Want to Live Your Best Life?*

So often we fail to notice the interesting, potentially inspiring, or beautiful, things around us. We’re busy, tired, distracted. Hardwired to notice threat, we’re more likely to attend to the things that could go wrong, than to appreciate the musical quality of the wind, or an unusual shade of green.

Except when we train ourselves to do otherwise, as artists of all types do.

“But, I’m not artistic!”, at least some of you protest. To which I would suggest you might broaden your definition of art. To make art where you find it.

Have you ever read a sentence that made your toes curl with understanding, so moved you copied and posted it so you’d see it again? Shared a photo of a sunset? Picked and dried a wildflower that reminded you of a trip to the mountains? Kept a rock you found on the seashore and set it on your windowsill, next to the others you couldn’t leave behind?

I could go on. The point is to recognize your role in creating your experience, to look closely beyond the familiar, the easily unnoticed. To discover whether your artful witness can spark joy, no Marie Kondo style tidying up required!

If you’re anything like me, it’s easiest to see the world anew while on vacation. Away from our daily lives, beverage in hand perhaps, we almost certainly seek the sunset, smell the flowers, breathe the mountain air, or appreciate the angles of a city skyline. It doesn’t really matter where we go, our senses are heightened because we’re in new territory.

Is it possible to bring that vacation mindset – a more actively creative way of being, I’d argue – to our workaday lives? It’s challenging for sure!

But I’ve discovered a secret. One you’ve probably guessed by now. That is: to make art where I find it.

In essence, that means I appreciate the things I might not otherwise, whether or not I’m on vacation. I free myself from the tight reins of expectations and re-create the familiar in new ways. It only takes an extra second to look anew, which can indeed be spared between the loads of laundry, work emails, health worries, family drama, and many other things that hijack my attention. Even so, like anything that is not already habitual, a deliberate practice must be cultivated for this to occur.

Do you need an example?

The title image is my most recent example. If you know me as a painter, you might have understandably assumed the photo is of a new painting, albeit an unusual one. But you’d be wrong. Here it is again:

The image is actually an unaltered photograph of the cover of my travel paint set, random remnants of dried pigment, from which I ‘made art‘ by my notice.

You don’t believe me? Here’s the un-cropped proof:

Why bother?

The act of creating – anything – is a balm against the many stressors and destructive energy around us. You know this on some level already. I’m only offering a reminder, and an expanded definition of art-making for your consideration.

How will you make art where you find it today?

Maybe you’ll fold the dinner napkins in a unique way. Make designs in the kids’ bubble bath. Use your phone camera to take a picture of melting snow patterns, or ANYTHING. Try a new recipe and present it with a carved garnish. Write a poem inspired by a new look at a familiar object. Buy a plant or plant some seeds. You get the idea!

No one else needs to call you an artist for you to be one.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, for you to share your examples of art-making, in or outside the traditional boxes. Let’s celebrate making art where we find it, together! #makeartwhereyoufindit


*I was inspired to change the original title of this post –  #makeartwhereyoufindit – in no small part due to the acerbic wit of Paul Sunstone, who reblogged the post and (somewhat harshly) called attention to the lackluster title. Check out his entertaining celebration and critique of my post here. To be clear, I didn’t change the title to please him. Rather, I was intrigued by his feedback and curious enough to explore how a change in title might influence potential readers. To me at least, this is just another example of allowing oneself to see things anew, to make art from whatever and wherever it can be found, including constructive criticism.

26 thoughts on “Want to Live Your Best Life?*

  1. As you know, every cuisine has its masterpieces, I believe, Amanda, you have just now served up a masterpiece of blogging. (At least, it’s my impression that blogging is it’s own art form or “cuisine” in this context.) Thank you for that. I think that’s the first thing that should be said. Thanks.

    So what to make of a post that cannot be read slowly enough, thoughtfully enough? Too much for a comment post, I suspect. But I’ll mention four points.

    First, it might be possible that it is impossible to define “art” much better than something along the lines of “The use of some medium to express and/or communicate something, especially beauty”. Please note the lack of any reference to “creativity”. I am intentionally trying to avoid suggesting that we have no business dabbling in the arts unless we can do so creatively. Folks are daunted enough by the very word “art”, as it is.

