Embracing multiple creative outlets

I tend to be a bit hard on myself. (OK, OK, I tend to be a lot hard on myself, but that’s beside the point for this post.) One of the things that I’ve found myself often criticizing myself for recently is the diversity of creative ideas and projects that I am engaged in.

I write. I make jewelry in an ever-increasing number of styles, techniques, and materials. I crochet several very different kinds of items. I make a number of homemade versions of cleaners and bath and body products. I am re-engaging with woodworking. I’m playing with ideas for re-using and upcycling various materials that would otherwise be waste. I cook in more creative and less recipe-dependent ways all the time. And I’m constantly investigating new possibilities for creative work, like polymer clay, basket weaving, and metal working.

Talk about scattered! How can I ever expect to become any good at any of these if I am dabbling at them all? (At least, that’s what my inner critic keeps saying to me …)

While I do think there is a need to focus my attention somewhere (and I’m hoping the best object that for that focus emerges through this dabbling process), I was greatly reassured by an article from GOOD that I stumbled across recently called One Is Not Enough: Why Creative People Need Multiple Outlets. The author of the article suggests that our creativity actually increases and stays fresher in our area of primary focus when we allow ourselves to engage in multiple outlets.

I do think that this is true for me. In fact, some of my best ideas have come when I was busy engaging in some entirely different form of creative work than the one for which the idea emerged. I’ll think of a new jewelry possibility while crocheting, a new writing idea while cooking, a new woodworking idea while making jewelry, and so on.

So while I still think there is value in focusing my energy in order to develop expertise once I have identified the right area to put that kind of effort toward, I found this reminder of the usefulness of other creative outlets to the creative process as a whole to be helpful in giving myself a bit more grace in taking time to experiment with different creative mediums to find the few (not the one, but the few) that are most worth cultivating for the long haul.

It’s also greatly encouraging to think only of narrowing the number rather than having to select only one—and knowing that this variety will be helpful and not a distraction! I can’t imagine giving up the freedom to play with a variety of outlets altogether.

What is your experience? Do you have multiple creative outlets that work to fuel each other? Or do you focus your creative energy on a single outlet?

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4 thoughts on “Embracing multiple creative outlets

  1. KJ,

    I have always been one to have my hand in many things at once. A few years ago my main creative outlet was through movement as I did choreography for various groups and classes I taught as well as for a competitive dance team I coached. These days my schedule doesn’t allow me to do that as much and I am focusing more on writing etc, but I have high hopes to get into crafting and up cycling older materials into something new. Time is a an issue at this point to be able to do it all, but I hope as I transition into my own business that I will be able to work in that time to fulfill my many creative outlets. I just wish I could do it all!

    • Yes, time to do everything I want to do is a constant issue for me too! I think the challenge that I’m really struggling with is how to create a business model for self-employment that finds a balance between allowing space for multiple creative outlets but still creates enough focus to develop sufficient expertise to make the business viable. I do feel encouraged, though, that I may not need to focus as absolutely and narrowly as I had been pressuring myself to do. Thank goodness! 🙂

  2. I’m not a person who has THAT many creative outlets (baking and writing are my main two), but I definitely see that eclecticism in my reading when I’m in a reading phase, and I can SO imagine the value of engaging the world from multiple perspectives and modalities in keeping the creative perspective fresh. I really like the GOOD author’s (and your) take!

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