50,000 years ago, someone who remains nameless, painted on the walls of a cave in France. We are still looking at those images and understanding that someone was making meaning. They are beautiful drawings of animals that he/she saw. They convey the joy that was felt by the artist. They communicate to us so many years later. That person had no idea that people far in the future would be looking at these images. That’s not why the artist painted them. They painted them because they were inspired by the world around them and they needed to express their feelings.
“There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.”
The above quote is from a book I am currently reading by Brene Brown called The Gifts of Imperfection. Brene makes the case for creativity being in the human DNA. It is how we make meaning of our lives. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing-it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re creating meaning. The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.
There are several facts that I learned from the book:
v We all have gifts and talents
v Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives
v Sharing our gifts and talents with the world is the most powerful source of connection
v Using our gifts and talents to create meaningful work takes a tremendous amount of commitment
No one can define what’s meaningful for us. Culture doesn’t get to dictate if it’s teaching, raising children, or painting. Like our gifts and talents, meaning is unique to each one of us. How do we determine what it is that makes meaning in our lives? Brene suggests that we DIG deep to find out what in meaningful to us.
D is for being Deliberate: Be specific about what would make your work meaningful. Maybe it would be making work that is creative, inspiring, thoughtful, or beautiful. Think about what it is you want your work to express. Use this as a way to make decisions about how you spend your time.
I is for getting Inspired: Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers that there are three criteria for meaningful work – complexity, autonomy, and a relationship between effort and reward. I can’t think of anything that describes better what painting is for me.
G is for Getting Going: Make a list of the work that inspires you. I am a big proponent of making lists. When I get an idea for a painting, it goes on the list that sits on my desk. I may get to it right away or it may take a year before that particular idea gets to a canvas or paper. But there it sits waiting for the right moment.
So, start DIGGING. Find out what your meaningful work is, and get to it! Maybe someone will be looking at your work 50,000 years in the future. Or, perhaps, you will just have the satisfaction of expressing your thoughts and feelings about the world around you.