Friday, August 3, 2012

Artsy Fartsy Friday ~ Creative Synergy

Creative Synergy

by Sheila Boneham

Creative people tend to be creative in multiple ways. Most of my writer friends, for instance, pursue other creative activities when they’re not writing. Several of them make jewelry. Others paint or draw or sculpt. Many writers also garden – I’ve written several essays about the parallels between writing and gardening. Some sing or play instruments, compose music, act, sew, decorate their homes.... If you’re creative, there are really no limits other than time to the possibilities.

The back corner of one of my gardens in Indiana.

Unfortunately, our culture tends to treat creative pursuits as frivolous. For most people, giving expression to creative drives comes after the "real" job, and friends and family too often consider painting, writing, and other "artsy fartsy" activities to be secondary, unnecessary, even a waste of time. What a sad attitude. And counterproductive, because creativity feeds on itself, and people who cultivate artistic pursuits become better problem solvers in areas not conventionally thought of as "creative."(This is one of many reasons to keep art and music in our schools, but that’s a discussion for another time.)

Fancy Dancer by Sheila Boneham. Watercolor, 16 x 20. ©Sheila Boneham

Which raises an essential question: what is a "creative" pursuit? (I won’t even touch "art"!) I believe that nearly anything can be done creatively. My husband, Roger, is an extremely creative cook. He modifies recipes with abandon, deleting an ingredient here, adding one there, adjusting proportions, and revising the next time around. Dog training, one of my passions, can be creative – finding new ways to engage a dog mentally, physically, and emotionally so that learning is a game. Oh wait! That goes for teaching people, too! I hope that everyone reading this has had at least one teacher who brought joy and innovation to the lessons. If you have had such teachers, you know how much more readily we learn when lessons are wrapped in Creative Spirit.

Lily retrieving, 12 weeks old. ©Sheila Boneham

We human beings are, deep down, creative beings. Have you ever known a child who didn’t want to make things of her own design? Have you ever heard of a human society that had no art of any kind? To be healthy and balanced, indeed to be fully alive, we must allow our creative instincts room to play. (In fact, I do not believe that creativity is strictly human, but that too is a topic for another time.)

Jay. Colored pencil, 9 x 12. ©Sheila Boneham

Writers, painters, gardeners...people! We are all on journeys not only to make new things, but to learn as we go. Like the student with the creative, inspiring teacher, we all benefit from trying new things from time to time, and (I believe) from feeding more than one passion. My primary creative activity has long been writing, but I also enjoy painting, photography, dog training, and gardening. A few years ago I took a colored pencil class mainly because several of my painting friends had signed up. I was terrible and I didn't really like the medium. And then one day something took, and I had a breakthrough, and I ended up loving the feel of colored pencil on smooth paper. Big surprise! And a worthwhile reminder that becoming decent at something may take time and will definitely take effort. One of these days I’ll take a pot-throwing class (good excuse to get dirty!). Occasionally I make myself some earrings. And here’s what I’ve learned:

No matter which of my interests I seem to be pursuing at any one time, my subconscious is playing around with one or two of the others. An answer to a question about a character’s motivations in a piece of writing may surface when I’m painting or drawing. A problem in the composition of a painting sometimes pops into my head while I’m choosing flowers for a hanging pot. Birds whose behaviors I capture with my camera suggest a line of poetry.

Yellow-headed blackbird, Reno, Nevada, ©Sheila Boneham

So make a play date with yourself one day soon. Do something creative this weekend, something outside your usual art form or genre or medium. If you’re a painter, write a poem! If you’re a novelist, draw something. If you get really ambitious, look around for a class in something completely new. You don’t have to show anyone else what you made, and you don’t have to stick with everything you try, but moving creatively beyond our comfort zones creates (there’s that word!) new energy in the more familiar pursuits. And besides, it’s fun!

Maybe I’ll sign up for that pot-throwing class.

Sheila Webster Boneham's first Animals in Focus Mystery, Drop Dead on Recall, will be out in October. For more information, visit Sheila's Fiction Page. You can also connect with Sheila on Facebook.

Sheila is taking a break in August, and rerunning some earlier posts. This post originally ran last May. Look for new posts to resume in September - but maybe some of these are new to you!


  1. Sheila what a great post! You remind me that we can be creative, and feed our creative spirits, in so many ways! Photography, poetry, fiction, gardening, bird watching, cow gazing and baking...those are some of mine. Homeschooling lets me get dirty with all kinds of neat science and art projects too!

    1. We may be kindred spirits! Other than homeschooling, those are all on my list (including science). Thanks!

  2. As one of those people who dabbles in multiple creative outlets, I completely agree! One of the most important aspects for me is in learning to find worth in chance, failure and randomness as much as in hard work and focus. A lumpy mess of clay that just never came to life as a pendant might be gorgeous smooshed & baked over a glass candle votive. Just like a messy half-baked idea that never quite developed into a novel might make a powerful short story... Thanks, Sheila!

    1. And PS... Love 'Fancy Dancer' -- great energy!

    2. It's a weird thing, but in our culture we seem to take the attitude that "art" comes from talent and inspiration, not hard work and practice, but in fact the most talented and successful artists (used broadly) work their tails off to find inspiration and develop their native abilities. In sports, we expect to fall down, strike out, get back up, keep practicing....Creativity is the same IMHO. I know I've thrown out and recycled a lot of paper over the years!

  3. Sheila, I couldn't have said it better! Art does come from hard work as well as creativity. I paint also and used to write music when I was younger. But I put effort into all of it.


    Jacqueline Seewald
    DEATH LEGACY--new release--ask for it as your local library

  4. So now we know who does all the meal preparation at your house . . . Excellent post, Sheila.

    1. Oh yeah. There's a running joke in our house about whether I'll eat if Roger is out of town. When we sold a house years ago, the buyer asked me at closing whether the oven was self cleaning. I was clueless! ;-) ("Oven? We have an oven?") I used to cook, and I actually like to cook & bake sometimes, but we fell into this habit years ago. Thanks for reading!