Creative Outlet for Intellectual
July 11, 2014 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Here's the thing: I am a young adult who for the majority of his life has been intellectualising because he is fascinated by what he learns. However more and more I have been wishing I had a creative outlet, artistic or otherwise.

I have to say though, that I am pretty bad at any art form, whether it be music, drawing, painting, dancing, or sports. Mainly because I have not paid much attention to them over the years. Which makes me a bit sad that I am not at least decent in even 1 art.

So I am looking for something that may allow my creativity flow freely in things other than matters intellectual and academic instead of just playing video games. At the end of the day I might not even try anything because I may be too lazy, but at least I have made the first step of asking the question.

So, Hive Mind, any ideas? Use your intuition to guide me.
posted by iliketothinknu to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
How about cooking?
posted by travelwithcats at 4:39 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

No, you're bad at those things because you haven't done them...yet. Do them, be bad at them, and then you will start being less bad at them.

Which one of them seems most interesting to you? Try that first. If it doesn't light your fire and make you want to get better, try the next one on the list.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:40 PM on July 11, 2014 [22 favorites]

I am pretty bad at any art form, whether it be music, drawing, painting, dancing, or sports.... Which makes me a bit sad that I am not at least decent in even 1 art.

You are not necessarily too young to output art to your high standards, but you may be too inexperienced. Ask any artist what they thought of their first effort done in their medium of choice, and they will most likely tell you that it was shit. They will likely bore you to tears with their tale of becoming the artist they were when you became aware of them. Very, very few of them were even decent when they started.

Most art is shit. 99.99999% of initial efforts towards art are shit. The difference between artists and people like myself is that the artists push through the shit until they are eventually satisfied that they are producing not-shit. Getting to not-shit—which is to say, getting to Art—is simply wading through lots of shit first.
posted by carsonb at 5:00 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Learn to code.

I dabbled with simple BASIC programs and TI-83+ calculator stuff through high school, and didn't get into anything but basic HTML and CSS in college, but have lately been learning other types of coding (particularly Python and Javascript) for work. And it's fun and surprisingly creative.

And following on carsonb's answer, watch this video of Ira Glass talking about getting started in creativity.
posted by brentajones at 5:04 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Are you a visual. auditory or kinesthetic learner? i'd think about exploring a creative field based in part on that. Auditory? Explore music. Visual? Take a drawing class or do photography. Kinesthetic? maybe dance or learn to throw pots. You get the idea... and yes, expect to be lousy at whatever you try but if it intrigues you stick with it and see where it takes you.
posted by leslies at 5:14 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Maybe chess or go? Not usually considered creative in the usual sense, but these might provide a sufficient intellectual outlet.

As for drawing, I've heard lots of good things about Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain for some self-study. I've been meaning to pick it up for a while.
posted by mhum at 5:15 PM on July 11, 2014

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was my drawing textbook in art school and helped my never-drawn-anything-before photographer ass not flunk out. Drawing is a skill you can learn, not some magical innate talent.

I would recommend picking whatever medium interests you and then taking an art history class. Any art history class, it doesn't matter. Concentrate on learning history and context and ideas, not techniques or whatever.

Also maybe consider photography, equal parts nerdy (the technical aspect) and art (IMO the most interesting contemporary medium, seeing as how photographs are our current visual currency). Also lots of online community support if you want feedback and kind of an endless amount of directions you can go in depending on what you're into. I would pick up a copy of "Criticizing Photographs" by Terry Barrett or Susan Sontag's "On Photography" if you want a baseline intro into thinking about photographs on a more than surface level.
posted by bradbane at 5:23 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm an another intellectual who loves all words all the time.

Calligraphy is an old art, with a complex history. It combines meditative focus on the hand, the pen, the brush, the surface as well as learning how to remember every letter in the word "remember" when it takes a full minute to get it on paper. Introduced to calligraphy young, it helped me focus leisure reading. Every culture endows the word with magic, in its own special way. Learning how piles of tally stones became numbers became words is a life-long endeavor.

Also, everyone will say nice things about your handwriting.

It's possible to learn from books, but at least one good hands-on teacher for 6 - 12 months will make learning the precise but loose hand much easier.
posted by Jesse the K at 5:59 PM on July 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

Don't think about "bad at". Think about "enjoy doing." The point of a creative hobby isn't to excel at it, it's to be a creative outlet and source of enjoyment. Obviously you will want to pick something that either has a low barrier to entry or which is possible to enjoy even if you're not at a high skill level. For instance not many adults pick up music as a creative outlet by learning to play the violin. You might not want to start doing visual art with oil painting: there's a reason so many people have suggested drawing upthread.

I love knitting, however, I kind of suck at knitting. Everything I've ever completed has been adequate at best. And half the time I start a project, get halfway through it, and the itch is scratched so I put it down. That is all fine as far as I'm concerned. I didn't start knitting to make the most beautiful clothing in the world. I started knitting because it seemed fun.
posted by Sara C. at 6:01 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Community theater! (It's what I do, so I love it and want everyone to do it.) You can act or direct or paint sets or build things or wear all black and move things around onstage between acts or find props or whatever. There are tons of different types of things to do that are creative that use different types of creativity, and you get to meet a bunch of great people.

