(A) Man Without a Country: #A-Z Challenge

“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut

There’s a big focus on creativity these days and I’m a keen supporter. In posts on this site, I’m always encouraging you to be creative in whatever way works for you. If that hasn’t worked, if you’re still sure you’re not creative, please read the best post I’ve ever read about what constitutes creativity It’s by Alana, author and owner of a wonderful new blog site called Of Love and Light.

In this post, I want to talk about the kinds of creativity that many of us shy away from, specifically the arts. It’s a rhetorical question when I ask why we are often reluctant to paint, draw, sculpt, write, dance, or act. Rhetorical because I know the answer. We don’t feel that we are good enough. We’re not artists.

Making Art Grows Your Soul

I get it. I’ve often joked that I can’t draw a straight line with a ruler, that my trees look like the lollipop trees favoured by four-year-olds. Even in the art form of writing, where I’ve published six books with a major publishing house, I moan that my ability to write nonfiction isn’t as worthy as someone else’s ability to craft fiction.

However, I’ve come to realize that none of this matters. Or, more accurately, that it only matters if:

a) I believe in instant expertise (I don’t), and

b) I want to make a career out of making art (nope, don’t want that either).

Let’s make art because it’s an ideal way to express our uniqueness. Let’s make art because it’s fun to do, because it grows our souls, and because it is one of the best ways to experience the transcendent joy we talked about in the deep play post.

I love the way that creativity coach and author, Julia Cameron, explains it:

“Making art of any kind is an alchemical process. Making art, we turn the dross of our life into gold. Making art, we recreate ourselves.”

What art do you make? If the answer is ‘none,’ what’s one thing you’d like to try and one small step you could take to change that answer? (Hint: Let the post photo be a guide. How long has it been since you fingerpainted?)


Join the tribe:


  1. I’ve seen some incredible finger-painted art lately. I’d love to try it someday!

    Good idea to post a note about the ice storm. I wondered if I should mention it on ye olde blogge too. I’ve charged up all the electronics, stocked the house with food that doesn’t need cooking, and taken cash out of the bank and my ice scraper out of the car. So far, all is yet calm (and dryish) here. Stay safe and warm, Karen!


    1. Ditto for here, Deb. It’s grey, damp and windy (my least favourite combo) so I’ll get the dogs out for a walk and then right back in to my spot in front of the fire.
      As for the finger-painting, absolutely it would be fun to try as an adult. We should mention, though, that you actually are an artist who makes art.
      Tribe members, if you want to see Deb’s art of a sea turtle and read three things she’s learned from making art, check this out – https://www.widowbadass.com/2018/01/

  2. I followed the link to Alana’s blog and definitely agree with her definition. I am totally unartistic but I still think of myself as creative, professionally and personally. I have ideas! Sometimes they work, and even if they don’t they are still an attempt to create. I think i’ll give the finger painting a miss though. I’d have to get my hands dirty 😉

    1. I really appreciate you visiting Alana’s site, Anabel. I’m excited she has started her blog and think she has a lot to add to our conversations. And I’m delighted that you recognize that you are a creative woman. That, I think, is something we all need to realize about ourselves.

  3. I totally agree with you, and Kurt Vonnegut, we need to be creative no matter how skilled we are at it. After all, even famous artists started somewhere, right? We have spoken about this before on posts – you will write badly for a while until you write better, practicing my guitar as I learn means I am going to make a lot of bad notes and noises before I make anything resembling music. Eventually, the water will run clear once the pump is primed. I believe the same goes for artistic endeavours – how do you ever hope to get any better at anything without starting to try…somewhere, with whatever skill you are capable of at the moment?

    As for what art I make – my preferred form is sketching with pencils and paper. I have done some acrylic, watercolour and oil painting but those require setup and cleanup and space. If I have my pencil case of various pencils and a sketchbook I am good to go, anywhere at any time. Do I have to stop drawing? Oh, okay, just zip the pencil I am using back into the pencil case and close my sketchbook. Done. I like using pastels (both chalk and oil) but care must be taken to protect either surface in order to transport it or pack it up without damaging your creation. So, sketching is my favourite by far. I also enjoy writing both working on my memoir and writing poetry and of course making videos for my YouTube channel. That is an art form as well since I am creating something audio/visual out of nothing. Funnily enough, that is not my favourite art form – I find it frustrating at times and again, there is having certain conditions needing to be met before you can shoot a successful video. It needs to be quiet, uninterrupted and good audio as well as good video quality, ah but then you also must be engaging to keep your audience’s interest, you need to be too the point and not boring or too long. Sketching is still my favourite way to make art but YouTube pays me more than drawing ever would (at least at this point). 🙂

    Thank you for the link to Alana’s blog I opened another tab and had a peek and promptly subscribed to her blog too. What a gentle soul she is and I look forward to reading more of her posts as time permits. 🙂

    1. I appreciate you commenting, Susan, and I thank you for checking out Alana’s site. I hope you have an enjoyable weekend that includes some sketching to grow your soul, as well as the YouTube videos that grow your audience.