    Second, as you might gather by now, i really wish we could get your movement going. To make life and living more beautiful is to affirm it. To say “yes” to it. And that is a prerequisite of living it as fully as we can. You’ve done more than produce a good post, Amanda, you’ve produced a post that should be — but most likely never will be — important to the whole world.

    I’m beginning to like your brains by the way. Want to swap?

    Two more points made too quickly:

    Art can be a means, a path, to authenticity. The key is to be radically honest with ourselves when creating it. To speak our honest truths. The truth we ourselves cannot doubt is true.

    It helps immensely to have a muse or muses. We are social animals. Art is usually an attempt to communicate. Basically, muses are those people who inspire us to say something to them.

    I’m off now to see if I can create a post of my own commenting on yours, bouncing off of it. We’ll see what happens. Naturally, I will link back to your post, if I come up with anything worth posting.

    Like

    • I’m so grateful for your thoughtful response and for the layers you’ve added, much like a well-done painting. Yes, I’m back to referencing art because it is also artful (making art where we find it) to co-create or further an idea, which comes from meaningful dialogue.

      I’ll look forward to anything else you might add!

      Like

      • There’s a good chance of not getting a single new reader for post. My audience is quite small at the moment since I took the blog our of a long hiatus only a few weeks ago. Best not to get your hopes up.

        Like

      • My attitude is curious, different than hopeful. It’s all good. Your post was really entertaining, but I’m not sure it would inspire me to read further (to want to read my post). I remain curious…and have enjoyed our exchange.

        How would you have titled my post?

        Like

      • Flourish!
        How to Flourish!
        Art: The Key to a Flourishing Life

        Those would be three titles I might pick from.

        You could be right about my post not inspiring people. I sometimes shoot very wide of the mark at anything even remotely related to marketing. I noted earlier, the traffic has been slow on my blog lately, so there’s that too. According to my stats page, only nine people have read my post so far.

        That’s blogging for you. In the old days, I hovered around 400 readers a day. But then I put the blog into hiatus for a few years. Now it’s usually under 100 a day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I appreciate your suggestions! Unlike you, I’m not particularly savvy in the ways of social media. Marketing doesn’t occur to me. I understand it’s important to consider these things for successful blogging. And I’m also content to find my way, imperfectly, as I do most things. That said, I am truly grateful for your feedback and see what you mean about the title. Your suggested titles are more exciting for sure.

        I’m almost tempted to change the title to see what might happen. But then your post wouldn’t work. So I’ll leave it and consider my titles more carefully in the future 🙂

        Thank you again for the great dialogue!

        Like

      • Amanda! Don’t you dare not change the title to suit you just out of misplaced respect for one of my posts! Don’t you dare do that! You have a voice that needs to be heard by as many people as you can attract to hear it. Does that come across as corny to you?

        Try looking at it this way, then. Right now, there is some true jerk preaching life denying hatred on the internet — he or she has a voice. Who is going to offer an alternative to him or her? Huh? Are you going to wait for “a hero to rise up from these streets” as Springsteen sings? Or are you going to be yourself and express your own vision — which just happens to oppose the jerk’s vision?

        Your call. I won’t presume to judge you whichever you call it. Just telling you the choices, and expressing my opinion I like to listen to you.

        Welcome to Sunstone 101 Lecture Hall. Bring your own pillow.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hmm. No, not corny. But considering my voice as something that needs to be heard would require a bit of a shift. And that’s not a matter of low self esteem. I love myself well enough. Excellent food for thought, Paul.

        Always happy to learn from others and happy to bring my own pillow. How did you know I’d need one?

        What about: “Want to live your best life? Cultivate your inner artist!” Too many words? I could just go with “Flourish!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ok. I’ve got some other things to do this morning and then I may change the title and rework the first paragraph to match. I’ll put an asterisk with a note at the bottom about the title change and link back to your blog post. I think all of this has been a perfect example of co-creation. Thanks again for your encouragement and interest!

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ll be curious to hear what you think about the slight changes! And whether the title matters at all in terms of traffic and resonance with other readers. Fun, if highly flawed from a scientific methods perspective, social experiment.

        Like

      • Full Disclaimer: I know next to nothing about what the marketing pros call SEO. Search Engine Optimization. The idea, however, is to design everything your blog and your posts to make them attractive candy to search engines like Google. That way, you get more traffic.

