Unleash Your Creativity

I’ve never been good at drawing. I was one of those kids that would draw stick figures and, if I was feeling especially artistic, some hills with a sun in the background. My sister was always the more imaginative one in the family when we were young. She’d spend her afternoons painting in our basement and making collages of photographs and drawings to hang up in her room. She was constantly jealous of how simply academics came to me, but I was always jealous of how easily she could create something beautiful out of a sheet of paper.

As I grew older I started realizing that creativity isn’t confined to an 8x11 piece of white paper. During high school I became interested in film. I’d spend hours, literally hours, on IMDb and Wikipedia learning everything I possibly could about all of the famous directors and actors that have graced the screen with their presence. I would research film schools online, constantly making pros and cons lists of what each individual school had to offer. I asked for a camcorder for Christmas and enrolled in a film class in my high school. My friend Peter and I would make short films for the entertainment of our friends and classmates. I thought that being a filmmaker was part of my destiny for a long time.

When I got to college I didn’t take a film class until the fall of my sophomore year. The University of Michigan doesn’t have a true “film school” but instead takes a more liberal arts approach to the study of film. The intro class reflects this reality. SAC 236, the intro to film course, is titled “The Art of Film” and has its students examine all of the different aspects that go into making a film what it is. We’d watch movies and write commentaries on the different aspects of filmmaking we had most recently learned in lecture. These assignments made me realize something; I really like writing about movies.

When Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction”, “Django Unchained”) was asked on what his advice was for young filmmakers he said “If you want to make a movie, make it. Don't wait for a grant, don't wait for the perfect circumstances, just make it.” I remember reading this and thinking “why don’t I have this drive? Why can’t I just make a goddamn movie?” It wasn’t until after finishing SAC 236 that I realized maybe my creative passion isn’t in filmmaking, maybe it’s in writing about film.

I was encouraged by one of my friends to apply to the film beat of the arts section on the Michigan Daily. I applied and to my dismay was accepted but as a writer for the blog instead of the film beat. This has been a blessing in disguise to the fullest extent. Although I still might change to a different beat, the blog has been wonderful because I was able write about a plethora of different topics, which caused me to write a lot about music.

I’ve always had a deep love for music. From listening to Radiohead on road trips with my family when I was five years old to blasting Migos in the YRN (Young Rich N*****) days to test the limits of the speakers on my friend’s Jeep Cherokee during summer backroad drives. A month or two ago I was sitting in one of my friend’s apartments listening to music and I got super into the song. I was writing a piece about music for the Daily during our jam sesh and she looked at me and said “why don’t you make music?”

The idea completely took ahold of me. I immediately enrolled in classes hosted on North Campus here at UofM to learn the basics of how to create computer music. I’m still very ignorant to everything surrounding the creation of a song, but I’m learning one step at a time and it’s the most fun I’ve had doing something in a long time. Maybe nothing will lead from this, maybe this will lead to another creative outlet, or maybe I stick with it and I actually get good at it. What feels so good though, is trying something new and continuously moving out of my comfort zone.

My entire life I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety. I first started noticing that I was different around 10 years old. I noticed I’d obsessively ruminate on negative events (whether big or small), and focus on the negative aspects of myself to a dangerous degree. This reached its peak during middle school and early high school. A huge turning point for my struggle with mental illness was coming forward and admitting that something was wrong to my parents and my close friends. Admitting flaws and getting help was one of the best things I have done in my life. After admittance, my next step was trying to get help through several different outlets. I tried meditation, therapy, medication, journaling, etc. These would help in small doses but I felt that none of these provided the escape I was looking for. My second significant breakthrough in my battle against depression and anxiety was finding an outlet that worked.

This is where my “creative journey” for a lack of a better phrase came into play. Even though I realized in the end that filmmaking is probably not the career choice for me, at the time I had never felt a truer “escape” than when I was shooting and editing the short films I would make with Peter. Writing about film and music has given me even more of an escape. I get the same feeling to an even greater degree when I’m messing around with my friends on North Campus learning how to chop up beats. Being creative or at least attempting to be creative is by far the best outlet I’ve found to combat my struggle with mental illness.

Two weeks ago I started a week long endeavor for Mentality. My goal was to draw for 20 minutes every day and see if in any way it affected how I felt on a day to day basis. This exercise made me feel like I had come full circle. I felt as though I’d gone back in time to my ten year old self looking at a piece of 8x11 paper wondering how to make something out of nothing, except this time it felt different. I am still by no means great at drawing, but this go around I didn’t have to think so hard about what I was going to put on the paper, I just knew exactly what I wanted to draw. There was more of an instinctual feeling when my utensils slid across the paper. I owe this entirely to the trial and error process of trying to find my creative niche. I no longer have to think so much when doing anything “creative”, it just happens.

Drawing for a short period of time each day became a relieving mental break. When I was drawing my mind would go blank of everything I had been worrying about only minutes beforehand. It also felt good to not hate what I was drawing. Earlier in my life I’d hate anything I had drawn, but now even though I can recognize it’s not great, I don’t actively hate the final product.

I still don’t know what I want to do when I’m older, all I know is that I want to be involved in the creative process, whether it’s my own or helping somebody else with theirs. I want to help people see that an outlet for a lot of their problems could be solved in the discovery of their creative niche. I want to show that the void people often fill with religion or substance abuse can instead be filled with their own artistic expression and an appreciation for the artistic expression of others.


Joseph FraleyComment