The creative journey is a process, a continuous act of moving from one stage of development to the next. Each stage of the creative journey is a miniature process of its own. Ownership begins with owning your identity as a Hero or a Villain, then moves you toward your Mission and Motivator. Once you learn who you are and what drives you, you can start to cultivate your unique expression. The Cultivation part of Ownership is the time when you begin to find and hone your unique creative voice.
Cultivation is a two-part learning process: developing skills and critiquing your work. You work to develop the skills you found during Discovery and Fun & Games, moving them from beginner’s efforts to a more an increasing level of craft. Humility is key during this process, because true growth often requires a willingness to seek help and teaching. This is also a time to invest in practical tools that move your work to the next level. Tools could be literal tools and equipment, or maybe classes or education opportunities. Look to your Tribe during this part of the process - you probably already know people with knowledge or connections that can help you as you hone your skills. Your creative community is often your first and best resource when it comes to growing your skills.
As you grow in technical skills, it’s also important to learn how to critique your work. Critique can be a scary idea, but that’s because it’s often confused with its much less positive cousin: Criticism. Criticism is all about tearing down; it focuses on your inabilities, deficiencies, and all the ways you’ll never measure up. You can always recognize when Criticism is at play, because it makes you feel powerless and unable to grow. Yuck! Critique, on the other, always brings things into a positive light, even when it addresses places that need to grow. Critique looks for opportunities, not inadequacies. It gives you vision for where your work can go, and empowers you to get there. (For more on the difference between Critique and Criticism, check out our book, Bright Ideas: Light Up Your Creativity!)
It’s not uncommon for the Cultivation process to feel like lots of effort with little obvious forward progress. You are honing your voice, learning new techniques, and making the most of Critique’s valuable wisdom. Yet it seems like you’re going nowhere. Don’t be discouraged! The Cultivation process is like running on a treadmill: even though you don’t appear to be going far, your efforts are developing creative muscles that will be there for you when opportunities present themselves. All the miles of “going nowhere” are readying you to run when the gates open before you. Do the work now, when it all seems insignificant, and you’ll have the strength to go the distance when the big moment comes.
Sarah is the co-founder of Bright Ideas, a designer by trade, and an artist by passionate choice. She was born and raised in the South, and delights in sharing Southern culture with anyone who cares to learn. Sarah collects creative outlets; when she isn’t making art or writing, you can usually find her on the dance floor. Follow her creative adventures on Instagram and Twitter!