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Living a creative life in a critical world

When I was a girl I loved to sing. Truth be told I still do, but these days my singing is relegated to the shower where the acoustics make me believe that I am really that good.

My oldest son loves to draw. He’s a creator of all sorts of inventions made of scraps of every conceivable thing left laying around, and some things he wasn’t actually supposed to have, but I digress. At his tender age of almost eight, I couldn’t force creativity out of his being without being horrifically mean or cruel. Creativity is literally alive inside his body. His passion for art is art, in itself. It’s a sad reality that we start our lives so courageously artistic and most of us lose it. For far too many of us, it is forced out of us.

A week ago I planned a little kidnapping operation of one of my best friends. This is my sweet and dear friend Krista. I took her to her favorite coffee shop where I had hired Melanie, a local artist, to teach us hand-lettering. It was, by far, my favorite day in a very, very long time. Isn’t she the sweetest?

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We had the best time. It reminded me how much I love to create and try new things. It also reminded me what a horrible perfectionist I am… Let’s just be clear: much to my disappointment, my hand-lettering does not look like Melanie’s! Look at some of her beautiful art. She has an Etsy shop where she sells some of her beautiful work.

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I was on a creative high. I honestly felt so proud of myself and so ridiculously excited for days! After the Super Bowl I even pulled out my clipboard and supplies and started practicing at the kitchen counter. So far I’ve written two words (yes, two) what I would call reasonably well. My plan was to write grace – love – joy but it turns out writing joy is really hard, so I think I’m changing it to a word that requires less proportional letters! Perfectionism dies hard, people.

Here’s my art: my grace and love – and know that this took me hours I tell you. HOURS. And many, many eraser marks. So if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all! 🙂 

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I know, I know. Not as pretty, or smooth, or natural as Melanie’s, but it’s my best. And let me just say, this art stuff can be hard.

I would have to say one of the most beautiful parts of our afternoon together was the conversation. Talking about art. Talking about making art. Sharing and exploring the tender vulnerability and fear that rides shotgun to this beautiful gift of freedom and expression. To find our art – whether that is writing, speaking, drawing, designing, hand-lettering, music, dancing or making jewelry – is to begin to know ourselves. We all have art inside of us, begging to come out! Beckoning us to find it.

I can’t imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are. -Emily Freeman: A Million Little Ways

When we start to know ourselves, we begin to find the places our heart beats strong. The place where our deepest secret passions meets the hammering of our timid heart so profoundly that we cannot stay the same. The place where we are compelled to risk. To put ourselves out there for criticism, opinion and judgment. I mean, who has time for art? In our culture we’ve bought into the belief system that to be more we have to do more. Art seems frivolous, right?

We were born to make art. We were created to create. All we need to do is look to our kids to see their wildly creative imaginations. A dog with purple polka dots, yellow stripes and six legs instead of four. The colorful wild-haired monster you would almost like to see appear in your room at night. Your art might look vastly different from my art, and my art might look like child’s play compared to your art, but it’s ours.

My art is writing. I’ll be honest it’s taken me three years just to have the courage to say that out loud. It’s where my soul feels free. In the quiet of my house in the middle of the night, or on the one day I don’t have kids at home, I feel wholly and deliriously free. In the comfort of my house I feel unique, courageous and beautiful. Wholly imperfect, as much as I try to make it otherwise, being creative makes my soul come alive and sets my mind absolutely and unexplainably free. Living a creative life not only brings me joy, but it makes me a better person.

Unused creativity is not benign – it metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgment, sorrow, shame.            -Brene Brown

When we don’t find the courage to find the creativity inside us and let it out, it turns on us. It turns into resentment and bitterness and jealousy, especially when we see others bravely practicing their art. We call it names and pass judgment on how they spend their time, surely they should be doing something more productive with their TIME. But really, at the end of the day we’re just jealous. I’ve been there. When I was in the trenches of mothering, and diapers on all three kids, I longed for the moment I could do something more. Not that mothering isn’t enough…it’s just I felt that quiet knowing that there was something else, something else alive in me waiting to be birthed.

Had I not stepped into my art and pursued a creative life I know I would be resentful. Resentful of myself and others who found the courage to step out in faith and do their thing. The ones willing to give life to the soft, quiet voice inside their spirit nudging them on. You hear it, we’ve all heard it. Oh, but to have the courage to listen. To risk the critics and begin the lifelong journey of learning what makes your own soul come alive.