    2. Thank you, Susan! So kind of you. 🙂 I look forward to getting to know you as well. Karen’s comments always make my day, and connecting with other creative spirits always makes for wonderful moments.

  4. If you’re not trying to make money off of art, this is so true. I forced myself to be creative for my children and was better at it than I thought I would be (as a Room Mom). I am a prolific nonfiction writer with far too many publications to hire professionals for all the covers so I use Canva and put out whatever is my best work. Which usually ends up good enough.

    This is my long way of saying I agree! Creativity is in the eye of the beholder.

  5. Hi Karen,
    Again, a great quote. Another thought on creativity that I came across long ago. Being creative in the arts does require skill. Victor Borge was highly skilled in playing the piano and that is why he could make people laugh during his shows. For me, I am in the process of learning pottery skills. I am having a blast just playing with the clay, the glazes, and the techniques. A lot of times, what I produce looks terrible, but each experience teaches me something. Sometimes I learn not to make that mistake again. The whole thing is addictive!

    1. It’s just so terrific that you are enjoying pottery so much. I know you’d been looking forward to pursuing this in your retirement – you talked about it in a Tribe Story – but there is always the chance that something that seems appealing will be just okay. How wonderful that pottery making is beyond fun, it’s addictive. Your skills can’t help but keep developing by leaps and bounds.

  6. My youngest daughter loves to create. She creates music, drawings, paintings, theatrical performances, etc. These aren’t things that come naturally to her, but they are deeply meaningful as a means of expression. She is on the autism spectrum so direct communication isn’t always easy. I think we all have this creative drive to share our hearts creatively through some form of artistic expression. (And we both mentioned Julia Cameron today 🙂 )Great post!

    1. I didn’t even notice that we both mentioned Julia Cameron today. Good eye, Heather.
      How fabulous that your daughter has so many creative outlets at her disposal. I think you’re right – it’s an innate human drive.

  7. What great quotes from Vonnegut and Cameron both! When I teach drawing, I start by reminding everyone (who, it seems, all like to believe artistic ability is something you are born with, that you have or you don’t) that the skills needed for drawing are similar to the ones needed to learn to drive. Not everyone takes the time to learn to drive, but rarely do people think it’s impossible. It’s a learned skill. Some people love it more than others. The more you love it, the more time you give it and the more you work to improve. Simple as that. There are things I will never be good at, because they don’t interest me enough to learn the process. The one time in life that Math held my interest was in a class where, for some reason, the problems seemed like puzzles to be worked out. Mostly, I think along the same lines (though I know it’s not true): you have to be born that way, to be good at mathematics!

    1. I took a “Drawing for Absolute Beginners” course last fall, and then “Painting for Absolute Beginners” with the same wonderful artist. I was one of those people who thought you had to be born to it. It was important to discover that it is a learned skill. The analogy you use to learning to drive is particularly apt. Thanks, Cindy.

  8. The phrase today that inspired me is “Make art to express your uniqueness”. Thanks for the link to Alana’s insights on creativity as well… really resonated with me as I’m a synthesizer at heart. Creativity is a piece of my retirement lifestyle vision and I will continue to explore it. Writing, definitively. Cooking, yeah. Gardening this spring. So many opportunities to be creative right now…nothing perfect, just creative expression!

    1. Oh, there we go again, Pat. That passion for synthesizing – it’s a driving force in my life too 🙂
      I love that retirement can so easily include a significant focus on creative expression, just for the pure joy of it.

  9. I love creativity and creating. I love writing, which is my biggest form of creation. I can’t draw, paint or play an instrument, but I’m happy and willing to try one day. Just like learning a new language and trying to get around in countries where I “wing it”, not caring about my mistakes, I don’t think I’d be too self-conscious when messing things up making art. Trying is more important than never trying at all. And, fun can be had creating monstrosities. Who cares?

    Writing an article that’s published brings me joy. But, the best feeling I ever get when writing something is when I create a personal poem for someone. It might not be the greatest poem, but it is special, unique and personal, and I’m sure the recipient will appreciate, if not like it. That brings me pleasure.