        I have a friend who is a wizard at SEO and is always offering me free advice worth thousands probably if she were charging me for it. She wants the best for me. It’s just I never take almost any of it. I’m not that interested in changing everything in order to become an 800 pound gorilla blog.

        Here’s one bit of her advice I do now and then flirt with. If you can, find a niche approach to a topic. Let’s say the topic is friendship. A zillion blogs post about friendship every day. No way you can go head to head with that. So what you do is find some under exploited niche sub-topic of friendship. Say, human -gerbil friendships. All of a sudden, Google is sending you everyone on the planet who searches them on that niche subject. And out of over 7 billion people, that can be hundreds a day.

        Amanda, if you really wish to conduct a fair experiment, do this. Write a second post strongly focused on using art to increase your authenticity and thus flourish as an individual. Make the title blunt and to the point, “How to use art to achieve authenticity and flourish as an individual”. In your post, use the key words as often as you can. “Authenticity” “Art” “Flourish” “Individual” Two, three months from now, check your stats to see which post has gotten the most hits. This one or your second one.

        I’m betting on the second one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Great suggestion for an experiment, which has intellectual appeal to satisfy my curiosity. But I’m not sure I can make myself do it, partly because, like you, I don’t know that I care enough about SEO. I created a blog to share what I was already making, hoping I might bring some goodness or inspiration to others. Blogging for the sake of blogging might become quickly boring for me. I know you’re not suggesting that, just saying it might feel that way to me if I become overly focused on popularity, search terms, and the like. Still, I’ll keep myself open to all possibilities, a strategy that usually serves me well 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I reckon we take about the same attitude towards “blogging for the sake of blogging” then.

        Any chance you caught my post on Muses? It was obliquely inspired by yours above. If you’re interested, Amanda, here’s the link:

        https://cafephilos.blog/2019/03/17/good-muse-bad-muse-the-use-and-abuse-of-muses/

        No obligation to read it. No one every needs to feel obligated to read my blog. Only please do pay the bill I send every month for the privilege of it. You’re welcome!

        Is writing ever cathartic for you?

        It never works that way with me. But writing helps me to clarify things.

        Like

      • I loved the muse post and got the connection to mine, yes. I think I “liked” it, no? I’m likely to read it again and may comment then. But after my first read I thought: yes, there is something here! Though I don’t think of myself as having a muse, despite being creatively prolific. Something to which I plan on giving further consideration.

        Like

      • Yes, I think I too write more to clarify my own thoughts (or even remind myself of or consolidate the ideas I try to keep active in my life). I believe they are things that others might resonate with, which is my primary reason for sharing. And sometimes, someone makes a comment that adds interest or even expands my thinking. That’s an added gift that has surprised me. When I started blogging, I didn’t have a lot of expectations. The main goal (that more of my friends and family would take an interest in my creative work) hasn’t been realized. But there have been other unexpected gifts for which I’m grateful.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: In Which I Savage Amanda Reilly Sayer’s Most Recent Post – Café Philos: an internet café

  3. “It only takes an extra second to look anew”.

    Here’s my take: There’s a lot of truth in that. Paradoxically, there is also a lot of truth in saying quite the opposite, that “looking anew” can — and often does — take a difficult and sustained effort.

    The one real attempt I would make to improve the ideas presented in your post would be to mention the latter truth along with the former.

    Mostly, when we only take an extra second to look anew, what we see are clichés. That is, we see beautiful things, we see things we wouldn’t otherwise see, but what we see are things we are already educated to see. To look as deep as we can — to find what is most fresh (if not always original) takes time and effort.

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    • Yes, I agree. Although I don’t necessarily agree that time is a requirement. Anything can be known anew at any moment. But it’s also true, we mostly only see what we expect. Unless we choose to do otherwise, perhaps by engaging in a practice (such as my own #makeartwhereyoufindit). This is the sustained part, only difficult because we are so conditioned to see what we expect.

      Still, you make a great point. We aren’t disagreeing I don’t think. I could have made the distinction clearer!

      Like

  4. What an awesome post. I love the way you make art accessible – make it where you find it. I don’t do this often enough, Amanda. Usually, I’m much more intentional about it. But every once in a while, when the whimsy takes over… there it is. Thanks for the wonderful and insightful inspiration. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Want to spark joy without tidying up? | Painting Poetry in Motion

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