Creativity as a Means of Communication

On the Creative Construction blog, several participants have casually mentioned that they practice multiple means of artistic expression.  James McBride, author of Song Yet Sung, one of the books that I am currently reading for review, is both a writer and a musician.

I can’t paint, draw, or play an instrument, but I suppose you could say that dance is another of my creative outlets.  I’ve written fiction and poetry since I was a child, but for most of my life, dance was the creative venue I felt better represented my true nature.  I’ve studied a variety of dance forms over the years, and I still find that in both my sleeping and waking state, my mind wanders to choreography as often as it does to writing.

Do creative people tend to express themselves in a variety of ways, or more commonly latch onto one definitive medium?  Perhaps there is a need to communicate something that burns inside of us that causes us to reach out through whatever mode of expression we can find.

Are you a photographer who also paints?  A dancer/musician?  A designer and a sculptor?  How many of you practice more than one form of art, even if it’s something you just consider a hobby or that you’ve rarely ever shared with anyone else?

Or, in contrast, have you have latched onto one creative outlet and stuck with it, to the exclusion of all others?  Are you obsessed with sewing, writing or sketching?  Did you ever dabble in anything else, even as a child?

I welcome your thoughts.


  1. I have to say I pick one ceative outlet and focus on it almost obsessively. For almost a decade I was a staring musician. Once I decided that to be a failed cause, I turned my attention to writing. I traded my guitar for a pen and keyboard.
    Both are dear to me, but I seem to only have time for one or the other. Perhaps there will be a day when I will be able to ballance both. Until then, I will keep typing.


  2. I like photography, film, painting, drawing and dancing too. I think what I pick has to do with what impulse channels through me at the time. What I choose to focus on, well – I stick with what I’m “best” at (and it certainly isn’t dancing!) or what art form has a shot of helping the household income.


  3. Imp, good question. I’ve never thought about whether or not one creative outlet complements the other. My writing often deals with dark topics, where as my choreography is usually an expression of freedom. (In my good dreams, I dance rather than fly, and when I wake up from a nightmare, I can’t wait to grab the nearest journal and write it all down.)

    I don’t usually write about dance though. If I had to give a quick answer, I’d say that movement is a totally separate means of expression for me.

    Your neurological comment got me thinking though… Perhaps they utilize similar pathways in the brain, thereby physiologically developing the other on some level, even if I am not conciously aware of it.

    Thanks for the food for thought.


  4. Thanks for commenting at The Idea Pocket and for the invite over.

    Odd as it may sound, I think whether or not a person pursues more than one creative outlet also depends on whether or not they can or do multi-task. Some people, while they can, don’t because they think it pulls them in too many directions. For them, they are right. Others can and do multi-task, appearing to move effortlessly from one project to another.

    I write and do beadwork/make jewelry. Sometimes I cook. (Yes, I think seemingly mundane things like cooking and gardening count as creative outlets.) For a long time, I looked for my second outlet. I dabbled in a lot of things until I was introduced to beading. I needed something else to turn to when writing felt stagnant.


  5. On Creating –
    There is a dance that happens when I create. In this moment of dance spiritually all things are changed. It is a dance of fire and light and water and power that surges through me and what I am creating – back and forth – dancing together with all of creation in the heart of the universe.

    There is nothing else except the song of creation being woven into this beautiful intense dance as it is happening. The dances of this song send ripples out through every living thing and into every spark of an atom in the world and beyond. It flows between time and space surpassing now.

    The creativity of that moment in creation influences every moment in my life and every life touched by it that follows. It enlivens, it inspires, it awakens, it enthuses and infuses power into everything the song gently nudges with life.

    How much more worthwhile could something be?

    For me, it doesn’t matter what form the creating takes – the dance happens when I paint, make music, write, invent, sing, sew, cook or create anything. It is possible to create without giving in to that essence but what it creates isn’t nearly as good. Like comparing a light bulb to the sun.

    – Cricket Diane
    CricketHouseStudios, 2008


  6. From the dozens of women I have interviewed on the topic of creativity, I discovered that creative “cross-pollination” can be a powerful boost. There are several reasons: it’s nice to have creative options, rather than pressure to focus on only one project–which can be daunting. (I think this also applies to having several projects going within the same discipline; being a writer but having a short story, a novel, and an essay going on at once in various stages, even if one is the primary focus. When you get stuck or just don’t feel like working on project X, you have other options.) In terms of multi-discipline creativity, for many women, it does seem that the different expressions feed each other. It’s also likely that some areas are not as driven as others, and so can be enjoyed with less pressure. (This is my experience of painting; I haven’t had much training and I don’t really know what I’m doing, but that’s OK because I like the process, and even the outcome on most occasions. Where I do have long-term aspirations for writing, I don’t think of painting in the same way.)
    Many people, like Jen, find that a “mundane” activity such as cooking is a relaxing, end-of-the-day creative outlet. In fact, connecting these tasks to your creative self helps to make them more enjoyable.
    This may not apply to people who are exceptionally driven and are able to immerse themselves in a single project with tunnel vision (something that creative mothers don’t usually have the luxury of doing), but from the women I’ve spoken to, the more ways you have to express yourself–especially when managing an overflowing life–the more likely you’ll grab the opportunity to do so. You may end up more creatively satisfied, and discover that your creative “well” is more easily replenished.


  7. Well, if I was forced to only have ONE outlet for my creativity, that would make me NUTS!!

    I have dabbled in many crafts since a very early age – and when I left home at 18 or so, my Christmas presents were handmade for several years until I could afford to purchase already-made items. My family and friends came to love them, and I still enjoy giving these personalized gifts when I can.

    I have drawn, painted, beaded, photographed. And YES!! Danced!!! I still think dance is one of my very favorite forms of expression and creativity.

