Discovery is a funny process. Unlike Backstory, with its clear placement in the past, Discovery is fluid, even changeable. It can happen at any point in life, from childhood to adulthood. It can even happen more than once, as long-hidden giftings work their way to the surface of our lives. The Discovery process is often unique from one individual to the next, but it does have common elements that we all experience. Self-awareness, opportunity, honesty, permission, and play are all part of the Discovery process. They may come in different order, and with varying degrees of intensity. Engaging with the discovery process can be scary, but it can also open a door to amazing new creative experiences. I’ll show you what I mean with an example from my own life.
I’ve been involved in the arts for as long as I can remember. I started drawing almost as soon as I could hold a crayon. My creative gift was so strong, so determined, that there was little “discovery” involved in my process; it was just there. I grew up, gained skills, and made visual art a natural part of my creative expression.
But there was something missing.
Something I wanted in secret, but refused to pursue.
I wanted to dance. I’d wanted it since my childhood, as I watched my friends suiting up in their pink tights and beginner’s ballet slippers. I envied their graceful motion, yet circumstances and my own insecurities kept me from joining their ranks. Instead, I pursue the creative expression I already knew, and set the dance dreams in a box marked “I love it, but I’ll never do it.”
Flash forward a decade or so. I was deep in my art, and had branched out into writing and interior design. I was Miss Creativity! But something was still missing. That dance dream still lurked in the back of my heart, never quite going silent. I kept it alive with a diet of dance movies and PBS ballroom competitions. I drew dancers, rendering on paper the person I secretly wanted to become, all the while telling myself that was enough. I was self-aware - I knew that I loved this and wanted it for myself - but I wasn’t honest enough to say yes to my hidden longing. My secret stayed unspoken until my roommate happened across an ad for ballroom lessons in the mail.
“Why don’t you try this? You love dance, don’t you?,” she asked.
“I do love dance, but I’m too chicken to actually try it for real,” I replied.
At last, honesty! I’d answered her almost without thinking, and came face to face with the truth about my feelings. I loved dance, but I was scared. Would I be any good? Wasn’t I too old now? Was I even being realistic? I wanted to tuck away the old longings, but they refused to stay buried. I’d open Pandora’s box, and my creative dreams were clamoring to be realized. Everywhere I looked, I saw dance fliers, dance shows, and a million different references to the dream I’d ignored all my life. Opportunity was knocking, and I couldn’t ignore it any longer. I had to give it a chance.
Hopeful and terrified, I signed up for an introductory tour. You can do this, I told myself, you’re just gonna walk around the studio and see what it’s like. No commitment, no worries. I might have been honest, but I was still chicken-s*#t when it came down to it. I was so scared I even made a friend come along for moral support! At last, the day came. I walked through the studio door, shaking inside even as I tried to be cool (or as cool as you can look when you need a friend to keep you from bolting out the door). I did alright, until the instructor said, “Ok, let’s do some dancing!” There it was, the moment of truth. I’d come too far to turn back, so I let him lead me to the floor.
As he taught me basic steps, my terror became smaller and smaller. I was still scared, but my fear was overwhelmed by something new, something stronger. My brave step to pursue my hidden longing had unearthed a hidden gift. A light was going on in a part of me I had never known, illuminating a new world of creative possibilities. I was good at dance, but dance was good for me. New horizons of discovery and expression stretched out in front of me. The longing I had buried became a doorway to a richer, fuller creative experience.
What about you? Where do you have hidden dreams that you keep alive but refuse to pursue? How can you give them room to become new creative gifts in your life?
Sarah is the co-founder of Bright Ideas, a designer by trade, and an artist by passionate choice. She was born and raised in South, and delights in sharing Southern culture with anyone who cares to learn. Sarah collects creative hobbies; when she isn’t making art, you can usually find her on the dance floor. Follow her creative adventures on Instagram and Twitter!