Last year, I took a class in fine art photography. It was an effort to dive deeper into my photography and figure out who I am as a photographer. I wanted the chance to explore and push myself. What it led me to was an ongoing conversation about what fine art photography is and what we mean when we say fine art. It was very philosophical and it ultimately got the wheels in my head turning about what creativity means to me. After much deliberation with my classmates, I turned to this definition: creativity is whatever makes my heart sing.
It was a definition I had been working through for a long time. Long before I took that photography class, I had come to the conclusion that I wanted to live an actively creative life. I knew something happened to me when I engaged that part of myself, something good. When I intentionally made time to be creative, it filled me up in a way nothing else could. But that was the thing: I needed time, I needed space. To live a creative life, I had to make room for creativity.
So, I made it my mission to pursue creativity in whatever way I could. If my definition included anything that made my heart sing, then that pursuit could encompass just about anything. It just required that I pay attention to my own life. In paying attention, I can choose creativity throughout my day. I can seek out moments to make my heart sing, moments where I can get lost in the play of creativity. It could be a moment with my camera photographing the freckles on my daughter’s nose or the way the light is streaming through the kitchen window as I do the dishes. It could be a few quiet moments journaling my thoughts or brainstorming for an upcoming project. It could be doodling.
This has helped me realize that I love the process more than the product. When I’m in the process of creating something, I’m engaged. I’m curious. I want to explore and play. I ask questions and seek out answers. Let’s try this and see what happens. It reminds me of when I was a child and I would spend hours drawing. Then, I knew not to worry about the end product; I simply enjoyed the process.
If you had asked me a few years ago about living a creative life, I would have given you a lot of feedback. Most of it would have been about commitment, getting started, and letting go of perfectionism. I would have talked about making creativity a habit. I would have said that it’s work and play, it’s fun and challenging. I would have told you that it gives me life.
All of this is still true.
But if you asked me today how I live a creative life, my answer is different. It’s messier. It doesn’t come in simple platitudes and rules. There are no motivational signs cheering me on. But there is this: a tiny whisper inside me asking for time and space, begging me to slow down, to play, to pay attention.
If I go through my days searching for the delight that comes from creativity, I’m practicing just that. I’m practicing the process, teaching myself to let go of expectations and nurture myself. Earlier this year, I adopted the mantra "only what matters." I quickly realized that making time for creativity, that seeking it out in the ordinary, beautiful things in my life, was important. It’s important to pay attention. It’s important to be grateful for what we have. It’s important to seek out the things that make our hearts sing.
We show up and do the work, we carve out the creative habit, but it doesn’t always look like what we think. Sometimes it’s ordinary and beautiful and delightful. Sometimes it’s simpler than we expected.
Lindsay Crandall is a writer, photographer, and half of the daily collaboration at hello there, friend. More often than not, you’ll find her with a book or camera in her hand (and sometimes a glass of red wine). She is a collector of moments, a lover of light, a daydreamer, and a goal setter. Learn more about her on her website or follow her on Instagram.