My entire life I thought that creative, talented artists were the ‘chosen ones’. With a strike of lightning inspiration, they conjure up art, music, or literature behind this ephemeral veil of ‘artistry’. Yet, the more I talk with creatives in Los Angeles, the more I realize that creativity is a muscle that needs to be trained. It needs practice and structure in order to propel even more creativity- an organic engine that chugs along, that is, only if the conductor adds more fuel.
I started to retrace my own experiences in music and dance as a practice-averse creative. Sitting by myself at home and practicing scales and sections always seemed time consuming and boring. For me, the best experience was better in rehearsal with the entire band. My oboe performances drastically improved when I actually started practicing pieces a few times a week before rehearsals. Practicing also decreased my performance jitters and once I knew the piece inside and out, I realized how much more confident I played. It’s no surprise that practice makes close-to-perfect.
I believe that the abstract beauty of creativity, though, is that it doesn’t have to result in a completed project- a painting, a mural, a song, a book, a poem, a performance. One can practice creativity by simply sitting down with a blank canvas and imagining what might pop up. A natural next step might be to let those ideas flourish through written prose or physically manifest them through colors onto the page. The creative process does not exist in a binary, instead it is a spectrum in which art can exist without completion and for one’s own personal enjoyment. And yes, I do think daydreaming is a part of our creative process, in fact, I think it’s where the best ideas are incubated.
So, what inspires us? What moments or practices spur our creativity? How do we motivate our inner creativity? The following experiences are insights into different creative journeys during quarantine with exploring passions and hobbies.
Cynthia – @cxcxpufff
Based in L.A.
At the beginning, I felt I was in a creative block only because I’m so used to creating for other people, whether that be with music, makeup styling, directing, dancing. I’ve never really considered art myself. I did my art on or for other people that looked like art already, I just felt I couldn’t be art myself, I wasn’t fit for my visions or I didn’t look the part. It’s hard to explain but I just didn’t think I could be art. So because of the pandemic, I stopped doing a lot of creative things, I wasn’t in the studio anymore, and I just couldn’t keep going to the online sessions because my brain just doesn’t work that way. I wasn’t seeing the people that let me create so I stopped creating for a while. During quarantine, I had to really hang out with myself and I didn’t like that. I still had remote work but I literally had to force myself day in and day out to do work and force myself into that safe space. I need to be in my head to create, and I wasn’t.
Then I started getting bored. I just wanted to do things and little by little, I would do trial looks on myself, on the people around me, and it was frustrating because I had no ideas, direction or a task. It was open-ended art, which is even harder and scarier.
I photographed my sibling, my boyfriend’s cars, I did portraits, and then I started playing with the idea of being my own muse. I hated it at first but the more I did it, the easier it got and the more comfortable I got with not only “art” but with myself and I think that’s an art all in its own.
I’ve been writing for me, I’ve been dancing for me, I’ve been dressing for me, and I haven’t really done that in years. I forgot all about feeling good in this skin and seeing myself as art too.
Kai – @bykaichuan
Creative and Producer based in NYC
How would you define creativity?
Creativity is the practiced ability to make connections. Creative ideas are just connections we make between all the things that we know, feel, and think about. For example, creativity is connecting a past personal experience with specific colors, style, and tools that match the emotion of that memory. Everyone has a unique store of all the things they know, feel, and think about; everyone has the ability to be creative and their own potential for unique ideas.
What motivates you to be creative or work towards your personal projects?
I feel like I’m very cyclical when it comes to my creative process. I fluctuate between a week or two of being creatively productive and another week or so of nothing. Each time I return to a period of feeling creative, I’m also cycling between different mediums or projects. Unless it’s a small project or I’m powering through it, it takes me a while to complete a project with all these cycles.
I’m primarily motivated by my partner, friends, and the people I see online who all create things. When I see them enjoying making art, I’m motivated to do the same.
(Sunlight via Two Feet Studios)
How do you train your creativity?
Since I view creativity as a practice of making connections, I think it’s just as important to be observing and consuming creative work as it is to be making your own. I think that’s why I cycle between being productive and doing “nothing.” During the nothing, I’m recharging by looking to my partner, friends, the people I follow online, and the world around me for inspiration—more connections to make.
What inspires you? How do you seek inspiration?
I like to think everything has the potential to be inspiring. Aside from the social channels I follow, the friends I have, and the games/movies/shows/music/etc. I consume, I try to be present in everyday moments that can later serve as inspiration.
(California, California, California, California, Taiwan & the Philippines via Two Feet Studios)
How have you stayed creative during quarantine?
Quarantine has been tough. I think the most important thing I’ve learned about myself and creativity has come from taking care of plants. Similar to how you’ve just got to “listen” to your plants for how much water they need, I’ve learned I need to listen to and trust myself when it comes to being creatively “productive” and when I need rest. If I’m really not feeling like working on a creative project, I try not to force myself to. Likewise, when I do have the impulse to work on a project, I try my best to really carve out time and energy to explore that urge.
What are your thoughts on creativity and social media?
I personally love social media. I think if you can find the right balance of conscious consumption, then it can be a powerful tool for inspiration and empowerment.
Madhura – @m.adhura
Based in NYC
What has motivated you throughout quarantine?
When the quarantine first started, the thing that motivated me was honestly thinking about how things would go back to normal in a couple weeks. I was truly in denial and it wasn’t until after several months had passed, that I finally accepted that it’s going to take the world ample time to heal. I started to find motivation in the little things: eating my favorite foods, learning a new recipe, catching up with an old friend on FaceTime, and watching (more like binging) some amazing TV shows that had been begging for my attention. I started living week by week instead of looking months into an uncertain future. I’ve always been the type of person to get excited about nothing (lol) and I found that being extra cognizant of these little pleasures has really helped me stay positive and motivated at work and in my personal life. This pandemic has taught me to appreciate and find joy in the little things and to really never take anything for granted.
What prompted you to start journaling?
In New York I’d have so many outlets for my energy – going out, restaurants, parks, seeing friends, music, night life, art, work, shopping. I found that being in my suburban home in Michigan during a lockdown offered far fewer opportunities for me to be my wild self and I realized I just had a lot of “stuff” in me that I needed to let out somewhere. That’s what prompted me to start journaling! (That and also maybe the cute notebooks I’ve collected over the years that I had never gotten around to using). I needed to put all the words that were taking up brain space somewhere. I wouldn’t call my journaling sophisticated but it allows me to reflect on the things I’m grateful for, for example, or put into words all the things I’m excited about, nervous about, or even saddened by. I don’t have a set schedule for when I journal but sometimes it just feels good to take a pen to some paper and write.
How do you try to stay creative? Do you find it difficult to juggle this with your other responsibilities?
I think exercising your creative muscles is super important and something I want to focus on getting better at doing more easily. Honestly, I love working and so I like to spend the majority of my day doing just that, which does make it tough to juggle expanding my creativity. I hope to get to a place where I get good at getting my creative juices flowing whether that’s through whiteboarding exercises, journaling, art, or something else and I hope that by doing this I can also be more creative in my professional job. I want to come up with more creative solutions and see problems and targets through more unique lenses. I also love drawing and painting; it calms me down and let’s me express myself through shapes and colors.