Do you ever feel the urge to make stuff? To create without any real purpose…just for the sake of creating? Do you consider yourself a creative person? Our women’s group recently read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and in the book she shared her opinion that “If you’re alive, you’re a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem solvers, and embellishers- these are our common ancestors.”
The idea of being a “maker” really resonated with me. What is the difference between a maker, and say, an artist? As I thought this over, I stumbled upon a local article about a local man named Eddie, who constantly creates and experiments with different tools and mediums. When interviewed he said, “I wouldn’t call myself an artist. I don’t like getting caught up in labels too much. Semantics arguments tend to be useless; you lose the meaning for the sake of the argument. That being said, I consider myself to be a maker… I’m fairly well convinced that many people can but don’t create because they think they’ll do something wrong. It’s been liberating to me to allow myself to put imperfect and unfinished works into the world to encourage others to express themselves.”
To me the idea of a maker is someone whose reward for making is in the process itself. They are not consumed or driven by the finished product, whether they can sell their creation or even if it has a purpose. The making is the treasure. Upon completion, maybe it does bring joy, to the creator or even to a community. However, maybe it does not. Maybe it is just tacky or useless and that’s okay.
How many of us have been curious about a creative idea but did not pursue it out of fear we would not meet our own expectations or be as good as someone else? There will surely always be someone more experienced, more talented, but that does not mean we have nothing to gain from creating. When I am creating, whether I am writing, making a card for someone, building a leaf mandala in the backyard or developing a class or retreat, I am focused and connected to a deeper intuitive part of myself that offers wisdom and confidence. I feel alive and purposeful. Those experiences are important. They remind us of how it feels to live authentically and nourish our spirit.
Adam Savage, one of America’s most esteemed industrial designers, has something to offer on the subject, “Humans do two things that make us unique from all other animals; we use tools and we tell stories. And when you make something, you’re doing both at once.” What stories do your makings tell?
When I think about it, I come from a long line of makers. My ancestors have been inventors, decorators, builders and travelers. The stories I have heard! Although neither riches nor fame were the result of their makings, their creations add to my family’s story and in some way, I believe, to my own character and personality. My parents, grand parents, great grand parents, and so on, created things to make their lives easier, interesting and fun. They did not create for Pulitzer prizes or attention; they created because it came natural to them. It is just what we do. I’ll admit some pretty cool “stuff” has been made for the sake of making and I think that is a beautiful thing. How liberating it is to detach from the expectation of perfection, and allow creativity, inspiration and random ideas to flow freely!
Recently, I was in a craft store and had the urge to paint. Immediately discouraging thoughts flooded my mind: Why start painting now? You aren’t even good at painting. You’re just going to waste a bunch of money on supplies to paint a bunch of pictures that aren’t any good. What useful could come out of painting? Isn’t this often how it goes when we become interested in something new, outside of our comfort zone? My decision: It doesn’t matter if I paint pictures that aren’t any good. The point is that I will get to experience the painting!
At the beginning of Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert shared a powerful quote from a professor she admired and it has stuck with me as both permission and encouragement to create and make, for no purpose other than for the sake of creating:
“Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes.”
I share those words with you, hopefully as encouragement for you to MAKE. Decorate, cook, tinker, tell stories, make jewelry, dance, invent, explore, make music, build, garden, problem solve, embellish!