    I learned to sew at an early age, and at a time when it was cheaper to sew for yourself than to purchase store-made clothing (not so many imports then, and what was imported actually cost more!!). I even modified the patterns to suit what I wanted. So from there it was a natural stretch to embroider, crochet, design and make pillows and even costumes.

    Along the way I did scrimshaw – a combination of drawing and jewelry-making. I learned calligraphy and created wedding announcements and advertising for people. I had a part-time graphics business focusing on personal and small business advertising.

    And I even designed stained glass pieces for a friend who was good at the fabrication, but short on design skills.

    Then on to quilting. But that wasn’t enough, I didn’t have the colors I wanted, so I began to hand-dye my own fabrics, and to design my own patterns.

    Then I combined painting and dyeing and started silkpainting. That was lovely, but I didn’t have the room I needed for the larger pieces and hubby never would build the steamer I wanted, so as I started handbeading the silkpurses, my love of beading started up again.

    Alas!! The same problem with my beads as with the fabrics – I wanted what my mind envisioned, not necessarily what was available at the store.

    So, I learned lampworking and then glass fusing, and that’s where I am now. I’m currently taking jewelry fabrication classes so I can move beyond the simple wire-wrapping and precious metal clay that I am currently doing. (I love it, just want to have more options available for expression!!)

    What’s next? I don’t know. I have continued to write, but not as much poetry as when I was younger. I create websites, and there is a certain creativity in that, but more marketing than art.

    I will retire from the workforce this year (I refuse to wait until I’m 60!!), and imagine there are many, many ways I will want to continue my creative expression.

    At the heart of it all, I have discovered I am primarily a designer.

    I think it’s natural to evolve and grow. Some people are happy in one place their entire life, but others need to travel. One size definitely does NOT fit all!!


  8. It used to be art when I was a kid, but I got out of that when I realized I wasn’t very good and it probably wouldn’t go anyplace. Same with music. I have played violin, piano, and recorder, but was only mediocre. I do still sing but mainly just because I enjoy it.

    I would love to get into dance but wouldn’t have the first clue (or the money) to know where to start! This would have just as much to do with exercise as it would with creativity. I do love watching dance in various forms.

    Right now I don’t do much else other than write. I suppose you could count playing with kids (which I’m not good at), cooking dinner (I don’t get that creative, though), and “practical” sewing (fixing things). Oh, and gardening. But I tend to like planning and planting better than maintenance…

    On the subject, have you read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit? I need to get it, and since you’re into dance, you might appreciate it too. 🙂


  9. Not unless you call my day job a creative outlet (Ha! Technical writing). Seriously, I am a workaholic. Only other *sorta* creative outlet I have is a BIT of graphic/web design. And by a bit, I mean on a rare moment of glee I might update my personal website. But that is hardly another art form. For me anyway….


  10. Christa, I’ll have to check out that book. Thanks for the recommendation. Twyla Tharp is one of my favorite choreographers, a real icon in the modern dance movement. I love that she’s not afraid to tackle tough subjects or incorporate current non-traditional music into her productions. Mark Morris and Alvin Ailey are two of my other favorites.


  11. I can chime in that Twyla Tharp’s book is terrific. While her perspective is framed by dance, the book applies to any creative endeavor, across the board. Her MO: Just do it. Every day, without fail, just do it. Without excruciating regularity and commitment, the creative muscle will atrophy (just as a dancer’s physical muscles will weaken). Her intense dedication is inspiring, but not necessarily something that people with day jobs and children can easily emulate.


  12. Creativity is…. I paint (in many mediums), I sculpt, I write, I do photography occasionally, sometimes I sew…whatever hits me at the time, I guess. I always feel a little lost and out of sorts when I don’t have some project going on. Now I’m telling myself that the baby growing inside of me is my newest creation, and it is a lot of work, but not quite as fulfilling as when I can get my hands dirty. Most of the creative people I know dabble in several creative mediums such as music and art, or writing and art, etc. I really believe that one form of expression leads to another, as I get some great ideas when I’m in the midst of a project.


  13. I am first and foremost a writer, but as I’ve gotten more deeply committed to the craft, I also find it much harder to focus on writing exclusively. I’m not sure you’d call it “psychological burn” but when I write I become filled with frenetic energy. Instead of becoming drained by the process, I become too keyed up to write. Then the energy centers in my hands and I feel driven to use them more actively.

    I grew up in Western North Carolina in a family that has worked with its hands for generations. Long before any of the branches on the family tree spawned college educated intellectuals, my family put their brains to work in various artistic pursuits: quilting, woodworking and woodcarving, all types of needlework, etc.

    The funny thing is, none of us finds pleasure in the same art form. My great-grandmother liked making clothing, my grandmother was a knitter, my grandfather worked with wood, my mom quilted, smocked, and cross-stitched, and I developed skills in embroidery and doll making. It has to be genetic for all of us to feel compelled to do something with our hands, but I think it’s interesting that we all gravitated to different pursuits to the point that we had to go outside of the family to learn the craft we were interested in because no one had ever done it before.


  14. I do find myself drawn to various forms of artistic expression. When I was very young, I wrote haiku, poetry, and short stories. I also sang in the school chorus and acted in plays.

    When got to junior high and high school, I started drawing, painting, and making pottery. I still wrote some poetry, and was on the literary journal staff at school.

    In college I continued to draw and paint, but I really didn’t write much of anything. I guess I just got too busy with other things.

    And now I’m freelance editing (which still requires creativity), and trying to find time to write my own stories. I don’t draw or paint too often these days, but hopefully I’ll get back into it at some point.

    I was the only one in my family that was artistic, and I was the only one who was left-handed. I am definitely right-brained which supposedly many lefties are.

    I’m curious how many people who’ve posted here are left-handed.


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