Who are you creatively? That is I want every creative person to ask herself at some point during her creative journey. Understanding who you are creatively is a process, but it is also the key to continued growth and success in your creative life and work. Unlocking your creative identity will help you set a path of continued success, productivity, and joy in your work. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Don’t be in the dark about your abilities. Uncover them one by one.
Discover your creative DNA
Your DNA signature is unique. What are the building blocks that make you the creative that you are today? Your DNA signature is born of your personal experiences.Your DNA signature draws you to certain activities and skills that you develop along the way.
Use this handy questionnaire to help you discover your creative DNA. This is a creative autobiography. It was developed by Twyla Tharp and is included in her book The Creative Habit. These questions will help you uncover your deepest motivations, influences, and creative expressions. I even put it together in a handy PDF just for you that you can download right now🙂
How introversion, sensitivity, and empathy play a role in your creative makeup
Introversion, sensitivity, and empathy can play a role in your creative makeup.
Let’s take the introverted creative. Many creatives are introverted. Introversion means that you derive your sense of self or your “energy” internally, usually through solitary activities. You are rejuvenated and recharged when you spend time alone. You are free to explore your thoughts and ideas unencumbered by outside influences, distractions, and disruptions. When you are filled up, it is easier for you to go out in the world and interact. But too much time in group settings or out in the public usually leaves you feeling a bit drained and ready for retreat.
This is the life of an introvert. We just tend to be happier on our own with little interference or in smaller group settings where we can feel comfortable, in control, and centered. As this relates to creativity, introversion affords us the opportunity to focus for long periods of time on certain tasks, giving us the advantage when it comes to developing new skills or refining existing ones. This ability to concentrate for long stretches of time is the introvert advantage and help us be prolific in our output from writing to jewelry making to painting.
Many artists are described as sensitive, sometimes in a pejorative way. Sensitivity is seen as a negative trait, a liability in our society. But sensitivity can produce artists who care deeply about causes that produce activism and awareness that can ultimately transform society.
Sensitivity should not be suppressed but understood and used to the artist’s advantage. Sensitive people feel very deeply, usually on a deeper level than others. I’m not sure they feel more deeply because they are “special” or because they allow themselves access to the deeper parts of their emotions, while a majority of the population do not. Sensitives know how to harness their emotions in a productive way that can bring healing, understanding, and more awareness to an issue.
Many artists are also empaths, meaning they can feel other’s emotions very deeply to the point of taking on the attitudes and the feelings of others as if they belonged to the artist herself. This can be problematic if the empathic artist doesn’t know how to harness this ability. Used wisely, the artist can express herself as if she is a completely different person, relating her stories and emotions in a very genuine and authentic way. She can be a voice for the voiceless. She can cross racial, ethnic, and social divisions. The empath can create art that heals because she knows exactly what to target and how to hone in her art that will bring out the most discovery.
So which one are you? Are you introverted, sensitive, or empathic? Are you all three or some combination of them? Most artists have at least one of these characteristics, if not all three on some level, and they can vary by level of intensity. I am intensely introverted, with a lot of sensitivity and some empathic abilities thrown in. Finding balance in my own emotions can be a challenge at times, but I try to channel that energy in productive ways. So I am not overwhelmed with negativity or intense emotions I don’t know what to do with.
Uncover your unique artistic qualities and traits
Every artist has a unique quality or stand-out feature about their work on which they can capitalize.
Take a designer for instance. Design is such a broad category. Many things fall under the umbrella of design. You have graphic design, interior design, set design, product design, fashion design, architecture, textile design, print design, web design, etc. The list goes on and on. And within those subcategories, there are more options still.
Take fashion design. There is women’s fashion, men’s wear, pattern drafting, ready-to-wear, couture, textile design, dressmaking, tailoring, and the list goes on and on. Most of us are good at a subset of a subset of skills. We focus on our niche. Your niche is where you shine because not everyone can do what you do. Not everyone has your set of unique skills or combination of experiences that gives you your special edge. Capitalize on those characteristics that make you stand out. Almost every creative field is saturated with the same basic skillsets and abilities.
For instance, I am a black woman in the field of graphic design. That in and of itself is pretty rare. There just aren’t that many of us in the field. But that’s not enough to set me apart. I take great care as to how I present my work and who I am as a graphic designer. There’s a certain look that I want to portray to my potential clients. I choose a very polished, classic look. Some designers want to be seen as funky, geeky, or hipster. Those styles don’t appeal to me, so I go with a classic, put-together style. I also love typography, so I try to play close attention to the typographical choices in my work. That sets me apart and makes me stand out in a saturated field.
What are You Creatively Drawn to?
Some people are drawn to one creative thing, and they stick with it for most of their professional lives. Some of us are drawn to multiple creative disciples. Personally, I am drawn to design, dance, and crafting. Those are my top three. I flirted with thoughts of singing, but never took lessons or pursued it seriously. It’s not strong in my creative DNA, and that’s okay.
Once you determine what you are drawn to as a creative, then you can grow in that direction. Don’t be afraid to explore many avenues. You can narrow things down later, or you might love everything and become a renaissance artist.
Take me, for example. I was drawn to dance when I was very young. I was also drawn to drawing, singing, and just performing in general. These desires were in me at a very young age. I used to put on my black patent leather shoes and “tap dance” in the kitchen at five years old. I used to make up songs and walk around my house singing them. I was inspired by my Fashion Plates toy, and I drew and created my own little fashionistas with markers and construction paper. I was drawn to music and learned how to play a mini electric keyboard. I would record myself singing songs from summer camp and would harmonize with myself using a cassette tape recorder. Inspired by Nancy Drew and mystery stories, I wrote my own mysteries and acted them out with my friends.
It’s not hard to see when your creativity was born, because most likely, it was with you a soon as you could remember. Your past gives you clues as to what you are now drawn to creatively and what creative path you might want to consider as an adult.
Who or what did you grow up admiring? Who are your heroes?
Believe it or not, my first creative heroes were the Solid Gold dancers. Yes, the sexy women clad in sparkling leotards and high heels dancing to ’80s pop music on TV. Yes, they were my true inspiration as a child. I remember being five years old watching Solid Gold and pretending my Barbie paper doll was a Solid Gold dancer. That was when my love for dance was born.
Carolyn Keene, pseudo author of the Nancy Drew series was my other hero. It’s because of Nancy Drew books that I wanted to become and mystery writer.
Of course, I have to add my mother. She planted in me the seeds of crafting. My mom could sew, crochet, quilt, needlepoint. All of my craftiness definitely came from her, and it’s a special bond we share to this very day.
I think it’s important to remember and map out our creative origins so we can see that, indeed, a guiding force led us to our creativity.
I can see how my creativity started when I was very young and that it’s always been with me. It’s almost like I was destined for this path. This was really important to me as I reached my mid to late thirties and began questioning my purpose in life and what I really want to do. I realize now that my true purpose has always been with me. It is my purpose to create and make my living from creating and inspiring creativity in others.