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“I haven’t taken any acting classes since college—just some improv drop-ins over five years ago. I’m here because I wanted to do something fun. Just for myself. I used to be so creative. I don’t know what happened.”
I stood in front of 10 other adults in an old, renovated warehouse in Central Salt Lake City. We were asked to explain why we wanted to take acting classes, especially as worn-out adults.
Most of us were past what looked like the traditional “school age,” and it appeared as if I was one of the older students in the room.
Some of the other students’ answers included:
“I’m in community theater now. I want to eventually move to Los Angeles and be in film.”
“I’m shy and reserved. I’m hoping this will bring me out of my shell.”
“I was in a commercial when I was a kid. I’m wondering where this could lead me in a future film career.”
It took years to find a class that fit my schedule. I finally found this class that required some consistency and commitment: A three-hour evening class, every Wednesday, lasting a year.
We had some materials to gather prior to class, one of them being a book called, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It was a book that shifted my entire perspective on how I was living my life.
I had also identified with her sequel, It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond, which mostly focused on retired individuals.
Where Does Our Creativity Go?
You don’t have to be of retirement age to wonder where your creativity went or why it left. Beginning as early as my 20s, I started to wonder, “What ever happened to the little girl who used to constantly write books? Or write screenplays and execute them? Draw, or even doodle in my down time?” I didn’t do any of that anymore. I didn’t feel the drive to do any of that anymore.
It’s as if I entered the professional workforce and my focus diverted. Efficiency, technical problem-solving, and black-and-white rules governed my world now. I didn’t “have time” to read a book for fun, pick up my old acrylic paints and experiment with a design, or sit down and write about something that was on my mind.
For years, I perceived that I didn’t have time to challenge or strengthen my creative side. And so it went—my left brain expanded as my right brain atrophied.
This is a phenomenon that I’ve since learned is all-too common for adults. We spend so many years in school—sometimes it’s focused on a more structured topic matter—that we completely disregard and neglect our “right brain,” or what’s considered to be where our creativity originates.
And while there’s nothing wrong with being analytical or logical, balance is truly key, and some may require or desire a balance that favors in one direction or another. I know I actually mourned what appeared to be the death of my creativity at several points in my life.
In Julia Cameron’s books, she mentions that we are all born creative, whether we realize it or not. Our creativity can easily be lost through our adult lives as we focus on our professions, taking care of family, concerning ourselves with finances, and simply trying to get by.
The arts and being creative also tend to not be as “valued” in our Western society. After all, unless you’re one of the rare few who make millions from your artistry, it’s difficult to even make a livable wage doing this thing that you love.
It Started With A Journal
Finding our lost creativity takes a conscious effort. If we wait for it to find us again, or wait for that moment of inspiration to take hold, we very well could be waiting for the rest of our lives.
Inspiration doesn’t just “happen” to us; we must cultivate it!
Finding my lost creativity and tapping back into my childhood thought process started with creating a journal in 2011. But I didn’t jump right back into creating stories, or drawing illustrations. I spoke simply—as if I was talking to myself or to a close friend. I discussed my daily chores or what was going on at that time in my life.
Talking about mundane daily occurrences then turned inward as I began writing about my hopes, my dreams, and my frustrations. I was able to put on paper what I was feeling inside. The repressed emotion that I could so easily push further and further down within myself finally had an outlet.
I discovered how my technical writing for work still benefited me as it kept some aspects of my writing interest honed. My first journal entries as an adult sounded rigid, almost as if I was writing a proposal for some kind of work-related project.
That style loosened a bit with time. Reading more fantasy or fiction books has helped. Taking creative writing classes was suggested to me as well—something I’ve signed up for at the end of this summer.
Julia Cameron’s books also discuss something similar to what I was doing years ago in the early days of my journal. Her concept of “Morning Pages” is a creative-finding technique designed to allow your subconscious to come spilling out, little by little onto a journal page every morning. You write three pages every morning, talking about anything, everything, or absolutely nothing at all.
The important part is that you just do it. Consistency is key here, as you retrain your brain to open up to other possibilities. Develop that subconscious conversation with yourself.
I was 11 years old when my father took me to our local television station. For the past 25 years, he’s hosted a weekly Public Broadcasting Service program, answering medically-related questions for call-in viewers. On this particular night, my dad was hosting a pledge drive, and he wanted me to stand right in front of the cameras with him.
