I just returned back from a trip to Toronto to attend Anime North. Takeshi Nogami and I were invited as guests and between the two of us we did a number of panels where the subject of self-expression came up. Having returned, I thought I might want to write something short based on the wonderful feedback that we got there.
Generally speaking two motivations stand out regarding self-expression. There is the satisfaction you win from seeing others enjoy your work. There is also desire to express what is inside all of us. These two elements of self-expression are similar but there is a big difference. There are cases where the two contradict each other, but you can learn to make the two coincide. Once you can learn to appreciate both aspects of self-expression and better understand what you want to do, then I am certain the creative process will become even more enjoyable.
Nearly everyone likes it when you see a smile appear on a person’s face when you mention something to them. Facilitating a person’s entertainment is a core desire on the part of most people who likes to express themselves to others. There is no better way to enhance a child’s creativity then show enthusiasm for the creation and encourage the child to do more.
But sometimes what people want is not what you want to create or express. This is natural, of course, since everyone is different. There are some universal themes that are appreciated by many, but even in taking up subjects that many find interesting, the direction and nuances involved will draw some closer while repelling others away.
And finally, there are personal emotions and aspirations that dominate our hearts and fester in our minds. Some of them might not be so pleasant, but that is perfectly fine. We all get angry, sad, and envious over the course of time. We need to vent it, but we also need the discretion to express these urges in forms that are constructive. If you carelessly express yourself and cause discomfort or resentment on the part of others, two of one things will happen. You will become afraid to express yourself, or you will start to interact with fewer and fewer number of people.
Emotions and opinions are what makes us human. Everybody has them. You need to find a realm that is safe to express them. You should not expect everyone to appreciate them all the time, anywhere you are. The last thing you need at the end of a long work day is having someone make fun of your face while waiting to check-out at the local supermarket.
The ability to channel our feelings and thoughts makes us feel more liberated and uninhibited. When you can direct them into forms that entertain others, it will give you a sense of fulfillment that is very difficult to match by anything else.
Just as some respects social institutions inhibit us more than free us, adhering to popular themes and genres can be restricting to a person’s creativity and originality. However, as you become more and more skillful in creating, then you will realize that there are many facets of being a creative person. Even in the most mundane and ubiquitous subject, there are ways to incorporate your unique creativity.
When you are starting out, do not get overly concerned about not being creative. Just like with dancing and cooking, you will become better through practice. If you are mindful, that you can learn from each time you complete a drawing or complete a project and present it to others. Over the course of time, the tools available to compose material will become more and more sophisticated and better polished. You will never be satisfied with what you can do, but you will amaze yourself with what you have accomplished when you compare it with what you were doing in the beginning.
Never mix up what you want to express with what people want. These are two separate things that you need to mediate and negotiate. Your desire to express yourself compels you to supply material to others, but if you strive to win larger audiences, then you must learn to channel your creativity in ways that go beyond just fulfilling your needs. Sometimes your tastes and the audience’s tastes match, and that is wonderful when it does. But in many instances, that may not always be the case.
Never lose focus on what you want to do, even if you need to do something else. There are many audiences out there, and for some projects it might be better to focus on satisfying a smaller audience than a larger one. There are strengths and weakness to both approaches, but if you do not remain conscious of the audience that you are speaking to, then you will easily get disillusioned.
And lastly, never get discouraged from trying again. There will be days when it seems like the end of the world. Don’t worry, it can always be worse! But most importantly, better things will never come by unless you try again.
Many people talk about talent, and to be frank, artistic talent is over-rated. The motivation and discipline that comes from a diligent and driven person will achieve growth and refinement that will far excel beyond an artistically talented person that only works casually.
A willingness to be diligent and the spirit of playfulness that comes along with being comfortable with the creative process will take you places you never expected. Most importantly, these attributes can be developed by nearly everyone.
It’s a wild ride, and everyone is welcome join in.