How to Find Your Just-Right Creative Medium for Self-Expression

Feb 19, 2014

I’m pondering a conversation I recently had with a new friend, a very talented printmaker and writer, about finding your just-right creative medium.

What is a Creative Medium?

Any form of creative expression that is an active pursuit of self-expression, feeds your curiosity, and puts a kick in your step and a secret satisifed grin on your face.

12 Types of Creative Mediums to Explore

Here are some of my favorites:

  1. Mail art.
  2. Card-making.
  3. Pole-dancing (kidding I don’t pole dance but it’s huge and sounds fun.)
  4. Podcasting.
  5. Writing poetry.
  6. Creating and hosting themed parties.
  7. Collage.
  8. Hip-hop dance.
  9. Kirtan chanting.
  10. Drawing comics,
  11. Recording guided meditations.
  12. Random acts of kindness.

What are some of yours?

Why is Creative Self-expression Vital for your Soul and Well-Being?

Besides the kick in your step and that secret satisified grin I mentioned earlier?

Because without creative self-expression, why bother? Seriously, you need something that is just yours to explore and make, or you will lose your mojo, your will to keep learning and growing, and become crabby and cramped.

Perhaps the simplest answer to why creative self-expression is important is the health benefits. Being creative is like eating kale with gojiberries while doing yoga and swimming with dolphins all at the same time.

6 Tips for Finding Your Artistic Medium

My friend and I have both had l-o-n-g creative lives with lots of success and lots of struggle, and part of our struggle came from pursuing creative mediums that weren’t a good fit.

In fact, the mediums we were using (oil painting for my friend, filmmaking for me) made us physically ill and pretty damn grumpy.

Yet we both so identified with our forms of creative expressions we basically made them a part of who we are and when they stopped working, we couldn’t let them go without an ugly struggle.

How to Know When to Try a Different Artistic Medium

What do you do when your chosen types of creative medium isn’t working for you and isn’t giving you pleasure?

Ask yourself:

        What about your current type of creative medium is driving you mad, making you consider a change?

Make a list but use the third person and your name. “Jen dreads writing screenplays so much she wants to drink a bottle of pinot every night” or “Jen finds painting too cold.” This will help you look at your dissatisfaction with some distance.

You might see faulty thinking like Jen should have had more success, and if she had had more success, she would enjoy this more”) or simple, practical changes that might make all the difference, like “Jen is cold when she paints” and realize you need a space heater!

Of course, sometimes you look more closely and you realize you need to make a big change. My friend realized she was allergic to oil paint. I realized I wasn’t a visual storyteller, nor was I determined enough to make it in Hollywood.

Or you are experiencing creative burnout. Read more about what to do in that case.

Switching types of creative mediums may cause you some grief and a time of wandering in the creative desert, trying things out. If I could offer my twenty-something self advice, it would be:

Trust that your desire to create is what matters. Tend it with honest persistent devotion and practice.
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I would have also told her to drink less wine, do more yoga, and that it was fine to date a bunch of new creatives mediums before settling down, and once I did, have a creative hobby on the side that had nothing to do with commerce and everything to do with play.

I’d also tell her…

  • Nothing is permanent. Leaving one art form for another doesn’t require a blood vow stating that you will never return. Take it a bit more lightly, at least for now.
  • Nothing you have learned is lost – it will inform what you do in your new medium, so don’t waste time lamenting.
  • Gift another creative your leftover supplies. Let go of all those exquisite beads or funky collage supplies or writing book rather than force yourself to keep creating with them. It’s like forcing yourself to eat everything on your plate when you’re stuffed.

And finally, that what matters is giving expression to what only you can create, no matter how it turns out, who buys it, or who bothers. As long as you do, that’s all that truly matters.



Jettison Self-Doubt and Lose the Itty-Bitty-Shitty Committee and Make Your Thing Now

From the national best-selling author of The Woman’s Comfort Book and Why Bother.

Made for writers, artists, mail art makers, knitters of sock puppets, creative entrepreneurs, photographers, Tarot readers, and anybody who needs to make stuff they love.

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