Lauren Hanigan is a graphic designer at Vital Farms.
One of the unique aspects of being human is our propensity for creative expression and art for a multitude of complex reasons. We use it to communicate and educate, to document and record, to evoke emotion, and to establish a connection between ourselves and the outside world. Sometimes beautiful things are so beautiful, we can’t help ourselves from replicating them in our own special way. Painting, photography, music, dance, theater, writing, cooking—these are all means by which we leave our mark, tangibly defending our significance in the universe.
As children, we colored. We saw a tree, and we drew a picture of it. We were so proud of our stick figure family portraits and macaroni necklaces. Remember the feeling of peeling dried Elmer’s glue from your skin or popping open a fresh new box of Crayons? It didn’t matter what we made, how good it was, or whether we colored inside the lines—it was special because it was ours. At least Mom thought so, anyway.
But things change as we grow older. Even for creative professionals, art and personal expression often take a back seat to the importance of logical thinking, rational decision making, and the constant pressure to maintain a steady living. Creating for the sake of creativity is a luxury we just don’t make time for anymore. As we grow older, we build a protective wall around ourselves. With every birthday, a new brick goes up, hiding our inadequacies and shielding us from the pangs of rejection. Rather than sharing ourselves through art, we become so intimidated by the prospect of failing or being judged that we elect to instead do nothing. The toxic voice in our heads says you just aren’t good enough, so we push away the possibility of ever finding out if that’s right. And worst yet, we convince ourselves that our art has no value unless it is monetized. If no one is paying you to create, why bother?
Life in 2019 doesn’t help. Having a strong digital presence is now a necessity for success in the age of tech. No matter our objective, we are constantly fighting for eyeballs in a landscape of infinite content. The magnitude of information at our fingertips is greater and more overwhelming than ever before.
And somehow still—we have to stand out. We have to be original, be trailblazers, be different. So what’s to keep us from throwing in the towel? Even if we’ve won the battle to meet our own standards for what is good enough, how can we possibly expect the rest of the world to buy in? We quit before we’ve even begun, because who could possibly be listening?
Everyone has a story to tell, from a truly unique perspective. Sometimes that means simply looking inward and harnessing our creativity to discover something new about ourselves, whether it takes hold of the outside world or not. But chances are, it will. Most of us don’t realize just how wide our own radius of influence reaches.
Think about how much we consume every day. Buying, eating, watching, scrolling. But what do we make? To make something new is to give, not to take. It is to teach. It is brave. Whether your work is a timeless masterpiece or the smallest kernel of your own tiny truth—this new, beautiful thing is there now, where it wasn’t before. By creating art, we add value to the subject matter at hand and validate the culture by which it was made significant. Painting a landscape demonstrates pride and sense of place. Preparing a meal demands respect for nature and its labor in providing each and every ingredient.
Regardless of format, all art is inspired by the very thing to which it adds value. And that cycle is a fundamental part of defining our human culture, individual selves, and ultimate existence. Regardless of dollar value, size, clicks or likes, one small creation contributes to a greater whole, adding your voice to the ever-evolving story.