You’ll Find Your Element
If you really just take a risk to learn something new
“Finding your element involves understanding the powers and passions that you were born with as part of your unique biological inheritance.” -Ken Robinson
This is the journal and analysis of a semester long personal creativity project. My hope is that readers will gain some confidence to go for whatever your heart dreams of, at any age.
I started grad school after teaching for 17 years.
The most profound class I took was called: Creativity. In this class, we studied theories and conceptions of creativity and creative people, and we had a chance to explore our own creativity by learning something new. I chose to take guitar lessons.
I have always loved music. When I was a kid, we had nothing in our living room but plants, a cat playground, a stereo with a record player, and loads of records: The Moody Blues, Joni Mitchell, Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young), The Doors, Billy Joel and Elton John. I love to sing and know songs. I spent a lot of time, especially when I was younger, listening to music, taking voice lessons, theater lessons, going to concerts and music festivals.
But I’ve often wondered if I have talents in music.
I know I have a musical inclination and ability to strum, play notes, play chords, read music, and sing. I have other creativity relevant skills — a constant need to make up songs, sing them, write poetically. Maybe the biggest thing going for me is my task motivation- I certainly have at least the willingness to learn.
Is playing an instrument or music in general my element? I certainly feel like when I am in the flow of writing, making pottery, or drawing, I feel a satisfaction and happiness with my life. I wanted to find out if playing guitar would also put me in the “flow.”
Don’t let creativity ‘squelchers’ get in the way of your dreams.
I read an awesome book, Creativity is Forever by Gary A. Davis. In the book, he describes creativity “squelchers” or things that sabotage our risk-taking.
What has gotten in my way?
For one, there is a status hierarchy and a cultural perception of inequality between male and female musicians, especially guitarists. I have felt insecure about asserting myself in musician circles due to my own fears of negative judgement.
I am not sure where this comes from, but I do have a bit of perfectionism, competitiveness, and need for attention that luckily has lessened over the years.
I always took myself for a bronze or silver medalist type of performer, or even someone who just didn’t show up due to anxiety or laziness. I always got supporting roles in school musicals, and I quit piano at age 12, after half-practicing for six years. I took a year of lessons on a borrowed banjo, but gave it up when I had to give the banjo back.
At age 16, I taught myself when my stepdad gave me his guitar. I have had a few lessons here and there since I was a teenager.
Music makes me so happy and I really wanted to learn guitar for real this time. I bought myself a parlor guitar. I signed myself up for a real music teacher, unlike getting lessons in the past from a guitar player I was dating or wanting to date, and I began weekly lessons. One of my goals was to feel comfortable playing guitar with kids, other musicians, and maybe in front of an audience.
My journey with picking up guitar again taught me a lot about myself.
It was humbling and the teacher was awesome. I did not realize that I had been holding my guitar with incorrect posture. I had to unlearn some old tricks and reform my way of playing.
The process and the practice was slow. This is what can be really frustrating about learning something new.
I felt like I had to put my whole concentration into the practice. It felt like trying to rub my belly and pat my head at the same time.
When playing an instrument, there is a split focus that deals with posture, hand placement, rhythm, sound, and intention. It can be tiring, and I found myself slacking in the daily practice over time due to life demanding my attention. However, I stuck with it and continued to practice and fall in love with the instrument again.
But is performance the product of playing guitar? If one does not rise to eminence in a field, then do they actually have talent and creativity in that area? Is the product of creativity more important than the process or the act of doing something even if no one else knows about it? Does the quality of a person’s talent lie in the assessment and judgement of others?
Is playing guitar one of my “elements?”
Do what makes you happy — the rest will follow.
I know that my element is not yet in performance or in leading music. The times when I am singing and playing music alone or with one or two other people I feel happy. I have stage fright when I am in a performance situation. I become overwhelmed and flustered, even if I spent hours practicing. I have a desire to be able to do it though, but I will need much more practice in order to feel comfortable performing. My desire to perform is small though.
What I set out to accomplish is to learn something that I have always wanted to. In that case, I have been successful, and I will continue to learn for enjoyment’s sake. It is with this spirit that I feel I can be most creative and find the “flow.”
Samantha Lazar, 2019
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