I was terrified. Not only was I shy in front of my school classroom full of peers who I had known the entire year, but I couldn’t imagine standing in front of thousands of invisible people inside a camera. I remember fighting with my dad— pleading not to go, but he insisted. He thought it would be “good for me.”
I froze on-air. “Isn’t that right, Vanessa?” My dad would attempt to engage me with questions, but I literally just stood there, looking ahead at the blinking red camera light, not saying a word and attempting to muster a shy smile. My dad would laugh and slap me on the shoulder in his way and continue with his gregarious commentary.
It was one of the most uncomfortable moments of my life. I didn’t want to be there. But ask me to do it now? It sounds like a blast. Despite the discomfort, I look back at moments like that in life and I think about how every time I stepped out of my comfort zone, I somehow developed a new skill. It made me stronger, realizing that nothing really “bad” happens through our discomfort.
We can overcome these mental blocks and find our inspiration on the other side.
As a child, there were times when I fantasized about being a famous actress or a famous director. I even practiced my interviews with Jay Leno or David Letterman in the mirror. I thought about how colorful the world seemed with the idea of making a living out of being an artist of some sort. Those fantasies stopped for the most part following my college years.
My mother was a creative inspiration for me, though, and she continues to be. A talented illustrator, painter, seamstress, and now quilter, she always seemed to keep up with her creativity and she involved it in her life more than most other adults I knew.
Working in different capacities in her life such as healthcare labs, management, and stay-at-home mom, her full-time job always seemed to be more accurately, “Festival Float and Mural-Maker,” “Perpetual Bob Ross Student,” “Church Artist Director,” “Halloween Seamstress,” or “Neighborhood Quilt-Gifter.”
“Being creative frees and relaxes my mind. When I’m creating something, I cannot be worrying or ruminating at the same time. It’s so satisfying to make something that’s beautiful in my eyes,” she’s told me.
I’ve previously viewed public speaking for my professional jobs as a necessity, but I’ve since learned how much it’s helped with other creative avenues in my life, as well. Public speaking skills were the one thing I felt I unintentionally maintained consistently throughout my life. It’s helped me with my professional pursuits, feeling decently relaxed in front of a room of other acting students, approaching strangers, and making friends.
Public speaking is a great example of how one skill can help you with your creativity and how, vice-versa, using public speaking creatively can help you with other practical life skills.
Art and creativity allow you to think outside of the box—a trait sorely needed in today’s world with rapid technological advances and focuses, societal trends, and certain expectations put upon all of us.
What You Do Now
I like to think about jumping back into the creative life in two particular ways: passively and actively. There’s nothing scientific about this. Just my own definitions as I see them.
Passive activities might include going to a concert or orchestra, purchasing theater or Broadway tickets, browsing a museum, a library, exhibition, and spending time in nature.
While even these passive activities are actually still quite active in their own way, I view them as being activities that allow you to step away from yourself, even for just a moment. You don’t have to be “good” or “excel” at anything to do these things. You just need to show up.
Active activities I see as being things where you proactively insert yourself. These things could include starting a journal, taking an art class, taking a theater class, or taking music lessons.
You could say these active activities also just require you to “show up,” however, I think they necessitate some additional effort and courage. They’re the things people aren’t always willing to do or make room in their schedule for, in fear of it being trivial.
A mixture of your passive and active activities are what together not only inspire and wake up the creative beast within but provoke the initial action to get started with it all, as well.
I suggest reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artists Way, which, as previously mentioned, offers activities such as “morning pages,” “artists dates” (doing something creatively enriching by yourself), and much more.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic was a book that I had read a couple of times, the most recent time being in Autumn 2021. That second read is what inspired me to truly write a “beginning to end” article and post it somewhere for public view. It was a big accomplishment for me, as it was the first time I had officially submitted any kind of completed writing project since I was an adolescent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be the next Julia Roberts. If I were, that’s okay, but always having a means to an end is not the point of this creative reawakening. “It’s the journey,” as they say. Being able to express our creativity as the individuals we are is just as human as eating or breathing.
I know my journey will continue to grow. I’ll continue to learn, take classes, and find inspiration and support from others. I won’t always be consistent. I’ll get frustrated with myself, and I’ll feel like I’m never doing enough.
But I drove home from that first acting class with a great big smile on my face, not remembering when the last time was that I felt so happy and satisfied. Along with starting to write actual articles again, it felt like a several-year lull in my life had just been broken.
I was doing it just for me, and I felt like I was truly living my life again.