I bought an easel, three canvas panels, paint brushes and a set of acrylic paints. It’s my first foray into painting, but I have dived head first into this new art form the way a cartoon character may jump into a cup of water, disappearing completely.
My first painting is a copy of one of my favorite photos of a rather well-known bistro in Paris’ Montmartre neighborhood. Down the street from the Place du Tertre where artists set up easels and tourists can snatch up still wet paintings of Le Tour Eiffel, I fell in love with Le Consulat Restaurant.
I was there earlier this year and on this particular afternoon I could be found sipping wine, eating a Croque Monsieur and jotting down notes about the upcoming Macron and La Pen election being très journalistic. I never considered painting the white and red facade of Le Consulat at the time, but when I sat in an oversized white button down, facing my blank canvas months later, the image of the restaurant came to mind as one of my ‘happy places.’
While I’m hardly Van Gogh, painting has surprisingly allowed me to reconnect to my creativity in a way I have been sorely missing these past few months. My writing—which always will be my first passion—has been treated like a conveyor belt of stories since starting my job as Travel Editor. I’m told this is what happens when you turn your passion into a full job; that sometimes the joy is buried under monetization, demand and work-imposed standards.
I’ve missed writing for myself, have missed the feeling of creating something beautiful for no greater purpose than to make myself happy. I’ve missed the simple joy of letting words splash on a page, without giving a damn about readership, social shares, comments, and all the other “metrics of success” us writers hold ourselves to.
Whatever your preferred art form, I think it’s normal for all of us to lose sight of our creative selves from time to time. It happens when your focus makes a subtle shift from creation to success, when you become more concerned with how your blog post, article, painting, song, dance, comedy set will be received by audiences, then actually creating it.
By virtue of turning my writing into a full-time job, my work is constantly held under an umbrella of “KPIs” or Key Performance Indicators. KPIs measure a story’s success in terms of how many pageviews it received, how many likes and comments it earned on social media, how much time people spent reading the story, and other data points. What KPIs don’t measure is the quality of writing, passion for a subject, time spent cultivating an article. Such is the world we live in today. A frivolous story with a click bait headline that took an hour to write can sometimes “perform better” than a heartfelt, long-form article.
The same can be said for blogging. A post seeping with emotion, self-reflection, and revelations can often go by unnoticed, while a quick visual post of pretty photos and quick captions can prove a huge traffic driver. This disparity between success and quality is hard to swallow, no matter what your art form. It can prove disparaging when you’ve poured your soul into a painting, song, dance or story just to see it be eclipsed by something that took half the effort and half the time.
This is the rut I found myself in. A black hole of joyless creativity where my blog and writing, in general, felt whittled down to automatic stories to generate likes. For someone who has been writing since I received my first journal at eight years old, it pained me to see my creativity drain to dangerously low levels.
I can’t say what exactly inspired me to start painting, just that it has proved a life raft for my creative self. Painting has managed to breathe life back into my art, to help me rediscover that joy of creating for myself. No KPIs, no damn success metrics, just me and a blank canvas. This revitalization of my creativity has poured over (as I’d hoped it would) into my writing. Painting for myself has inspired me to go back to writing for myself, which in turn has inspired me to just pour passion into all my writing, regardless of it being for work or a blog.
If you feel like you’ve lost sight of your creative self, then I recommend being creative in another way. Be it painting, songwriting or dancing, sometimes the way back to our beloved art is by allowing ourselves to play within the realm of another one.
“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,