I’ve been in conversation with several artists discussing the fact they keep a special object in their artist studio. It is not a direct tool for making art but has everything to do with creative process. It seems many creators have an object, such as a Buddha figurine, keeping them company in their studio. Many creatives keep what some call a talisman or a creative altar in their art making space.
According to Merriam Webster a talisman is (1) an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune or (2) something producing apparently magical or miraculous effects. An altar is a place for worship or to memorialize something or someone beloved.
In Elizabeth Gilbert’s famous talk on creativity, she talks about how rather than accepting creativity as an individual, personal expression, people throughout history have ascribed creativity to something larger than themselves: gods, God, angels, muses, etc. This separation between creator and creation gives artists the room to explore, play, and feel a channel for something larger than themselves. And people who mentally navigate their creativity in this manner appear more productive or at least at peace with their art-making. They are called to make art: it’s a gift; a gift is a skill not to be squandered.
Today’s society, especially in Western culture, is all about the individual. How can you make change in the world, how can you be better at your art or job? We’ve put great responsibility and onus on ourselves to succeed, grow and ultimately change the world. It breeds fear in people taking creative risk; it can sound like there is “one way” and a “right way” to achieve goals. And without the support of this larger drive, we feel small and unable to achieve our creative goals: “how can little ol’ me create art that will change the world?!”
I kind of wonder if creativity is all morphing into one big thing that’s not even art, but something universal and bigger.
Succeeding comes with great risk, multiple failures, and determination to find answers to problems in front of us. When it’s all “up to you,” it creates a whole lot of pressure to seek the right answer. When we give our creativity up to something larger than ourselves, it breeds a sense of purpose, as well as an openness to experimentation and risk. We are creating for something larger than us, which gives us direction and encouragement to continue.
I have a little Buddha in my space, I didn’t even think about it until these conversations took place. He sits right next to my computer, and I consciously put him there next to a photo of loved ones and some sea shells. Having him there brings me comfort. My little Buddha helps me with my writing. I need a Protector to help me along my creative journey.
Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.
I’ve heard conversations that include comments like, “I can only create when I’m in the mood,” or, “I haven’t heard from my angels or muse so I’m feeling stuck.” I’m not going to lie: this drives me Crazy, with a capital C. These are excuses based in fear. These are avoidance behaviors helping us hide from our creative voice.
These behaviors are not the same as giving up our creativity to something larger than ourselves when we create. The choice to channel our art through faith or talismans, or a greater sense of purpose is a strategy to support our art when we make it.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our choice to be creative. Or not. No amount of faith or intuition will physically put the paint brush or pen in your hand. You have to pick up your artist tool first.
I battle internally about discussions of woo and even faith. My understanding of science outweighs my intuitive side today. And yet, I understand we can all create and use tools to help our creativity, even if they don’t make literal or objective “sense.” Intuition and faith is an inherent part of creativity and the creative process.
I think making art is something where you think you know, you also know you don’t know and you hope – all these things are in play all the time. I think it’s what makes the excitement of creativity for the artist.
The word talisman has a clear connection to magic. It’s the idea that an object can hold a special power to protect or bring fortune to a person. It’s a tool to channel something outside of us to help protect and bring fortune. It’s outside of our control, but there to keep watch. To Protect. An altar is all about honoring: placing a person, or belief in a special space of respect. Our creativity needs to be placed in the altar of our mind if we are to fully embrace and celebrate our creative interests.
Talismans work because of our belief in them: because of our desire to connect with something larger than ourselves, and because of our need to create. Their true magic is in the comfort and support they provide our creative process. I call out to every creative to build a small altar or create a creative talisman to celebrate your creativity.
We need to take responsibility for our choices. It is up to us to decide whether we do or don’t make art. There’s no one to blame but the person you see in the mirror if you ignore your creative desires. If you hear an inner voice that says “create,” “make,” “try,” listen. We have a responsibility to make art, especially if we hear that voice. There are tools, resources and even talismans for you, if you seek them, to support you in your creative journey. I’m ready to honor my creativity today. Are you?
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: How does faith and/or intuition help support your creative process? Do you keep a talisman or altar in your creative space? I want to know! Tell us about it in the comments below.