The level of ingenuity that humans have evolved to possess is beyond that of any other known life form. It has been harnessed towards the procuration of many scientific discoveries, social development, and economic expansion. Not only has it been put to use towards the advancement of humankind, but it has also played an important role in allowing humans to obtain a deeper understanding of themselves, and the world around them, through creative expression.
I interviewed three of my friends to discuss what motivates them to create, where they find their inspiration, and what they do when they can’t seem to find that spark.
Lily Hoagland, a 10th grader here at ERHS, says that her favorite medium for creative expression is watercolor painting. “It feels very fluid, very relaxing”. She also appreciates the patience required to produce a quality piece: “You have to wait for it to dry, and build it up with multiple layers”. Lily elaborates on how patience is paramount as you work through the creative process. “If you’re getting stuck in the middle of developing visual art, definitely take a break. It’s another thing that tests my patience because sometimes, things will be going poorly, and you might make a rash decision out of nowhere. If you had just taken a break to assess why things were going poorly, you could have saved it, but then it just got ruined.” This rings true for all forms of art, as beautiful artwork doesn’t happen overnight. Lily focuses most of her time on portraits, saying that for her creating them is “therapeutic”.
This is a common theme, as stress relief through art is a legitimate practice. In 2016, researchers at Drexel University led a study in which participants with varying levels of artistic experience were given materials such as markers, paper, and modeling clay, no direction, and 45 minutes to create anything they wanted. The researchers measured the hormone that is responsible for stress levels in the body, cortisol, to determine participants' stress levels before and after the allotted time period. The results were resoundingly positive, as 75 percent of the participants’ cortisol levels decreased during the 45 minutes.
This is just one of the many benefits of producing artwork.
Femi Henry-Chia, 10th-grade student and fashion icon, says that her favorite form of creative expression is through her style. Although an oftentimes overlooked art form, fashion is just as expressive as any of the customary visual or musical arts.
Femi says that her main source of motivation and inspiration comes from her mom. “She is my biggest inspiration in both style and uniqueness.” Femi also cites her name as a source of motivation. “You don’t meet a lot of Femis in the world, you know? So I think that I was already born with a kind of uniqueness, and I’m trying to carry that through.” The best way, and really the only way to express oneself is to be oneself. Accentuating the characteristics that one already has is the perfect way to find a mode of creative expression that’s fulfilling.
On a less serious note, Femi mentioned Pinterest as a source of inspiration. This is a frequently shared sentiment, as the people and ideas around us are what shape us as people.
Femi also draws and is an artist here at the Eagles Scream. As deadlines approach, it’s easy to lose motivation or run into creative blocks.
As a way to cope with getting stuck, Femi said something similar to Lily: “I guess when I get stuck I just do something random. Maybe run outside or something. Just take a 10-minute breather, then come back and try to refocus.” It has actually been proven that physical activity can significantly increase creativity. A study published by Marily Oppezzo and Daniel L Schwartz of Stanford University showed that while walking on a treadmill, participants' creativity on the AUT (Alternative Uses Test) was boosted by an average of 81%. The AUT is a test that was designed by J.P. Guilford in 1967 and asks test-takers to think of as many uses as possible for a simple object, e.g a towel, hairbrush, or paperclip.
So next time you’re struggling to find inspiration for a new project, or just plain bored, try getting up and moving around.
Owen Taylor, another fan of a more unconventional form of expression, says that his go-to mediums are music, video-game development, sculpting, and the occasional drawing. Owen describes his motivation to create as “...weird bursts of really wanting to do something. I’ll commit all my time to a specific project, work on it for a few days, finish it, and then not work on anything for a really long time.” This seems to be one of the two most common manifestations of motivation, those being short bursts of concentrated energy, and long, sustained, less intense efforts.
Another common occurrence when working towards the completion of a project is getting “stuck in the middle”. According to the study, Stuck in the Middle: The Psychophysics of Goal Pursuit (which can be accessed here), people tend to lose motivation around the halfway mark of their endeavor. Andrea Bonezzi, the leader of the study, hypothesizes that “motivation is influenced by the perceived marginal value of progress toward the goal”. Basically, it’s easier to find the motivation to do something when you are close to finishing or have just started, but it’s a lot harder to do so when you’re in the middle of the process.
Similar to Femi, Owen says, “I find a lot of inspiration from seeing someone else do something really well.” He also described how sometimes he has mixed feelings about other people's work: “Sometimes I’ll be jealous, and then sometimes I’ll be in awe, which makes me want to create something like it.” Although jealousy does have a negative connotation, it can definitely be useful, especially in the form of motivation.
Creativity is of boundless potential, beauty, and applicability. It is most definitely something that is worth cultivating. Get out there, get inspired, and change your life through the wonders of creative expression.