November 2019 - The Philanthropy Issue

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Nurturing A Creative Spirit

Karen Kinney is an artist, writer, and teacher living in San Miguel. Learn more at and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

San Miguel is a fantastic place for creativity of all kinds. It is full of artists and writers, and on any given night of the week, there are a multitude of cultural events going on. For a town that is not very big, its artistic footprint is quite large!

Some people come here to continue creative careers they began somewhere else. And plenty of others arrive and decide to dabble in something artistic for the first time in their lives. When I first visited three years ago, I had the intention of seeking out a public art opportunity, as I had been working as a professional artist in Los Angeles for many years. Prior to coming, I had heard that San Miguel is a town that thrives on happy synchronicities, so, I was optimistic as to what I might find. During my stay, I came upon a walkway that was filled with several beautiful murals. Not knowing who to approach to inquire about them, I knocked on the door of Life Path, a holistic center that was in the same walkway. I was introduced to Beverly Nelson, the woman who began the center, and when I asked her if she knew who was in charge of the public art, she said, “I am!” And so we began to discuss the idea of me adding a mural to the walkway on my next visit. I made plans to return the following year to paint it.

Eight months after returning to paint the mural, my husband and I decided to relocate to San Miguel on a longer-term basis. This time, I knew that the next creative career calling me, that of a writer, was going to be something I pursued and developed more fully during our stay. San Miguel is not only a good place to plug into with creative skills you may already have, it’s also a great place to reinvent yourself, or try a creative pursuit for the first time.

In 2017, I published a book entitled The Reluctant Artist: Navigating and Sustaining a Creative Path. In it, I discuss the creative process in depth and offer encouragement and insights for nurturing your creativity and overcoming obstacles along the way. One thing I love to do is help people embrace greater levels of creative freedom in whatever it is they’re pursuing. Too often in the arts (or any other creative field), people get stuck with a list of “shoulds” or rules they feel they have to follow. They end up with a one-track mindset which can limit what they try or how creative they become.

Kids are much better than adults at exhibiting true creative freedom. They are some of the most free creators on the planet! Maybe it’s because they haven’t lived long enough to categorize certain things as “mistakes.” And for sure, they are much better at playing, and play leads to all kinds of wonderful experimentation. Nurturing our creativity without any perceived limits is a really important skill to learn, no matter what it is we’re making. Nurturing our inner artist helps us feel safe and free to take risks and be as inventive as possible. So what are some ways we do this?

Here are four steps that can help you connect with your inner creative voice and give your inner artist permission to play:

1) Connect to Your Gut

We have to let creativity be defined, first and foremost, by an inner spark. This is where great ideas come from. Our instincts are markers of the way forward and are there to help us. But we can easily overlook our gut sense by over-thinking, becoming critical of our efforts, or believing art should look a certain way. To really allow our creativity to grow, we have to consciously let go of preconceived ideas and start by honoring our instincts. Pay attention to desire, to what’s fun, and to what comes easily. Your instincts will guide you to places of ease and flow!

2) Resist Comparing

There are as many ways to approach art as there are artists. And if there is any field in which there are no limits, it is the creative one! But if we get too fixated on what others are doing, or how their art looks compared to ours, it can get in the way of just being ourselves. If comparison somehow aids inspiration, then it can be useful. But if it keeps us from trusting our own creative compass, then it becomes detrimental. And at the end of the day, we're not here to be someone else’s voice, we're here to express our own.

3) Value What You have to Offer

Sometimes we get sidetracked in our creativity when we mistakenly tie its worth to external validation. External validation can certainly play an encouraging role in our process. But we must not forget that the value of what we create is, above anything, intrinsic. Creativity lies in our very DNA, and that alone gives it tremendous value. So we must learn to see the worth of our own vision. No one else sees the world exactly the way you do. So trust that what you are creating is a needed expression that will bring value not just to your life, but to others'.

4) Celebrate Your Efforts

Our inner artist thrives best with encouragement and celebration. Every creative effort is a good one, no matter the outcome, because the effort is what keeps the process going. So nurture your own creativity by speaking kind words to yourself, affirming even tiny bits of progress, and recognizing that attempting anything creative at all is worthwhile. We know that affirming others helps them grow, and we need to remember the same is true when it comes to celebrating and affirming our own creativity.

If you’d like more encouragement in pursuing a creative life, you can find The Reluctant Artist: Navigating and Sustaining a Creative Path in town at the biblioteca bookstore, Tesores, and on Amazon. And If you’d like some in-person inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, I’ll be co-teaching a workshop at the Writers’ Conference on the very topic of creative freedom. I’ll be speaking on this topic from my professional background in the arts, and my co-teacher, Karin Gutmin, will be bringing her perspective as a professional writer and writing coach.

Happy creating!