First of all, welcome to my new readers. Many of you are coming over from Zen Habits in response to a guest essay I published there yesterday.
The essay is called Three Truths to Creating a Life of Gratitude, and I am grateful for everyone who is following along on my own journey of gratefulness.
Here at the AONC site, I write for artists, entrepreneurs, and students of all kinds, and I am deliberately broad with that statement.
Even though those groups are often categorized separately, I put them together on purpose, because I think they have a lot in common. I’m starting to believe that a lot of us students and entrepreneurs (or fill-in-the-blanks) are actually artists in disguise.
See, I have a theory that we are all artists, even if we don’t know how to draw. (I stole that line from a greeting card I received a while back. My apologies if you were the artist who wrote it.)
The practice of art is not so much about the finished product, but rather about learning to see or hear things differently.
Henri Matisse was once asked whether he looked at tomatoes differently than the rest of us. He said, “When I eat a tomato I look at it the way anyone else would. But when I paint a tomato, then I see it differently.”
When I was learning to play jazz music many years ago, it was vastly different from any music I had ever studied. I had to learn so much more! The music theory and technique that I had known before then was not sufficient, and I needed to start all over. By far the most important lesson was to listen well. And let me tell you, learning to listen well is not easy.
My thinking in this direction started a few days ago, when I asked a friend I only see once in a while what he has been working on recently. The unexpected answer he gave me started with, “The art form I’m creating now is…”
I thought that response was interesting, especially because the person I was talking to wasn’t an artist in the traditional sense. He was actually talking about booking weddings and other events for a building– a project that could have been fairly boring. My unconventional artist friend made it exciting, though, and I loved the idea of event planning being his art form.
With that in mind, here are a few lessons from the art world that can be applied to our own art forms, whatever they are.
Look for unexpected relationships. Good artists look for relationships among diverse ideas. This is why I think about artists, entrepreneurs, and students as one large group. Going for convergence, something that I’ll write about more in the future, is the ultimate goal.
For a painter, it’s not about they hold the paintbrush or apply the paint to the canvas; it’s about how they see what they are trying to capture in the two-dimensional form. Similarly, a writer is trying to transpose a world of five senses into words on a page or computer screen.
A business owner, on the other hand, strives to meet a felt need in the marketplace by providing a solution. One of my business mentors was once asked how he decided what to sell. His answer was, “I sell what people buy.”
I thought that was a good response. He looked for unexpected relationships among diverse ideas, and he was very successful as a result of the answers (products) he provided.
Reclaim Your Inner Creative. Here’s another good quote, this one from Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
I believe that lost creativity can be relearned and reclaimed. If you’re interested in reclaiming your inner creative, I recommend these classic books on the subject:
- The Artist’s Way (Julia Cameron)
- Art & Fear (David Bayles and Ted Orland)
- The War of Art (Steven Pressfield)
All of them apply to many different art forms, even things like building businesses or booking weddings. Whether you’re a “real” artist or a would-be one, check them out at your local library or bookstore.
Also, the Accidental Creative has a nice, free podcast available for download. I started listening to this guy more than a year ago, and I kept thinking he would run out of material… but surprisingly, he keeps coming up with stuff. (He also has a paid service, but you can get a lot of value from the free one.)
Creativity can be regularly nourished. Tools of gratitude, like the Zen Habits Gratefulness Challenge, can improve the world we live in and nourish our own creativity at the same time.
Remember, this applies to all artists, not just the traditional ones. The best entrepreneurs are artists, because they apply creativity to problems no one has ever thought about before.
The best students are artists, because they understand what they are learning can have far more relevance than in just one narrow discipline.
You can apply art skills to a regular job too, and people will be amazed because it’s so unusual.
Art and World Domination (A Quick Side Note)
More and more people are asking me about the world domination theme we’re building here. Some people love it, some people hate it.
“Couldn’t you do it another way?” I’ve been asked more than once. “It seems so combative.”
Well, perhaps I could, but I think it would be boring. And I also think it would miss the point.
My free PDF manifesto, A Brief Guide to World Domination, will be released on Tuesday, June 24th. On Friday I’ll tell you more about it, and let you know how you can help with the launch.
But for now, here’s a quick hint. I believe we really can rule the world and change the world at the same time. I am completely serious about that, so whether you’re a new reader or have been here for a while, I want to make my stance clear.
It’s good to be clear about your target market. I am writing for artists, entrepreneurs, and students of all kinds, but I’m not really writing for skeptics. Even though I don’t know how to draw, I have enough artist in me to know that the world can be what you make it, not just a flat image on canvas.
How About You… What Art Form Are You Creating?
So now it’s your turn. What art form are you working on? What is most important in your life right now? I’d love to know, and so will others in our growing community.
Wherever you’re reading this on the site or by RSS, think about your own art form. Whatever you do out there, are you creating a beautiful life?
Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at your favorite social networking site, or share your own thoughts in the comments below.
Image by moriza