Trust Me, I’m a Life Artist: What Makes a Life Artist

by Mira

You don’t have to be a painter or a sculptor to be a life artist. You just have to live your life more creatively, exploring and defining your life based on things that inspire you

In many ways, life artists have got a handle on life in ways which both embrace their acceptance of certain insurmontable changes in life and their appetite for dealing with fortitude and inspiration with changes they often set in their paths themselves. Life artists love challenges for challenges allow them to grow. They also love to tackle these challenges with a sense of wonder and mindful play, rather than getting overly ambitious and worked up about achieving their goals.

Life Artists – Some Case Studies

A friend of mine was a PE instructor for years. Now he’s a French teacher. The fact that he doesn’t know French to a T didn’t hold him back from applying for a position. A different kind of person might have waited to improve their French to a certain degree, but as we all know, when it comes to learning a language, we’re learning our whole life. So why wait? A painter doesn’t put off painting until the time when he learns all about it, for you can’t learn much about it until you start doing it. Same with this friend of mine. 

Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Shirt, Raglan Sleeves)
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Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Coffee Mug)
Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Coffee Mug)
The American couple who created the Travel with Kids TV series

A while ago I borrowed some DVDs from the British Council library about travels through the UK. They were made by a couple, Jeremy and Carrie, who decided to travel around the world and finance their trip by embarking on a new adventure job-wise as well. They became researchers and writers, actors and directors, documentary producers and distributors, and so on. The result is not perfect, but the value of the documentaries lie in the fresh way they approach tourist attractions, and, of course, in conveying the experience of what it feels like to travel with kids to various places.

What does Jeremy appreciate the most about his travels? “Having every day being totally unexpected.” It takes a certain kind of life artist to thrive on the unexpected every day, but some people are really good at relinquishing routine daily.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant

In fact, just as some people chase things they feel may make them happier (a salary raise, a vacation, etc.), some life artists chase routine away from their lives every day. In certain cases, it can mean a life full of adrenaline and adventure, as it’s the case of television presenter Bear Grylls, but oftentimes breaking the routine translates into doing the same things in different ways, whether it’s spicing food differently, or cutting vegetables a different way, or sitting down at the computer to fill the white page with something that is different every day. At the very least, what you need to do is to remember to stay mindful as you love and work, and also to have fun, however you define fun for yourself.

Stephen Fry

For British author and actor Stephen Fry, for instance, one aspect of having fun is traveling alongside TV crews to film nature documentaries. I’ve seen him on TV in such series a lot lately, and he’s always responding to various creatures and natural environments with a sense of wonder and rapture. I love seeing him enjoy the world so much.

Stephen Fry -- Last Chance to See -- Return of the Rhino
Stephen Fry -- Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece

What You Can Do to Become More of a Life Artist

Advice may be easy to give sometimes, especially in instances where we address happiness and life priorities, but the truth is that, as the old adage has it, everyone is fighting some sort of hard battle and often it can be quite hard to engage in life artistry and take charge of your own life.

And yet many people do it -- more drastically, by upping sticks and going to live in a different country, for instance, or taking it step by step, slowly incorporating change into their daily routine. Although I have to warn you, true life artists don’t believe in slow changes, even as they do believe in long-term goals. Life artists are more of “now” people, people who chose to make changes today rather than wait for “a better time.” And yet most life artists don’t throw all caution to the wind. Instead they find security in certain aspects of their lives, and dare to be different and experiment in others. A side business, a hobby, volunteer work, travel which could turn into a side or main business, and so on. As Adam Grant reminds us in Originals, successful artists often proceed that way. “Brian May, writes Grant, was in the middle of doctoral studies in astrophysics when he started playing guitar in a new band, but he didn’t drop out until several years later to go all in with Queen.”

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So find an activity to bet on, but keep your old pursuits going as you hone your skills. Remember that you need practice to make perfect, and good things that last seldom happen overnight.

Also, remember to play! As psychologists remind us, life should include not only love and work, but also playtime. Find things that inspire you, and get involved in adding your own contribution and self-expression to them, whether it’s learning about flowers, birds, or medicinal herbs, and sharing your knowledge on a blog; playing a musical instrument or learning new songs to sing to your children at bedtime; finding books which take you on worthwhile armchair journeys and then writing reviews, and so on.

Cultivate a Growth Mindset

Importantly, cultivate a growth mindset by always challenging yourself when you find you’re thinking of yourself, your work, and the world in set ways. Do you want to create artistic statements but don’t have the necessary skills? You may find that even though you think you don’t have an artistic bone, you could, in fact, teach yourself certain skills by exposing yourself to more art and learning to use graphics software. You may also want to collaborate with other artists! There are websites like fiverr.com and upwork.com where you can do that, i.e. have your ideas translated into finished designs. And if you don’t have the money for it, find another activity in order to fund the projects you contract online.

Secrets of Staying Young: "One of the secrets to staying young is to do things you don't know how to do, to keep learning" (Ruth Reichl)
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Are you unhappy with the way some young people nowadays don’t read enough books? Find a way to reach some of them. We can, in fact, change the world one person at a time, because each person creates a ripple effect in the world.

Do you feel you don’t have enough time for your hobbies, or enough time to spend with friends? Maybe you can combine the two. If you’re interested in mosaics, for instance, find a place that teaches a workshop, and maybe you’ll find there people who would enjoy working by your side as you continue to craft mosaics later on.

