Krista from the Daily Post titled this week’s photo challenge “Express Yourself.”
Self-expression comes in a number of ways: expressing one’s feelings (emotional self-expression); expressing our creative impulses through writing, painting, sculpting, photographing, knitting, dancing, or skate-boarding (artistic self-expression); expressing our thoughts (intellectual self-expression), expressing our connection with Nature and the Divine (spiritual self-expression). If we are daring enough, we can express ourselves in virtually any arena: in politics, business, education, child rearing, even customer service.
Self-expression may or may not be creative; but the two can go hand in hand. Creativity implies the creation of something novel that hasn’t been seen or experienced before. After writing a creative essay on a particular emotion, I may discover that others share similar feelings – so there’s nothing novel or creative about the feeling itself. But the manner in which I express a common feeling can be creative – the selection of words, the metaphors, the sequencing of my experience.
A friend told me recently that the preferred subject matter for my photography (nature) is challenging because everything has been photographed already. That may be true, but is there not a chance that my eye is drawn to an angle, or a color, or a shape that only I can see in my surroundings? Or could I not creatively turn a photo that someone else could have taken into a piece of art through some creative processing that adds a new dimension?
Then there are those who insist that everything is already known, that there are no more new ideas, feelings, or experiences that humans haven’t already had before us. It’s all been done before. I do believe that humans have felt the broad spectrum and subtlest nuances of any kind of feeling we could possibly name. So maybe there are no new feelings to experience?
But what about thoughts? Is it not possible that the many new inventions and various compositions of populations and modern experiences bring about new scenarios that humankind never had to face before? Wouldn’t that require new ways of thinking? Or do the same principles of thought hold up despite brand new situations never encountered before?
I came across a chapter on creativity in Robert Nozick’s book “The Examined Life.” He introduced the idea that creativity goes beyond the creation of something novel in that the creative process involves the expression and processing of our own unique self.
“The process of shaping and crafting an artistic work has, as an important part of its impulse, the reshaping and integration of parts of the self. Important and needed work in the self is modeled in the process of artistic creation, and symbolized there… The artist herself can represent in her audience’s mind a way and possibility of articulating and transforming a life and self.
“Creating itself is important, not simply the new and novel product, I conjecture, because the personal meaning of such creative activity is self-transformation in the fullest sense, transformation of the self and also transformation by the self. The process of artistic creation stands for our own autonomous recuperative and transformative powers….[T]he artistic product represents a more whole self we can get to under our own powers of enlargement and repair.” (p.39)
Wow, that is quite a mouthful, coming from a loquacious philosopher.
What this means to me is that the creative process is mediated through what we need to express and complete within ourselves. While there may be considerable overlap in our life experiences, we are as unique as our fingerprints. And so is our self-expression, especially when it is generated from an authentic and deeply experienced place within ourselves.
This post was co-created by the flotsam and debris and comings and goings along the beaches and marshes of Kiawah Island, South Carolina.