I can’t think of a more worthy goal or lesson to teach our children. Sure, mathematics are important, and so is science and reading and everything else. But every major decision we make in our life – from choosing which friends to hang out with, to college and career, to our future spouse – is dependent on knowing ourself. But we don’t teach that.

Art teaches that. Living a creative life teaches that. In every single stage and circumstance of life we will be faced with decisions whether we want to fit in or stand out, take a risk or play it safe, and say yes to others or yes to ourselves.

Here are just a few of my friends who are bravely leading and inspiring me toward bravely living a creative life in a critical world.

Katie: is a freelance graphic designer and a creative genius. She’s been doing a super fun creative challenge this year – to create a painting every week in 2015. You can find her on instagram or under the hashtag #seekatepaint She’s amazing.

Erin Kate: founder, designer and curator of ekate designs and the orchard art house. I’ve watched her from afar for years and been inspired to live a more creative life. Art oozes from every pore in her being from her style to her writing to her heart. Lucky us, she also has an etsy shop.

Emily: founder of Jones Design Company, Emily lives and breaths and shares her art regularly with the world. Her art consists of writing and blogging but also the most beautiful stationary, craft projects, decorating advice and downloadable art prints for all of us. She is remarkable. And did I mention, exceedingly kind? You’ll want to subscribe and bookmark her for sure.

Melanie: this incredibly kind, talented pre-school teacher taught herself hand-lettering and is now making her art available to the world. She’s the one with the beautiful writing (not mine) in this post. You can find her etsy shop here.

April: this incredibly brave and talented opera singer, is my cousin. After years of heated family duels over Monopoly when we were kids, April has spent her whole life dedicated to the art of crafting and perfecting the instrument of her voice. Pursuing a dream, she followed her passion to London, studying at the Royal Academy of Music and is now a Young Artist for Somm Recordings. Wow, right? I am so incredibly inspired and proud of her.

Amy: is a beautiful friend, wife and mom who taught herself photography. What started as a passion became her full-time business. I can hands-down say she is one of the best I have ever seen and she captures my own family every single year behind her lens. We are so grateful for her.

Melanie: began bringing old furniture new life as a passion, which unexpectedly turned into a God-designed way for her to support and provide for her two precious young boys. Her business, All Things New, has transformed many pieces of furniture and also her life.

Living a creative life is not a frivolous luxury for the lucky few. It’s our birthright. I challenge you to find your art. Begin the brave, beautiful journey of knowing yourself, loving yourself, and giving yourself the greatest gift: designing and living a creative life. A life that you love.

Who inspires you toward living a creative life? What’s your art?


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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Cammie February 5, 2015, 9:39 pm

    Thank you. I loved this!

  • Krista February 6, 2015, 9:01 pm

    Awwwwww—– I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. What a beautiful post. First, because you are so, so, so dear to me, and it’s a tribute to our 100% joy day. And also, because it inspires me to live a creative life and to keep pressing in to those areas that enrich and widen our souls. You strike an important balance in your life and it’s so fun to have a front row seat xoxoxo

    • Tammy February 18, 2015, 9:52 pm

      Mmmmmmm, friend. It was 100% joy. As is life with you, side by side in the journey. Couldn’t ask for a more faithful friend. xoxo

  • Laura February 6, 2015, 10:30 pm

    Thank you so much for this. Especially the insight about what happens when we try to quiet or silence our art…convicting and challenging. And I’m grateful.

    • Tammy February 18, 2015, 9:50 pm

      So glad to hear Laura! Creativity is so powerful and incredibly undervalued. Having a place to be creative has changed my life in so many awesome ways. Blessings!

  • claire February 10, 2015, 7:38 am

    This is the 1st time I’ve ever made a comment on a blog but I just wanted to say thank you for this post! This was exactly what I needed today, for too long I’ve been battling to make time between work and children to find me again through creativity and to encourage my son with his and get him off the X – box! Thank you for an article full of wisdom and inspiration and good luck with your creative journey ☺

    • Tammy February 18, 2015, 9:46 pm

      And good luck to you too Claire! So honored by your comment! Glad you’re here.

  • Mary March 7, 2016, 9:59 pm

    Very wise and beautifully written. It actually brought tears to my eyes! Thank you so much for the validation.

  • SusanH June 27, 2016, 5:58 pm

    Came across this post via Pinterest today. Loved it, you are so right about a lot of things! You write beautifully as well and I am inspired to create more in my life now – ALL aspects. God bless you TammyS

    • admin June 28, 2016, 11:53 pm

      Oh Susan, your words are a GIFT to me! I’m so glad to have you here. xo

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