I love the arts. I always have. I started art classes and choir at age five, piano lessons and dance at seven, and extra curricular creative writing programs at age ten. But all of those activities melted away as I became more and more immersed in music.
I loved music so much that by the time I was in my last year of high school I was in both a symphonic band and a youth orchestra, I sang in four different choirs, as well as choir class during school time, and had private voice lessons and piano lessons.
I loved music so much that I earned two university degrees in classical voice.
The thing about classical music is that it demands so much of you; your time, and attention, and rigourous discipline. So much so, that you have to be entirely committed to it. And so, for a time, I put all of my other creative pursuits into a drawer in my mind, and I closed it, so I could fully subsume myself to music.
And that was good.
For a while.
It was good until I realized that something was missing. So I opened the drawer in my mind, just a crack, in my last few years of university. I took out all of my creative writing aspirations, and I got down to the work of writing my first novel; a middle grade fantasy novel that I published in 2012, called Magician’s Mayhem.
After years of dry academic writing, I was unprepared for how writing fiction and fantasy would feel. It was a joyous, liberating feeling that would bubble up inside of me, whenever I had a flash of inspiration, or lost myself in the world I was creating.
Singing requires an intense vulnerability, and such immense emotional output from me; I have to take responsibility not only for experiencing the emotionality of the piece I’m performing, but in conveying that emotionality, and all its myriad runoff emotions, to an audience.
And while it is very rewarding, it is draining, because for me, it is always a deficit of energy.
But writing is different. Whenever I write something, even a simple blog post once a week, I feel energy growing inside of me – a little buzz of activity, or a warmth that spreads through my mind, revving me up and getting me excited.
And this feeling changed everything.
I shifted my attention in music from performance to teaching, which I enjoy much more (though it can also be quite draining), and in addition, I made writing my main focus instead of music.
By viewing music as a creative pursuit that was ancillary to my writing, I allowed the creativity of my musical self to inform my writing.
This realization opened a floodgate of possibilities for me, and once again I propped open that drawer in my mind, where I had stored all of my creative pursuits, and I started examining them again, from the intriguing perspective of adulthood. It was fascinating to me how my relationship with art, so visceral and immediate in my childhood, now became more clinical and detached, and so very associated with shame in my adulthood. I was now acutely aware every time I did something ‘wrong’.
It took me quite a while to shed that feeling, and to be quite honest, it’s a feeling I struggle with every time I get down to the business of ‘being creative.’ Still, I push past that feeling of resistance and persevere, because I know that feeling of creation, that ‘maker high’ is more than worth it.
I started sketching, I took several photography classes and started experimenting with photography, I began composing music, I coloured, painted, started teaching myself Adobe Illustrator, I even started dancing (quietly and by myself, acutely aware of how unbelievably awkward I seem – still – it’s a start).
While all of these pursuits individually are wonderful, and make me feel alive, and happy, I noticed another ancillary benefit.
My writing improved.
Idea generation was a snap – I have 17 manuscripts for novels started, with complete outlines for all – I just have to get down to writing them. I have started several short stories (a process I used to find incredibly difficult, and limiting, and now find exciting and creative). I have also written a great deal of poetry/libretto that I’m considering using either in my novels, or in a separate work of poetry, or perhaps in a recorded vocal work. I now write two blog posts per week, plus another two a week for one of my clients, and I find them quite easy.
My takeaway is this: creativity of any kind, fuels creativity of any kind. By opening my mind in one direction, I’ve let in a little bit more light to shine on my creative process, and sometimes that light is of a different quality, illuminating something that I couldn’t see before. Exploring multiple aspects of my artistic self has been equal parts joyous, and frustrating – as learning something new so often feels frustrating. But leaning into that feeling of frustrating, pushing past my resistance has been a game-changer for my writing, and has given me a great deal of satisfaction and joy as well.
Have you explored different facets of your creative self? Do you find it helps your writing? Tell me in the comments below!
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