Posted by: Liz Massey | November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving and creative gratitude

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Photo courtesy SXC.

In some ways, I like Thanksgiving even more than I like Christmas, and that’s saying a lot, given how much I love holiday lights, a well-decorated Christmas tree, and the amazing diversity of music composed and performed to celebrate the season. Thanksgiving provides the balance we need before entering a season that has often become more about receiving presents than about meditating on the gift of a tiny baby or the spirit of giving that that baby symbolizes.

Thanksgiving is all about gratitude, and gratitude can be a dangerous word. Like the word “forgiveness,” its meaning been compromised by forcing it upon those who have been wounded and damaged by its misuse. In my mind, gratitude involves an appreciation of the people, events and things in our life that are making a positive difference. So here is what I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving weekend, as it relates to my life as a creative person.

1. Public libraries. I would bankrupt myself trying to buy all the books and DVDs I need to advance my understanding of the creative disciplines that enthrall me. Libraries are a beacon of democracy, one of the last non-commercial community spaces we have left, and a great place to explore a new creative interest before investing in one’s first book on the subject.

2. Museums. Another treasure trove for creative folk. Whether one visits an art museum or a historical museum or even a themed commercial museum (Toilet Seat Art Museum, anyone?), the museum’s format of bringing historical artifacts together in thematically related ways is wonderful both in educating us about our creative heritage and providing stimulation for new ways to view a subject.

3. Coffee shops. One of my favorite commercial spaces to hang out in and a great place to sharpen my powers of perception. Once there, you may see sketches drawn, ideas hatched among friends, and journal entries scribbled or typed. It’s a great place to do any of those things yourself. Just remember to get a warm-up from time to time if you’re parked in a seat for hours.

4. Notebooks. I know many artists who are mad about Moleskine, but I’m a Pooch & Sweetheart girl myself. Regardless of brand, I am grateful to have such a variety of analog recording tools for catching ideas on the fly.

5. Low-cost cameras and camcorders. As the price of technology drops, the number of creative ways in which they are being used seems to have increased exponentially. YouTube, Vimeo and other sites have made distribution of educational, expressive or just plain funny video clips a snap, and Flickr has spawned a whole new photo-sharing and -appreciating culture. This is good for artists, in my mind—the more people are attempting to make art, the more they appreciate the process that goes into that work and can appreciate the value of a well-done piece.

6. Open-source software. Where would the creative Web 2.0 be without WordPress? Open Office? Audacity? Firefox? The open source movement has changed the way we think about software and is blurring the lines between consumers and producers of media of all kinds.

For artists starting out in a new software-influenced medium, having free sources in which to learn techniques before they have the dough to purchase “industry standard” software packages can make the difference between being able to experiment and learn and giving up on building a website/recording a podcast/learning graphic design until they can “afford it.”

7. Blogs. This one seems obvious! I’m grateful for the many wonderful artists and creative thinkers I’ve met in my cyber travels. I enjoy the cross-pollination that hyperlinking provides, and the less-formal dialogue venue of the comments section. Above all, I aim with Creative Liberty to be a clearinghouse of ideas for creating more effortlessly, and the blog format makes this objective much easier to achieve.

8. Supportive family and friends. I don’t take for granted my partner’s good will when I spend time blogging or fleshing out article/book/video ideas instead of hanging out with her. Relatives and friends who encourage our creative efforts are worth their weight in gold.

9. Supportive fellow artists. Despite our culture’s emphasis on competition as a means for automatically improving the quality of everything, I believe artists also operate off of an older tradition, one that emphasizes a community of artists learning from one another, and borrowing (not stealing) ideas from each other’s work to improve the state of creative expression as a whole. I love the number of truly helpful blogs on painting, writing, photography, video production, etc. Even fledgling artists unaware of a local, physical community, can take advantage of the online “guild” of fellow artists in their discipline.

10. Ample opportunities to pursue “worthy projects.” It’s possible to look at all the bad news we get about global warming, terrorism, a worldwide economic meltdown etc., in a constructive light—creative approaches to change have never been more needed. Whether you build a voluntary or commercial response, devising a worthy project will never fail to help you deal with the bad news and feel you are contributing to the solution.

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