How To Create Art From Difficult Life Circumstances

My original title for this article was “how to turn your shit into art”.

Cali Bird
Cali Bird
Nov 7 · 4 min read

I don’t mean that literally though some artists have done this!

I’m referring to the difficult stuff going on in your life. Your sick child. The big project at work. Your mother as she slips further into dementia.

We often use difficult circumstances as a way to say we don’t have time to create at the moment. The writing or painting or dressmaking will have to wait until after XYZ has passed.

Occasionally that is necessary but what if XYZ doesn’t pass? What happens if you’re almost through XYZ but now UVW has landed? Are you going to wait again?

The problem with waiting until a better time to get on with your creative work is that it might not arrive.

What if you could take the difficulties you are currently facing and turn them into art?

When you are up against it at work, or dealing with something challenging in your family, you have to draw on a strength and inner resolve that you didn’t know you had. You have to raise your game and be a very capable human being.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you made art when you were in this state?

We’re humans. We’re programmed to take the path of least resistance. Ordinarily you wouldn’t put yourself under this much pressure and dig deep into those inner reserves. But if you are currently facing a tricky situation, you’re there anyway.

So why not make a bit of art and capitalise on the fact that you are operating from your highest self?

“I don’t have time,” I hear you cry.

“I’ve no energy.”

Or just “Are you fucking kidding me?”

I’m not suggesting that you walk away from the situation to give you more time and space. I’m just wondering whether if you did a few minutes of writing here and there, or if you took out your sketchbook for a quarter of an hour — I’m wondering whether you would come up with something that you wouldn’t have otherwise created.

Yes, you’re right. You probably don’t have a lot of time so this can’t be a grand project.

But you could lay the foundations to something. You could note down ideas. You could have a doodle with your guitar. You could write 200 words a day which only takes 10 minutes.

Imagine the sense of satisfaction you’ll feel to achieve something that is close to your heart when life is pulling you so many difficult directions.

The benefits of keeping up with your creative work

Benefit 1 — Momentum

It is easy to feel wretched when you let your creative work slip and it is hard to get the motivation to get going again.

If you can keep up momentum in difficult times then you’ll be in a much better place when you do finally have more time and energy. You might find that doing some of your creative work gives you energy. There have been many times when I have felt exhausted from my day job or from family responsibilities but when I crack open my laptop and write for twenty minutes or so I feel much better.

Benefit 2 — Building your skills

The problem with waiting until good times arrive to begin your creative work is that you are not building your skills. If that ideal time ever does arrive then you are not in such a good position to capitalise on it.

I’m not saying that this is easy. There are times when I think I am crazy to try and keep writing and publishing when there is so much going on in my personal life. I made the decision to start blogging about creativity in early 2016. Three weeks later my Mum had was hospitalised with pneumonia and from then onwards the needs of my aging parents has increased. In spite of this I am so proud of what I have learned about both blogging and fiction writing and the progress I have made. If I had waited for better times then none of this would have happened.

Benefit 3 — You still get to express yourself

When life is tough your creative work can be a haven away from all those pressures, something that feeds and nourishes you. I love it when I get an hour to myself in my home-office and I can “make things at my computer” aka — writing. It is such a relief to fall into the world of my novel even if it is for less time than I would ideally like.

If you can do just a tiny bit of your own work it feels wonderful to know that, against the odds, you are still being creative and expressing your truth.

In conclusion

When you face your challenges head on, even though it is tough and it sometimes feels like you are sinking, your life has a vibrancy, an authentic, courageous glow.

This can translate directly into your art so that you make something that really comes from your core.

When our backs are against the wall and it takes immense fortitude to keep creating — this is when we can make profound art.

If you found this post useful then please share it.

Get The Gentle Creative Manifesto — 28 tips to help you slay your creative demons, make time to create and enjoy your creative journey.

Cali Bird

Written by

Cali Bird

Realistic advice on being creative alongside your busy life. Get the Gentle Creative manifesto now at www.gentlecreative.com

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