How do you know you’re a creative? Or maybe even an artist?
I have a friend with a hypothesis that there are lots of creative people hiding in plain sight, with secret dreams that just need to be nurtured and supported in order to come out and play.
Julia Cameron, author of the Artist’s Way, says that many of these creative people become “shadow creatives”, seeking careers that allow them to sidle up alongside creative people and artists, being part of that world without truly taking the risks necessary to put two feet in.
Am I one of those people? Am I a creative, hiding in plain sight?
On the face of it, you would think not. Looking back, I was a strictly disciplined student who focused heavily on academics, ultimately landing me a spot at Stanford University and later Duke University where I earned my MBA. I went into the consumer products and software industries as a marketing professional.
But, prodded by Julia Cameron's exercises from The Artist Way, I am taking a second look. When I wasn’t studying, what was I doing? Are there any patterns in my past to suggest a hidden creative bent?
If you open up my boxes of stored childhood memorabilia, you will find a stockpile of crocheted whatnots, hand sewn pillows, hand hooked rugs, and myriad paper and glue concoctions.
I wrote in a diary faithfully from the time I could barely write until I went away to college.
As a teen, I joined a choir, took thousands of dance classes, joined a performing dance troop, and took a part in the school musical.
My high school academic focus allowed for few true electives, but when I was allowed them, I took art and drama.
In college, I performed in two college musicals, including one in which I had a solo musical number. I enrolled in an art history class, a hands on art class, and a children’s literature writing class, squeezed in-between the many requirements for my double major.
As a young woman, I took up quilting, and scrapbooking, along with brief sojourns into needlepoint and knitting, all done late at night or on weekends when I wasn't working.
If you look at my career, it’s interesting to note that on the one hand I was a highly analytical marketing professional, but within the many branches of marketing I developed an expertise in advertising and branding, where I worked daily with the creatives at agencies who made commercials and developed logos and visual branding systems for the products and companies I worked for. (Shadow creative, anyone?)
When I finally left my corporate career, in part because of a persistent but foggy feeling inside that I needed to be doing something different, one of the first projects I decided to experiment with was to sign up for NaNoWriMo. (NaNoWriMo stands for “national novel writing month”, a program where you write 1667 words per day for 30 days until you have a finished novel.) And then I proceeded to sign up for painting, hand lettering and writing classes over the course of that first year when I was on sabbatical.
Okay, okay. There’s an obvious pattern. I’ve been seeking out creative outlets my whole life, across a spectrum of the arts.
Recognizing it feels scary, because it presents a persistent question that hovers over me and won’t go away.
What do I do about it, now that I have the time and freedom to pursue my own dreams?
Am I an artist, hiding in plain sight?