The Great 8 Benefits of Creativity

Creativity-Positively-Present

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I'm in the midst of working on a new book on creativity, and as I've been writing and researching, I've come across so many important benefits that can be achieved when engaging in creative experiences. The list is super long (I'll be exploring them in more detail in the book!), but I thought I'd take a break from my research and write about some of them here. 

When the average person thinks of "creativity," they typically think about one of two things: (1) a professional creative who works in a creative field (or is a well-known artist), or (2) a somewhat frivolous activity that can be done during downtime (see: the boom of the adult coloring book market). But creativity shouldn't be reserved for professional creatives or for people who seemingly have lots of extra time on their hands. Creativity is for everyone. And, more importantly, it's essential

The more creativity we cultivate, the more we all benefit, both personally and as a society. The benefits of creativity can be life changing (they have been for me!), and, unless you identify as a creative person or work in a creative field, it can be challenging to recognize (and make an effort to reap!) the rewards. In future posts, maybe I'll get more into the details of how to be creative, but first I thought I'd dive into why you'll want to incorporate more creativity into your life. 

(Note: I'll primarily be referring to creativity in terms of creating art, because that's something I do personally, but keep in mind that creativity can play a role in almost any aspect of life: cooking, raising children, developing relationships, work, day-to-day routines, etc. so even if you don't enjoy making art, you can still benefit from creativity!) 


CrayonCHILDLIKE FREEDOM

As adults, we don't often get to experience the best bits of childhood: wonder, playfulness, freedom to be silly. Depending on your career, you might be limited in what you get to do on a daily basis. Creativity provides an opportunity to have complete freedom to do whatever you want. When it comes to creating, particularly creating art, there are no rules. Or, if there are, you can break them at any time. The freeing feeling that comes from creating something out of nothing is one of the greatest joys of creativity. 

 

Paint SetSELF-EXPRESSION

Closely tied with the notion of freedom is one of creativity's second great benefits: self-expression. There are many ways we can express ourselves (what we wear being on of the most obvious ones), but creativity provides a great outlet for exploring the self and taking what you find an putting it into a tangible format. Creativity connects you with yourself, and, as I've talked about many times, the more you know yourself, the better equipped you are to take on life's challenges. 


Paint TubeSTRESS RELIEF

There's a reason the adult coloring craze came to be. Creativity reliefs stress! When you get into a creative project, you get into what's known as the "flow" (that feeling when you're so absorbed in what you're doing that you forget what time it is, forget all of the things you've been worrying about, and are fully engaged in the moment). I personally find it hard to get into the flow state doing anything other than creating, and I know I'm not alone in this. Making something makes you present. And, when you're fully in the moment, you're unable to stress about the past or the future. 

 

InkINCREASED CONFIDENCE

This benefit can take some time to develop, but the more you practice making, the better you'll get at it. You make think to yourself "But I can't draw!" or "I'm not creative," but, believe me, if you keep doing it, you'll improve. And all you have to do is keep at it. You don't need special classes or tools (though, admittedly, those can help). You just need to keep trying, exploring, and doing. The more you do, the better you get, and the greater your creative confidence becomes. The confidence you experience in on aspect of life spills over to others as well, increasing your overall sense of ability. 

 


CupFUN-FILLED EXPERIMENTATION

Just as creativity leads us to cultivate that childlike sense of wonder, it, too, gives us permission to experiment in new and exciting ways. When you're doing something creative (and not for work!), you can do whatever you want. You can try new and weird mediums. You can explore a different style or layout. You can do anything you can think of, which is pretty amazing! There aren't many aspects of life in which you can experiment like crazy, but creativity is one of them. In a world where answers to most questions are just a click away, the opportunity to experiment and not know what will happen is fun

 

PaperPERSONAL GROWTH

When engaging in something creative, you're growing. Whether you realize it or not, that's just part of the deal. The more you create, the more you learn about yourself, and the more you learn, the more you grow. You'll find yourself pushing yourself out of comfort zones you didn't realize you had. You'll find yourself able to create things you never knew the world needed. If you pay attention, you'll start to see your patterns and preferences, both of which teach you a lot about who you are — and who you want to be. 

