If you want to find more creativity, satisfaction, and happiness, the single best solution I know is adding more art to your life.
Music has been a big part of my life since I was a young boy, though my tastes have broadened a lot since I was first learning chords on my guitar. I love choral music, for instance. Morten Lauridsen’s “Agnus Dei” can bring me to tears.
Several months ago I was invited to attend a concert at Carnegie Hall, featuring not just the music of the composer Arvo Pärt, but Arvo Pärt himself. It was a one-of-a-kind night. The orchestra and choir played some of his most popular and enduring compositions. There were several moments when the music lifted me right out of myself.
I had similar moments on my recent sabbatical to Europe. Beside the natural beauty we experienced, Gail and I were struck by the architecture and museums.
Both of these experiences have reinforced my personal commitment to make room in my life for art. Over the years, I’ve found that nothing brings me more joy and better inspires my own creativity than good art.
One of the first times that I really became fully aware of art’s potential power was when I was managing a young musician. She had just written several songs for her new album and asked me and my business partner to listen to them.
I knew her, and knew that she was talented, but I cried when I heard those songs. It just hit me out of the blue. Art does that.
What Art Can Do for Us
In our pragmatic culture we usually see art as optional. We drill this into kids from an early age. We tell them to be practical and belittle their dreams because we can’t imagine how they’ll make any money pursuing them.
But the truth is, art is indispensable. Art gives us meaning. There are things that cannot be understood with pure reason—like love and beauty, to name two. Art helps us understand our world.
It does that because it helps us transcend our world. I said that listening to Arvo Pärt lifted me out of myself. Art has the power to point us to the divine, to the ultimate Artist. It doesn’t answer all the questions, but it can shine a light on questions we didn’t even know we had.
And art requires something of us. At the most basic level it can stir us to gratitude. But it can also awaken the creative imperative in us. As people, made in the image of our Creator, we have to do more than merely produce. We have to create, to express, to give life to the ideas inside us.
The cool thing is that creativity works like a muscle; the more we use it, the stronger it gets.
And here’s the good news: We don’t have to attend exclusive concerts and travel abroad to get more art in your life. Some of the most rewarding artistic moments I’ve ever had have been in my own living room or around a friend’s dinner table.
5 Ways to Get More Art into Your Life
As I’ve thought about this subject, I’ve come up with five super simple ways to get more art into our lives.
- Cultivate a taste for beauty. As with so much in life, making room for art starts with intention. Take time to notice beauty. When we hear or see something stirring, we should comment on it to deepen the impression. Talk about it with someone close to you. Share it if possible. However you approach it, make it a priority.
- Set art-related goals. How many of last year’s Academy Award-winning movies have you seen? How many of the great novels like The Brothers Karamazov or Moby Dick have you read? Make some lists of artistic works you want to experience and then get a plan to do so. Planning is the first step to doing.
- Revisit your childhood hobbies or interests. What if you can’t think of any types of art you want to pursue? Go back to those things that got you excited as a teenager—possibly the same time that part of you got shut down. Did you draw, write, paint, or play an instrument? Even if you don’t go that direction now, it may open up doors for other kinds of art that work for you today.
- Cook, garden, and build stuff. I don’t do any of these things, but most people around me do, and they love it. There is so much joy that comes from artfully preparing and sharing food, or successfully working a garden. Which leads to the final point…
- Make some of your own. One reason Apple has thrived is that they have tapped the power of art. Their product design is engaging and compelling, definitely. But another major way they’ve tapped that power is by enabling their customers to be creatives. From movies to music to graphic design, Apple has led the way in helping people express their art.
If you want to really find joy, make space in your life to create things of beauty. Don’t merely consume—contribute, create, fashion, and share.
There are other ways to get more art in your life, but the important thing to do is find some ways that work for you and then get going.
If we try to run our lives on the metrics, we’ll end up bored and empty. Art can elevate and enable us to live lives deep in meaning, rich in joy, and full of creativity.