Guess what? You’re an artist. Yes, I’m talking to you. I’ll say it again. YOU are an artist. Did you know that? Somewhere deep down inside you, there’s a part of you that recognizes what I just said as truth. Yup, I’m betting there was a flicker at least, but then there’s also that familiar wet blanket voice that says, “No, not me. Creativity and art are for them. The talented ones. The special ones. Not me. I can appreciate art, I’m just not meant to make it.”
Wanna know how I know? Cause I’m an artist too and for a good part of my life, I completely shut that part of myself down and denied my creative instincts. In fact, I can tell you exactly how and when it happened. Now I’m all about taking responsibility for our own lives, including our thoughts, beliefs and actions. BUT that doesn’t mean that other people we encounter along the way don’t have an impact on us and play a part in shaping who we are. The truth is that who we are results from the combination of our experiences and how we choose to process them.
When I was a kid, I used to love drawing and coloring. Aside from moonlighting as an actor in the department of trying to manipulate my parents to give me everything I wanted (yeah, I was a little rascal), my initial creative pull was towards visual art. I remember getting my first how-to book on drawing caricatures. I was in love. I can still feel the excitement I had at the thought of being able to reproduce the funny faces in the book and to eventually create my own. And coloring was my jam, too. I had all the bad-ass instruments a kid could get. Crayola, those markers that smell good, a coloring pencil set that folded open and propped itself up. You know what I’m talkin’ about.
This passion for visual art continued up until the beginning of high school when Capital-A Art class became a little more serious. And that’s when she showed up. My Grade 9 art teacher, Mrs. MeanCreativeBuzzKillWoman. One semester in her class and my creative innocence was tainted and taken from me, and my aspirations to make great art were completely shattered (I know, I’m being dramatic). So what happened? Well, in giving me her feedback on one of our big projects that involved shading, a technique I found challenging at first, Mrs. M. dropped an anti-creative bomb and told me I didn’t have the skills to be an “Artist” and that I should pursue some other form of creative expression (insert sad, dejected face here) or stick to sports.
And that’s exactly what I did. The budding Picasso within me was bruised, so the next year I took drama instead and focused most of my energy on the basketball team. All that creative juice didn’t go to waste because I went on to play the lead in my high school’s theater production of “Our Town” and became the captain of my high school bball team. Thank you Mrs. M.! But really, not thank you. That experience left a creative scar. I remember walking by the art studio on my way to drama and seeing the canvases coming to life, smelling the paint and thinking I would love to try that, too. But then I’d remember what Mrs M. had said and believing her, I would think: “That’s not for me. It’s for them. I’m better at drama. And I’m more of an athlete than an artist anyways.” And it wouldn’t be until many, many years later that I dared approach a canvas or hold a paintbrush.
The fact is that this kind of thing happens all the time. It’s pervasive. We live in a world that often neglects and fails to nurture the artist in each of us. Yes, I truly believe that we are all artists. And it starts with us believing it and remembering it, even when someone else tells us otherwise. And even more so, not getting so caught up in what people say or think, and giving them power over our ability to use our creative gifts.
We’ve ALL had creative experiences that were less than affirming. Maybe it was a grade school teacher or a friend telling you not to bother with your artistic endeavor of choice. Or maybe you began exploring a form of self-expression later in life and someone told you to stick to your day job. Or maybe you were laughed at and made fun of the first time you danced or sang in public, and you decided to put your moves away and silence your voice ever since. That almost happened to me, too, but I learned my lesson with Mrs. M and this time, I chose to keep going and discovered a passion for music that will burn within me until the day I die.
The point is that it’s up to us claim our right to be creative, to listen to the voice of the artist within and to let it be fully self-expressed. It’s up to us to protect that part ourselves against all threats, naysayers and creative buzzkills ™. That includes well-meaning but insensitive friends and family who offer unsolicited feedback and so-called constructive criticism. But most of all, it’s up to you. YOU have to believe that you’re an artist. You have to give yourself permission to create, to play, to express. And that means allowing yourself to be a beginner at something, to crawl before you walk, to do something just for the fun of it without needing to be world class. It means not comparing yourself to anyone else and just doing what you love to do for the simple joy and pleasure that it brings you. Like a child would.
So think back to when you were a kid, or to that moment when you decided or let someone else decide for you that creativity and art were not for you. Are you ready to make a new choice? Are you willing to bring that part of you back to life and reclaim your creativity fully?
Just do it. It will feel good, I promise.
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Chris Assaad is a singer/songwriter and inspirational artist from Toronto who left a promising career in law several years ago to pursue his dream of a career in music. Since then, Chris has been actively using his voice to enCOURAGE others to follow their dreams, express their creativity and live life to the fullest.