The trick often is not to see various activities as separate. You can multitask in a meaningful way by working on your crafts projects as your child works on theirs (it’s harder to do, but doable), and both of you will benefit by working alongside each other.

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Also, most people tend to see work and play as separate, partly because at work we have so many tasks to accomplish that even if we are in a good mood, there’s little time to detach ourselves from the serious side of things. And yet you’ll notice that some people always have time for a quip and a joke. Those are life artists at work :) No matter how serious their work is, they remember to have fun at it.

Speaking of multiple tasks: if you enjoy several hobbies, rather than juggling them all, maybe you'd enjoy finding ways to bring them some of them together. Are you passionate about bargains and volunteer work? Well, you may want to clip coupons, as that, in fact, may relax you, or you may want to start a blog where you post various bargains from around the web. Did you know that you could buy even store gift cards at a discount? It doesn’t sound like something out of this earth, and yet how many times have you bought them at list price? In fact many people do sell them at reduced prices on places like eBay, and sites like GiftCardsGranny.com post the links.

Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Tea Cup)
Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Tea Cup)
Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Shirt, Raglan Sleeves)
Trust Me, I'm a Life Artist (Shirt, R...

It’s also important to learn to set aside longer stretches of time for each of your project sessions, as that way you have a higher chance of entering a state of flow, that wonderful zone where you're so immersed and present in an an activity and the moment that you feel, essentially, that your soul and your mind are working in conjunction in a way that compels you to keep that most pleasant blend of focus and relaxation going until it peters out by itself, leaving you both tired and refreshed as a result.

So give yourself opportunities to reach states of flow. You can do that by ignoring some of your chores sometimes, especially “when the spirit seizes you,” as Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed, writes. She gives the example of professor of sociology John Robinson, who in order to make time for leisure lets quite a few things in his office pile up.

Brigid Schulte, Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time

If other things are piling up in your life, and tidying your home or workplace makes you feel more in control of your life as well as “help[ing] you breathe,” as Schulte writes, then do keep a tidy office and home. But if you can bear things to be a little less tidy, then by all means let them be so every now and then.

House chores never end, and if you chase leisure time at the end of them, you may get very few hours of me-time. So live more like an artist and make plans for the whole weekend even if you usually clean your home on Saturday. Your home won’t fall apart! Life is often about priorities, and sometimes in order to feel you have more freedom in your life, you have to put off a few things. It’s better than putting off your actually living.

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I mentioned freedom in the above paragraph. It’s very easy to get drawn into the carousel of things to do. If you can’t fight it efficiently and find yourself ticking yet another to-do item in the small intervals between various activities, as Brigid Schulte writes she does, then maybe it’s time to lay down some new rules. Maybe you want to read more but can’t find the time. Then decide to put your phone on silent at 8 p.m, for instance, and use the remaining time for your family and yourself (and not for housework).

And maybe you find you have better energy in the morning. Then maybe on some weekend days, instead of starting the day with housework and cooking, if “the spirit seizes you” go out to an art exhibition and then come home to work on one of your pet projects. Were you planning to cook? Well, maybe you won’t that day. Or, if cooking doesn’t feel like a chore, maybe you will be cooking until 2 a.m.

In the end, it all comes to giving yourself the freedom to make changes where changes can be made; tackling new activities and projects on the spur of moments of inspiration rather than putting them off; and finding time to play. Also, and equally important, being a life artist means being a giver. And growing a bigger heart.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece. Please feel free to share your experience of meeting life artists and becoming more of one :)

Updated: 10/10/2018, Mira
 
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Mira on 10/26/2018

I never said I felt it would be easy :)

Veronica on 10/26/2018

Mira oooh I am terrified of using water colours. I have all the kit but as yet haven't tried.

Mira on 10/26/2018

Yes, Veronica, I agree, using our creativity is therapeutic. I used to knit as a child and I continue to do so every once in a blue moon when I listen to a podcast :) Now that you reminded me of it, I will try to do it more often :)
Like you, I also find great pleasure in cooking and crafts, and as I've already mentioned here in another comment, I plan to take up watercolors :)

Mira on 10/26/2018

Pam: You're right, we all have so much creativity that is waiting to be unleashed, and yes, it's so nice when we have time to indulge new activities!

Veronica on 10/26/2018

Mira , You are right.

I have always done crafts and been creative in some way. Be it baking, doing preserves, drawing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery I find it hugely therapeutic.

dustytoes on 10/25/2018

I've read this article twice Mira - it is so good. I believe everyone has some sort of creativity to share, yet some people make the excuse that they are not "artistic". If I did not make time to be creative in some way, how dull my life would be! These days I have a lot more time for it, and I try to use that time wisely doing all the things I could only imagine doing for so many years.

Mira on 10/23/2018

Frank: Yes, the feeling is still there :) Ours was warm too, but we used just the eiderdown, without blankets, and it was such a delight to sleep in those starched sheets. Nowadays my aunt's family doesn't starch the sheets anymore, but my grandma did, and it felt great. Thank you for reminding me of all this :)

Mira on 10/23/2018

Katie: Yes, I, too, have similar keepsakes from one of my grandmothers, for instance.

frankbeswick on 10/23/2018

Talk of eiderdown brings back my childhood memories. There was always an eiderdown quilt to cover the blankets on the bed; and it was warm.

katiem2 on 10/22/2018

Oh yes, keepsakes families hold on to, take great pride and care for in order to hand them down through the generations. It is a great honor to have a quilt handed down to you from an elder.


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