 

ErasureSAFE MISTAKES

In addition to the fun-filled benefit of experimentation, creativity is also a wonderfully safe haven for mistake-making. When you're creative, you're able to try new techniques, tools, and formats with minimal repercussions. Making mistakes sounds like it wouldn't be a benefit, but being able to make mistakes in a creative format is actually a great life lesson. As you're creating, you're going to make mistakes (and also wonderful things) and doing so teaches you that life is a balance of making things happen and letting them happen. 

 
GlueNEW IDEAS

And last, but certainly not least, creativity is vital for coming up with new ideas. Consider all of the technology and art and books we have in today's world. None of those would have come to be without the creativity that drove their creators to think in new ways. The more you create, the more ideas you'll have. And they won't just be about the work you're creating. Creativity leads to new art-focused ideas, sure, but it also leads to new ways of seeing the world and experiencing life, which will inspire new ideas in all areas of your life! 

 

Creativity has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, but I know that's not the case for everyone. With this post (and the new book I'm working on!), I hope that those who don't feel creative will consider incorporating more creative activities into their lives. These are just a few of the many benefits creativity has to offer, and you don't realize how much it can transform your life if you don't give it a try. If possible, do something creative this week (even if it's a little doodle!) and see how it feels to take something that existed only in your mind and put it on to paper! 

 


The Art of Instagram Etiquette


  Artists-Positively-Present

 

"I'm so happy I found your account! I see your work all over the place, but I never knew who made it!" 

This was a comment I received on Instagram last week, and it's not the first of its kind. Last week I hit the 100,000 follower mark on Instagram, which, silly as it sounds, was a big deal to me. I know I'm supposed to act like I don't care about followers and these numbers don't matter, but when you're a brand — when you work hard to put up content almost daily and the number of people you reach correlates to your ability to actually afford groceries and rent — these numbers do matter. It was a really exciting milestone for me, but its brought to the surface some really mixed feelings I have about Instagram.

I love Instagram, obviously, and I want the platform to continue to thrive, but there are some major downsides for creators. Creators post on there, driving traffic to the app, but, unlike a platform like YouTube, creators aren't compensated for all of the work they do to bring people to the app. That's a big scale problem, and one that I don't have the capacity to directly address, but there's also the sharing (and, all too often, stealing) issue, which is what I want to talk about here. 

Before I get into it, I have to admit that writing about this is difficult for me, because I feel the following: 

  • Worried that I'll sound ungrateful for my audience
  • Silly for being angry about something like Instagram
  • Embarrassed that my ego is possessive of my work
  • Annoyed that I have to care about "credit" as a creator

But, as uncomfortable as I feel writing this, it's something I've been wanting to talk about for a long time. See, over the past few years, things have changed a lot in terms of Positively Present's content and audience. Part of this has been my personal growth, my desire to create and share art in addition to writing, and part of it is a shift in the way people consume content online. I used to just write (and occasionally create images or illustrations) here on the site. They would get shared, yes, but typically with a link to the site so it was a give-and-take situation: someone would take my work and share it and, in return, I would be given the opportunity to reach new people. But, with Instagram, all of that's different now. It's a lot more take than give. Because Instagram doesn't make it easy to share links (particularly if you don't have a large account) or credit creators, it's up to individuals to give credit, and many people don't know how (or even that they should). 

I've shared guidelines before (the number of times a day I have to write "Check the FAQ story highlights for details on sharing!" is mind-boggling), but I thought I'd write them out again here. Keep reading for more on why these guidelines are so important for creators ('cause it's about way more than wanting more followers!).  

  

PERSONAL ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Creators love when personal accounts share their work because we're getting a real, positive promotion from someone who genuinely likes our work and wants to share it with family and friends. Unfortunately, because the everyday Instagram user often isn't familiar with Instagram etiquette, they often don't know to credit properly. Here's the deal:  

  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption.
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Consider purchasing something from a creator, particularly if you share the work frequently.
  • Stop following freebooting accounts (see below) and follow creators instead. 

 

BRAND ACCOUNT GUIDELINES 
 
Ideally, brands should be paying creators to make content for them — particularly the large brands — but since this isn't how things seem to work for the most part, at the very least, brands should do the following: 

  • Always ask permission before sharing. Large brands that have shared my work, magazines like ShapeGlamour, and Teen Vogue, do this. Smaller brands frequently do not, and it's problematic because no creator wants their work connected to a cause / product / celebrity they don't support.
  • Always mention the creator in the first two lines of the caption. This is especially important for brands to do because, if you're getting content for free, the very least you can do is drive some traffic to the creator's account. 
  • Always tag the creator in the image itself.
  • Never filter, crop, or edit the image (doing so is changing the work without a creator's permission).
  • Never share a bunch of one creator's photos in a row (it's just rude. and weird.).
  • Never imply the creator is a partner of or affiliated with the brand (unless a paid partnership is in place). 
  • Never use an image to promote a sale, promotion, event, or other business-related content. 
  • Hire the creators you really like to create custom work for you. It's way cooler than just reposting! 

 

FREEBOOTING ACCOUNT GUIDELINES

Freebooting accounts are Instagram accounts (like this) that do not create any of their own content, but instead share only other people's content to grow their own page. I'm not fully aware of the purpose of this and, in many cases, I don't believe it's malicious, but it's still harmful to creators and particularly unfair when these freebooting accounts grow very large and receive compensation in the form of sponsorships, ads, and other partnerships — all while creating no work of their own. 

  • Never share creators' work unless you're going to create work of your own. 
  • If you want to curate things, hop over to Pinterest. That's what it's for. 
  • Why are you doing this? What are you getting out of it? Likes? Stop it. 
  • Just cut it out.
  • No. 
  • Stop. 
  • Seriously. Why? 

 

So, why these guidelines? Why not just share my work and not worry about the credit? (A creator I love specifically says that anyone can share her work without credit and, as much as I love the idea of that — so selfless! so altruistic! — it plays all too well into the age-old tale of the starving artist, the notion that, in order to be creative, one doesn't actually make a living off one's work.) In reality, credit — as silly as it sounds — is a huge deal for creators.  

As far as I can tell, there's never been a period of time in history where creators' works were just taken and used whenever and wherever. If, back in the day, you owned an art shop, you couldn't just take a painter's work and then sell it as your own without physically stealing the paintings. Now, it's just a few taps on your phone, and you can take creative content and share it. For free. All the sharing is wonderful in that in can, if an image is credited properly, drive traffic to a creator's account. 

But, most of the time, creators' work isn't credited properly (or at all). I personally struggle with this a great deal. On one hand, I want to be open and carefree and think, I'm just generous creator and I'm happy to have my work shared and appreciated, even if I don't receive any appreciation or compensation for it. But another part of me can't seem to shake the notion that this work is mine. It whispers to me, You worked so hard on this. Why shouldn't you receive credit or, god forbid, compensation for what you've done? 

I don't want to feel the "mine-ness" of my work, but I do. Every time I see my work shared without credit, it feels like a sharp sting, a pinprick in my heart. Every time I see my work with the signature removed — someone's deliberate attempt to claim it as their own — it feels like I've been shoved to the ground, wind knocked out of me. 

This feeling of ownership is a strange mix of selfishness (That's mine!, my mind squeals like a toddler when her toy has been snatched away) and selflessness (Hey! When you just share others' work, you're really missing out on the joy of creating it yourself!, my mind also exclaims.) It sounds silly to say, but I almost feel guilty, being part of this culture that encourages people to look and share rather than make and create. Sometimes it feels like I'm spinning around on a giant dance floor — not the best dancer in the world, but having a damn good time — with all of these people standing on the sidelines saying, "Wow! I love your dance moves! That looks fun!" and I want to yell, If you like it, get out here! Try it. Make something! 

It makes me wonder: Why are creators giving so much away for free? (Answer: Because they have to in order to gain followers and be considered "successful" enough to be worthy of brand deals, ads, book contracts, etc.) What kinds of creativity are we losing by staring at screens filled with things other people have made instead of making things ourselves? (Answer: Unknown, but probably a lot of cool stuff!) Maybe we'd be better off if people put down their phones and picked up a pencil or a paintbrush. Perhaps this makes me sound ungrateful and petulant, but I'm constantly conflicted by the desire to make work that is appreciated and the desire to work alone quietly, undetected. And, as strange as it might sound if you're not in the same position, it's actually really stressful to be torn between these two things.

You might be thinking at this point: If you're so bothered by this, why don't you just not share it? Or just post it on your website? There are two main reasons I continue to share my work on Instagram (and other social media platforms): (1) It's one of the best ways to grow an audience and, therefore, make enough money to (barely...) be able to afford food, and (2) I genuinely enjoy it and want to help people. Have you ever heard that old saying, What would you do all day if you didn't have to worry about money? Well, I'm doing it. I love writing and drawing and creating and sharing and helping other people with simple things that speak to them. I really do. I don't really care about getting credit — yes, there's a part of me that thinks "mine!" but most of me really just wants to make things, even if no one sees them — but I do care about making a living and, like it or not, getting credit indirectly leads to getting paid.  

With this post, it’s not my intention to sound whiny or thankless — particularly amidst the joy of reaching a big Instagram milestone! 100k! Hooray!! — but, as much as social media feels like a frivolous time-waster, for a lot of creators — including me! — it’s really not. It matters. It's how we find work, sell products, build brands that will attract publishing houses or product distributors or whoever else can help us to grow our businesses. And, remember: the more a creator succeeds, the more content you'll likely get.

Mostly, I just wanted to get all of this out of my mind and into words. It's a weird and wonderful time to be a creative, and I'm incredibly grateful for all of the appreciation and opportunities that have come my way as a result of Instagram (and social media in general), but I think it's important for people who aren't creators — those who are consuming the content — to think about the other side to all of this free art. Creators are real people, people who work really hard to make things, and if you like what they do, you should support them — at the very least, by crediting their work, but, if you can, by actually paying for their work. 

If you can, buy something from a creator you follow this week. Pick up an art print. Buy a book. Or, if that's not an option, try creating something yourself. Above all, that's what I'd really love to see: more people creating, fewer people consuming. (Stay tuned for more on this soon!) 

I obviously had a lot to say on this subject, but I'd love to hear from you, too! Are you a creator? What is your experience with Instagram / sharing / social media? If you're not a creator, do you think about this? What are your thoughts now? Let me know in the comments section below!  


Hey, It's Okay : Accepting Who and Where You Are


Hey Its Okay - Positively Present

 

Back in January, I created had the idea for an illustration that would feature some of the things I was feeling that weren't exactly the most "positively present." I wanted to showcase the fact that, though I strive to be optimistic and mindful, I, like everyone else, struggle with a range of experiences and emotions that make it difficult to embrace positivity and present-ness at all times. When I first drew it, I wasn't sure if I wanted to post it because, after taking a step back, it seemed random (who would want to look at a coffee cup with a list beside it? like, why?), but I decided to put it up anyway, and it was a hit! 

I decided I'd make one every month with a different theme and list of things I'm feeling / experiencing (or, in some cases, things I'd seen others experiencing), and they've been some of my favorite things to create this year. Since I know not everyone here on the blog is following along on Instagram, I thought I'd share the set (so far!) here, just in case you might identify with any of these experiences or emotions. 

 

January_
January / Get it in the shop here

 

February_
February / Get it in the shop here

 

March_
March / Get it in the shop here

 

April_
April / Get it in the shop here

 

May
May / Get it in the shop here

 

June
June / Get it in the shop here

 

July
July / Get it in the shop here

 

August_
August / Get it in the shop here


I have the whole set hanging on my bedroom wall (Is it weird that I have my own art up? perhaps, but I make it 'cause I like it so why wouldn't I hang it! Plus, the prints from my shop are so bright and colorful that they always cheer me up!), and I honestly find it so helpful to see these reminders and recall that life is filled with ups and downs and some of the things that ruffled me in January are no longer relevant and some of the things I'm feeling now in August are unexpected. We don't know what life will bring, but it's nice to remind yourself every once and awhile that whatever you're going through, it's okay. It's okay to be flawed and confused and not certain. It's okay to feel anxious or unsettled or imperfect. 

I've still got four months to go on this little project. What would YOU like to see in one of these prints? Leave your ideas in the comments section below and maybe they'll make it to one of the four remaining prints!