    1. You are so open to creativity, Liesbet. You are truly inspiring to me, the love you have for creative challenges, and your willingness to, as you say, ‘wing it’, to just step forward and play.
      I am 100% convinced that your personal poems are not simply appreciated but adored by your lucky recipients.

  10. Cooking is my free-ist form of creativity — no recipes. I can rarely repeat a dish regardless of how delicious. Funny thing, my cooking suffered each time I was pregnant. And I sing to my heart’s content despite the fact that I was once told that it would be fine if I played the guitar ‘during chapel’ but I was not to sing. My children often second the fact that I can’t carry a tune — but it rarely stops me from singing. As a child, I loved paint-by-number and have found that I feel more confident in my attempts to draw and paint without numbers as a means of relaxation — I love to see what comes out. And I love writing.

  11. We are on the same page this week Karen as I wrote about Life Long Learning and Creativity. I’ve come to realise that creativity comes in many forms and can now accept that I do have creative talents. It is just a matter of finding them. 🙂 I love singing although most of my family aren’t fans LOL:) however, if I’m alone or in the car I don’t mind belting out a tune.

    1. Hi Sue,
      I like the overlaps we’re finding in our subject matter. And of course they make sense – we’re both talking about what matters to women midlife and beyond. I’m glad we both know that creativity matters.

  12. Thanks for the link to Alana’s blog, Karen. I look forward to checking it out.
    I hope that your weather was kinder to you today than expected, and that your power remained.

    1. Thanks, Donna. There were three power outages, but the longest was only an hour. We fared far better than the 25,000 who are still without power as I write this response early on Monday morning. The winds are still howling and it’s teeming rain (hopefully not of the freezing variety) so further disruptions are still a possibility.
      I hope you enjoy Alan’s blog.

  13. My creative activities seem to go in phases, Karen. Currently, it’s blogging, writing in general, photography, learning and speaking a new language. In the past, I’ve done knitting, crocheting, embroidery, drawing, painting, gardening…I made a number of items as gifts to my family and close friends. Thanks for the link to Alana’s blog. I’ll check it out. Hope your weekend is cozy and relaxing despite the ice storm.

    1. You have involved yourself in a really rich assortment of creative activities, Natalie. That’s terrific!
      The weekend was indeed cozy and relaxing. I actually enjoy a good rainstorm, although can do without the super high winds. They’ve really been wild this year.

  14. I like that art is found within heART and also within eARTh – how can we not be creative -. mostly writing is the passion but I crochet I draw with the little king sometimes sew make prayer flags – they all look like not that of an accomplished artist but that does not matter. one of the daughters is an artist in the sketcher painter drawer sense and I love the ease with which it flows from her. but I am not stopped by my un frida kahlo ness – it is in the process the unfolding from within . I did the artists way some years ago – great journey and very liberating – yesterday blog free day I had an artists date with myself – a media free day a family free day which involved a lot of the sweetness of nothing.

    1. As a woman who loves solitude, your yesterday sounds so life-giving to me. I hope it was chock full of the everything and nothing you needed and wanted, Sandra.

  15. Karen, I agree 100% — more if mathematically possible. Make art for the love of making something. Sure we love making ‘something’ whatever that is. Inhibitions, I think, keep us from engaging with our creative side.
    I’ve always had a love for words, admired those who manipulated words into poems, stories, speeches that shook someone’s beliefs. Stories are wild creatures we can tame or let loose. How amazing is that — the world at our fingertips through words.

    1. It is amazing, Silvia, and it’s powerful to talk with someone who is open to exploring their creative side. Like you, with your posts about the qualities of fictional characters. Your love for words, and your skill in using them, is very evident.

  16. You and I have had this conversation before about creativity. It can manifest itself in many different ways – not just through artistic endeavours, but also in how we choose to dress, put together a meal, or solve a problem. I could even argue that our ability to survive and thrive is a testament to our creative ability.

    I used to equate creativity with artistic ability. Now my view of it is so much more holistic.

    1. We sure have talked about this before, Joanne. I’m glad we’ve both come to a more holistic view of creativity, and to a recognition that we are creative people. I really recommend checking out Alana’s site – ofloveandlight.org – for some first class articles about creativity.

  17. Small children draw and paint, dance and sing. They invent amazing stories and build fantastic structures out of found objects. And yet, somewhere along the way, something happens and people lose their confidence in their own creative capacities. So often, people (women) come up to me and say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” or “I can’t even draw a straight line” or “I am not at all artistic.” It makes me sad.


    1. Me too, Jude. Most people say that we need to make the changes in the education system so that children don’t lose that belief in their own creativity. I’m sure that’s true, but now that I’m out of the education system, I’m keenly interested in knowing if there’s a way to change these beliefs among adults.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *