because I didn’t want to be bad at it. If I couldn’t make something breathtakingly beautiful, I didn’t want to make anything at all. But in closing myself off like that, I stopped gaining new experiences; I pushed down the possibility for a more expanded life and stuck to what I knew.
But what kind of a life is that? We all have to keep growing and learning and it’s easier to accept the changeable nature of life when we embrace the unknown and view it as an adventure instead of an unwelcome challenge against our knowledge and pride.
Instead of looking exclusively at the end result, the focus should shift to the process; how it makes us feel in the act of creating is what matters. Our egos don’t enjoy hearing we’re not wonderful at everything we do, so it starts to limit us to the fields we’ve already shown promise in. The only way to negate the tendencies of our egos is to continue exercising our imagination and humility.
Expanding ourselves in areas we didn’t know much about or hadn’t ever tried keeps life interesting and nurtures an outlook on life that values experience rather than achievements. If we don’t protect and cultivate our creative inner being, tunnel vision blocks out all the possibilities that can lead to a more fulfilling and rewarding life.
Since taking those watercolour classes, I’ve also joined drawing classes, participated in a writing group, begun work on a novel and sketched at a life drawing session at a local university. I’ve not only had a lot of fun, but I’m also more open to new experiences and I’ve made a bunch of friends along the way that I would never have met otherwise.
When it doesn’t matter if we’re outstanding in what we create, the pressure is taken off; we can have fun and make art for the sake of making art. Paradoxically, wonderful stuff usually ends up being produced this way, since the outcome isn’t really the focus. But whether the art is great or not is no longer the biggest deal. It’s about expression and the freedom to create and have a good time. It’s the time spent, not the end product, that matters.
Let’s be like children once more, driven by our inner creative spirit, joyfully and enthusiastically expressing ourselves, unafraid of what others may think.