You also don't have to be especially good at anything to begin with, because people love to show newbies the ropes.
posted by xingcat at 6:05 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Look for something where you'll be able to apply your intellectual learning. This won't help your early efforts to be less crap, but as you get better you'll be able to bring to bear that whole other side of you, and hopefully take it directions and degrees that other people can't or haven't.

Make simple/experimental video games that teach or make use of the academic concepts?
posted by anonymisc at 6:21 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have a good vocabulary? Try designing crosswords! This involves designing patterns, then finding words that fit then thinking of clues that will lead people to the answers. It's usually an iterative process - the pattern changes as you think of more appropriate words. You can start with a theme to guide your thinking, or just go with random words to start with. All you need is graph paper and pencil, and you can start with a smaller grid and shorter words then expand as you get the hang of it.
posted by goo at 6:46 PM on July 11, 2014

I always push people towards working solid wood with hand tools. It's a bit of an investment but comparable to many other hobbies. Hand tool work means very little noise and no need for dust collection. Memail me if you want links.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:56 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I really think you should just try stuff and something will spark. I am the opposite of athletic but I love riding my bike. I would never have chosen that for myself without just randomly trying one day on a whim. It's okay to not be proficient at something, learn to love the journey.
posted by Aranquis at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2014

Gardening is fulfilling, has a low barrier to entry, and research (there's TONS to research, if you want) and practice/experience are by and large more important than skill. If you're in a smaller space, you can still do container gardening or windowsill gardens and terrariums.
posted by rue72 at 7:00 PM on July 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding coding.

It can apply to various existing knowledge and interests and allows for as much creativity (problem solving and actually making things) as you want.

A basic knowledge of Python can be picked up from various online code schools - codeacademy etc...

You can apply some of this to some mathy/sciency problems with Project Euler (maths and computational problems) and Rosalind (bioinformatics, plus a helpful 6 part python tutorial to get you started).

You can make games with Pygame pretty easily once you have some basic knowledge under your belt. Work your way through Richard Jones's Pygame video lecture on the front page of the Pygame site, or Paul Craven's ProgramArcadeGames to learn how to bend your creativity that way.

You can use Python for web development too: check out Tango with Django.

You can also write scripts for Gimp using Python - it's so versatile, you could probably scratch any creative itch with it. I do.
posted by man down under at 7:58 PM on July 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Get a Buddha Board

Write a short story - limit yourself to 3 pages, and it's gotta be about people working in a setting similar to yours, except it's in a different city, different industry, etc.

Yes, learn to code! In the same vein as everyone who wears clothes should learn to sew, everyone who's surfed the web should build a webpage.
posted by at at 8:20 PM on July 11, 2014

I don't draw or paint and I hate crafts, but I'm really good at arranging furniture, hanging pictures, etc.. Being able to create an attractive, welcoming, comfortable living space is a very useful skill.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:52 PM on July 11, 2014

I'm just going through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and it is wonderful. It will very much appeal to your intellectual side.

At the very least, go to a bookstore and read the introduction!
posted by itesser at 10:04 PM on July 11, 2014

Cooking is a great idea (I may be biased in this respect). MeMail me if you want specific suggestions on dishes/cookbooks/chefs/techniques.

But what I'd really suggest: go to Dollarama or your local equivalent, buy some cheap canvases and a set of cheap acrylics, and just slap paint on canvas however you feel like. Want a patch of blue here? Do it. Feel like some green goes there? Do it. Don't judge, just let your hand pick a brush and a colour and have at it.

I'm like you, overintellectualizing, and it's been incredibly therapeutic to do this.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:19 PM on July 11, 2014

As an artist, I look back on things I did years earlier and think it's utter crap. I don't really view art so much as being 'good' or not in it, but simply evolving and improving. Whether someone is 'good' or not is very subjective. If you think you're 'bad' -- start drawing (or whatever) more and improvement will follow.

Everyone starts somewhere. Which art appeals to you most? Painting? Illustration? Sketching? Sculpting? Which do you think would be more satisfying to put your time/energy into? I'd start with that one and focus on it for a while...getting critique from others and/or joining a community around this particular art field might help.
posted by stubbehtail at 10:38 PM on July 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Get some good colored pencils and some coloring books for adults and enjoy experimenting with color combinations without having to worry about getting the drawing part right.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:39 PM on July 11, 2014

Response by poster: Wow thanks all for your suggestions. I won't be able to reply to all individually like I usually do but I've checked a few of what you guys wrote and it has peaked my interest. Like for eg the Buddha board or maybe even cooking, which I have systematically ignored for the great part of my life. I have learned coding 2 times before but haven't continued using it so I forgot it both time, the specifics that is, I still remember general principles of coding.

Very much appreciated all! :D
posted by iliketothinknu at 11:13 PM on July 11, 2014

When we talked about this before, I suggested welding. You start with simple, functional things, then move up to fancier, artier stuff. There's physics and chemistry and molten metal and danger and sparks, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:30 AM on July 12, 2014

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