Creativity as a Path to Reinvention in Midlife
Expressing our creativity becomes more common in midlife as we begin to exchange more stuff for deeper experiences. We finally have the time to pursue a creative project.
Creative expression can be a path of self-discovery that provides a safe place to experiment and explore possibilities. It can deepen a spiritual connection beyond ourselves.
It took courage and a leap of faith for Hilary Farmer to leave a job in the city for life as an artist in a small, rural community. It was a big risk to give up the safety net of a full-time job and trade it for life as a full-time artist.
Hilary works primarily in water colour, ink and oil paints. Her oil paintings have been described as modern impressionist. Her supportive husband, Tom, often writes a poem in response to her painted images, which you can easily explore on her website.
The Winding Path
It’s not unusual to take a circuitous route before embracing creativity in midlife. Synchronicity can also weave its magic. Hilary’s connection with Canada’s West Coast first came through visits with relatives. She has always been drawn to its extraordinary beauty.
After her Tai Chi teacher relocated to the Coast, Hilary came out to attend one of his workshops. That visit led to a reconnection with an old friend who became her new husband. After a holiday with Tom in Dominica, Hilary quit her job and moved to Vancouver, where they lived for two years.
Hilary had spent the previous 10 years working for a big architecture firm that required a lot of commuting between Montreal and Ottawa where she worked on renovating the parliament buildings.
This only allowed her to paint on weekends. Although her work was interesting, she felt it wasn’t fulfilling her unique potential as a creative person.
While living in Vancouver, Hilary and Tom sailed around the Gulf Islands. When they arrived on Gabriola Island, they immediately knew this was where they wanted to live. It would allow them to be closer to nature and a community of supportive artists.
She intuitively knew she was “home” when she moved into her new habitat on her birthday. It had everything she wanted, including a light-filled room to paint in.
Why She Paints
Hilary has a memory of a first Christmas present being a sketchbook given to her at about age three. Her parents recognized and nurtured her talent. She has had a lifelong interest in sketching and painting.
She paints because, “it’s a way of saying things without words. I want to create beauty and celebrate beauty and love. I express my love of what I’m painting – be it a kitten, a bowl of apples or an ocean view. I express the soul of what I paint and how it makes me feel.”
She does this through her use of colour and light. She tries to capture the beauty of the natural world and her feelings toward it.
What Has Influenced Her Work
Hilary says she is known to make impulsive decisions. In 2001, she packed up her suitcase and harp and moved to Taiwan for two years. She says, “Travel takes you out of your home location and opens your eyes to see things in a new way.”
Hilary believes we need to do our best with the time and talent we have. She made a conscious decision to not play it safe with her art and to keep moving forward with her creative urges.
The beauty of the Island she lives on inspires her work. She’ll often walk to the ocean to sit by the water and soak up the view or take a walk through the Elder Cedar forest. She loves the constantly changing light.
She lives with a favorite quote from Rumi:
“Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Creativity as a Spiritual Practice
Hilary sees creativity as a spiritual practice. She remembers reading that,“it’s how we touch the Divine. Bringing something from nothing is mystical. If you hold back what is inside you, it will destroy you.”
She created a series of mandalas as an internal meditative exploration of her feelings and “to seek the mysteries within.”They have helped her process major life transitions including moving, starting a new relationship and the death of family members.
“My art has made me grow in so many ways. It made me open to the beauty of the world. The more you look, the more and deeper you see. Although self-doubt is ongoing, showing my work to others paradoxically gives me the courage to keep doing it.”
Advice for Others
If you want – but are afraid – to use your creativity, give yourself permission to just begin. A lot of people dream about it. Many go through life without trying it. Fear and resistance may be signs of truly needing to delve into your creativity.
Make space for creativity in your home. Dedicate a physical area to your work and a specific time and day for it. No matter how small your home or how busy your life, it is important and possible to do this for yourself.
Keep a journal of your creative ideas so you are ready when you have time to create.
Work small at first. It will take the pressure off you, as it’s less of a commitment of both time and materials, and you’ll feel free to experiment.
Try a daily painting challenge – maybe for 30 days. It will give you the satisfaction of completion and there’s nothing like painting on a daily basis to help you improve. This can evolve your skills quickly.
Take an art class online or in person.
Hilary took an online art class that inspired and encouraged her to move forward with her work. It connected her with other artists all over the world, including a supportive painter from her new community.
Connect with established or aspiring artists.
Take your own leap of faith to see where your creativity leads you.
How have you used your own creativity to reinvent your life? What creative path has been most tempting in your life? Please share how you have used your creativity.