The Creative Impulse

If you long to be a writer or a painter or a dancer or (insert creative pursuit here), you will have to decide at some point how much creative energy you will devote to that pursuit. I am nearly as visual a person as I am inclined toward the written word, but I made a decision in college that words were my first love, so I would devote all my creative energy to writing. And I did. For many years.

But that visually creative urge still tugs at me for attention. Photography is my favorite hobby, and it mostly fulfills my desire to create visually. I don’t put a lot of energy into it, and I don’t try to excel as a photographer. I just have fun with it when the urge strikes. Yet I find myself longing for more tactile activities. I have a dirty little habit of amassing paint and paper and canvasses and other bits of ephemera with the intent of using it all to paint, make cards, and create mixed media art, but I rarely get around to it.

Why? Limited creative energy.

Put another way, the well is not a bottomless one. It takes an immense amount of psychic energy to write a book, keeping my attention sustained and the story taking shape in my head for the months and months of writing and editing. I’ve never been able to shake the desire for visual creativity beyond my photography though, so this summer, with my daughter home with me all day some days, we have set about doing our own art workshop. We do a little here and there, and it’s enough for me. I am at a place in my writing development that I can afford a bit of energy for this other thing, so long as it’s kept in the realm of easy and fun.

For someone just starting out on a creative path, I would recommend throwing all of yourself into it. There is no such thing as achieving mastery. It’s a lifelong pursuit we never quite reach, but the pursuit of it is incredibly worthwhile and fulfilling. In the early years of learning a new skill, the energy and focus required can be immense, so beware of dividing your energy if you are very serious about becoming good at what you want to do. The result could be that you never move past the novice stage.

Instead, commit to being the best you are capable of being. If it’s a goal you care deeply about, it deserves nothing less.

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