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By Elizabeth Gibson

As the leaves fall on a sunny autumn day, I am reminded of childhood moments watching maple seeds spin like a helicopter and fall to the ground. I don’t fully understand why, but there is a joyful feeling attached to those memories.

 

These moments of joy, once experienced, are imprinted in our memories in some wonderful way – always there to be retrieved when we most need to be uplifted. I think every time a child has one of these moments, their entire life is going to be better. The moments of joy I remember most often are associated, for me, with either seeing a beautiful landscape or sunset or from involvement in creative activities – playing guitar, singing, drawing or painting. Creativity – learning music or art – can bring a simple joy to your heart, as well as a sense of accomplishment.

 

This is at the heart of why I am determined to get more people to take time to stop and “smell the roses” or to participate in something creative, whether it be arts & crafts, painting or music. I write about these things often, because I truly believe these things are more than time-filling activities – they are soul fillers!

 

So, what kind of effort is required to make joyful memories? It isn’t really difficult, except for the very first thing – getting started. When you are in a state of inertia (not moving or changing from your usual path), it takes a lot more energy to get going into a new path. Imagine it this way – you are comfortably reclining in an armchair, and to get up onto your feet many muscles have to be engaged in order to stand up. Once on your feet with the necessary muscles in gear, walking takes little effort. Getting into motion takes a burst of energy, but once you are moving, walking, etc., it seems effortless.

 

This is how the transition works when someone starts to learn a new skill or art form. The first part takes some serious effort. Parts of the brain are being engaged that may not be used quite as often as others – and new information is flooding your mind – plus there may be physical coordination that has to be practiced and learned, such as how to hold a guitar and to make your fingers press the strings to make chords. But when you “get on your feet” with the new skill you are learning, you start to move more easily with it and things seem to start to “click” into place (like puzzle pieces fitting into place).

 

And eventually there may be an “aha” moment – or you may practice something over and over (not getting it quite right each time) and then suddenly it works as you always felt it should. This is the “eureka” moment that can bring a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and even a sense of joy. The key is to get started and practice so that it can become a part of your life that feels as effortless and free as a falling leaf.

 

I can recall one unforgettable “eureka” moment I had when in a pastel painting class. We had been warming up with drawings and doing several pastel portrait paintings. My painting was not going well and my finished work was just not good at all! So, as we started a new painting (with a different model) I tried to work through my disappointment and just started focusing on the colors and mixing them (which, by the way can be done with pastels almost as much as when oil painting), and I really worked on my drawing of the subject and then just started to enjoy working on the shading.

 

After a couple of classes working on this same portrait, I started to feel that everything I had tried in the past was coming together – I was in this magical zone where I could not fail – it was a feeling I will not forget. And it is amazing how that sense of accomplishment wipes away the frustrations from my former feeble or failed attempts. The outcome was that my painting turned out to be one of the most beautiful portraits I have ever completed. And to this day I am astounded and thrilled to have had that experience (which to me is far more valuable than the actual artwork I created).

 

If I could give everyone I know the best gift ever, it would be for them to have that feeling at least once in their lives. But an initial effort is usually required to get to that point, and there is no guarantee that everything we try to learn or do will be successful.

 

A vehicle to begin the process is needed, whether it is through taking painting lessons, guitar lessons, cooking classes – whatever can get you enthused and excited. The only way to know for sure is to try and see – make learning new things a kind of experiment to see if it will be something you want to keep as part of your life. Learning and creating as “experiments” can make it fun, too! They let us learn about new techniques, gain new skills, but best of all, they help us gain new insights about ourselves and can create new and lasting moments of joy.

 

E.R. Gibson is a believer in creativity and makes a living at it as a professional graphic designer and desktop publisher. When not working on graphics and design, she is engaged in blogging on the website Guitar Lessons for Beginners.

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