What is Your One Word?

Art Supplies by Cindy Adelle Richard

Art Supplies by Cindy Adelle Richard

I recently attended a talk by Erik Qualman where he spoke about the digital legacy that we each create online. The brief exercise he had us complete really caught my attention, and felt compelled to share it – it was about identifying our one word. One of the aspects of leaving a positive digital legacy (simply defined as the content that you leave in cyberspace that will be there forever) should be achieving authenticity. To get at what makes us authentic, Erik had us answer a provocative question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?” For me, the word “artist” immediately came to mind. It is the truest aspect of who I am, and it is how I want to be remembered on this Earth. It took me a long time to find my way back to being an artist (over 30 years). As a child, I definitely loved art – I enjoyed drawing and painting, writing stories, and reading voraciously. There is a newspaper photo of me on my first day of kindergarten (our local paper covered the first day back to school), and do you know what I was doing in the photograph? Drawing with an intense look of concentration on my little face. Being a proud mom, my mother cut it out and laminated it to keep, and I’m so glad she did because it is a lovely reminder of what I loved most as a child. And what I still love most as an adult.

I would encourage you to take some time to complete this exercise. The word you choose may be as unique as you are as an individual, or it may be as common as a character trait or social role chosen by many others. Erik only gave us a minute to think of our word, but you can take all the time you need to answer this one profound question, “When you die, what is the one word you want people to use to describe you?”

Thinking About Why You Create

The Blank Page by Cindy Adelle Richard

I recently read a book called “What’s Your Creative Type: Harness the Power of Your Creative Personality” by Meta Wagner, and the content was intriguing enough to share. The reason that Wagner wrote the book was to help artist know why they create so that they can maximize their creative potential. The most accomplished and prolific artists know why they create and use it as the driving force behind their work. I am going to provide a summary of each of the types and one example of an a well-known artist who embodies that type. My goal is to introduce you to the creative types and hopefully pique your interest so you will seek out more information.

The A-Lister: Seeking Applause, Adoration, Fame, and Immortality

  • thrive off of adoration and attention from others
  • have a strong need to have people see what you see, feel what you feel, think what you think
  • feel alive when performing for others
  • want to be remembered after you die
  • more interested in the finished product because that is where the glory comes from
  • compete against past and present artists you admire
  • Example of an A-Lister Artist: Pablo Picasso was not only content to make art, he did everything in his power to also ensure he was famous and made money from his art.

The Artisan: Truly, Madly, Deeply Devoted to Creativity

  • just being creative provides its own satisfaction
  • lose all sense of time when deeply engaged in the creative process
  • the thrill of making something from nothing keeps you enthralled
  • love the process even more than the product
  • would keep making art even if no one paid attention to it or paid money for it
  • often look to artists who came before you for inspiration and information
  • Example of The Artisan: Vincent Van Gogh spent years learning to paint and he was quite prolific, yet he really didn’t sell much work when he was alive. He was completely driven by the creative process and making paintings.

The Game Changer: Creating Something Entirely New

  • make new, revolutionary, visionary art – originality crucial to you
  • want to expand the limits of art and get people to see the world differently
  • become restless and bored with following conventions so constantly experimenting with new approaches and techniques to keep yourself engaged
  • may have to wait years, even decades, for your ideas to be accepted
  • Example of The Game Changer: Jackson Pollock created an entirely new way of painting and changed how people looked at abstract art, and the world noticed.

The Sensitive Soul: Expressing Yourself and Helping Others

  • feel things deeply and use creative outlets to channel them
  • lots of things stir your emotions
  • can be thin-skinned, but have a great ability to empathize with the feelings of others
  • when they use art to bring themselves relief from suffering, they also help others to escape their pain
  • always seeking ways to cope with and make meaning out of life
  • often use their personal experiences as the catalyst for their art
  • Example of The Sensitive Soul: Frida Kahlo used her painful past and raw emotions to give her paintings power, and her work has emotionally affected art lovers for generations.

The Activist: Changing the World Through Art

  • desire to create art that has an impact – changes the course of people’s┬álives or even the course of history
  • tend to see injustices everywhere you look, and you refuse to stand idly by – you must do something
  • there is often a sense of urgency to your work
  • tendency to follow politics and world events on a consistent basis
  • art is often created for shock value and/or to send a message
  • Example of The Activist: Banksy uses street art/murals to spotlight political or moral injustices in our current world. His message is usually anti-war, anti-capitalist, or anti-establishment.

Whether you identify with one, more than one, or none of these types, I hope they will get you thinking about why you create. I do believe that it is helpful to know why you create so that you can return to it when times get tough or when you need to refocus your work. It also helps to know so that you can find the inspiration you need to keep going. I would also recommend checking out Meta Wagner’s book in its entirety – in addition to in-depth descriptions of these types, she also goes into subcategories of the types and helpful hints on how to work best with your creative personality.