Have you ever watched little kids make art? You put the materials in front of them and they dive in with abandon, fearlessly marking up their paper, cutting things in pieces, mixing paint, and sprinkling glitter. They are absolutely unconcerned with success or failure, and although they will show you their work when they're done with it, they do so knowing that you'll like it.
Then, as kids get older, they start to compare their work to that of others, and to preconceived standards taught them at school, on line, on TV, in books, and by well meaning family and friends. Soon they become self conscious about their work, pointing up its flaws rather than its virtues. They become hesitant to even begin a project, not wanting to mess up that clean, white sheet of paper. By the time they're adults, most have convinced themselves that they're "not artistic."
So what about the artists who do continue to make art even as adults? Are they not self conscious about their work?
I'm pretty sure that most artists experience some hesitation before picking up a brush, or playing a note, or writing that first sentence, but they do it anyway.
I know that they're often more critical of their work than any objective viewer might be, but they do it anyway.
They do it because the need to make art is so strong within them that they can't not do it.
That need for artistic expression lies at the very heart of what makes us human. For as long as humans have been human, we've been making art: embellishing ourselves, our tools, and our surroundings; striving to make things more beautiful, to tell stories, and to reflect the beauty around us.
Our artists are those who feel that need for expression most acutely.
When an artist creates new work, it's very nice if others like it but even if no one at all cares for it the piece has still served it's purpose: The expression of creativity.
Experiencing art is one of the most intensely individual things we do. Each one of us will view a work uniquely, through lenses coloured by our personal experiences and taste. Whether we like that work or not, it will cause us to think and experience new things and those new thoughts and experiences are at the core of art's value.
So, why am I telling you all of this?
I want you to make art fearlessly, putting aside the fears and reservations you've learned growing up.
I want you to approach your paper, your musical instrument, your camera, your keyboard, or whatever medium you choose to work with, with abandon.
I want you to dive into the creative process with child-like enthusiasm; without concerning yourself over success or failure.
I want you to put aside comparisons of "good" and "bad" and just enjoy the wonder of the creative process.
I want you to put pen, pencil, paint to paper, to pick up an instrument, to dance in the kitchen, to carve or assemble sculpture, to sing loudly, to write your story, to make your quilt, to grow your garden or to piece together your mosaic.
I want you to do these things with no thought for who might see or hear them, but just for the joy of doing it.
If you don't like what you've created, throw it away or - better still - use it as a stepping stone to make something new.
Because creativity feels good. It's a meditative process that allows us to clear our minds of the stresses of the day. It makes us happy.
Creative thought in one area of our lives usually leads to creative thought in other areas too. We become more adaptive - better problem solvers - through fostering our creativity.
I want you to experience art made by others in the same way:
Step outside the work of artists you already know and love. Look at and listen to genres outside your comfort zone. Encounter new and different things with an open mind.
You may not like the new art you experience, and that's okay: No permanent injury was ever done by looking at a painting you didn't care for, or by listening to a song you don't like. No one ever died as a result of watching a bad play.
But here's the thing: You may like some of those things too. You may discover a passion for some new art form that you'd never have experienced if you weren't open to new work.
Have fun doing it.
You can thank me later.