When I was growing up, painting, sculpting or creative writing were considered hobbies - something fun and not serious. Society did not see them as an option for further study or a career you could earn a decent living from. I used to talk about becoming a writer "when I grow up", something elderly members of my family discouraged, warning me that writers in the region did not earn a good income, with most depending on “real” jobs instead.
While there is more appreciation of the arts today - thanks to the efforts of the cultural authorities in the UAE and wider region - many still believe art is just a hobby, which cannot be of any use to the development of a business. I see it differently though; in my experience, taking advantage of my artistic talents has had a positive effect on my business in so many ways.
I have been a painter since I was a child and during that creative process I often receive some of my most inspirational ideas or solutions to business problems I am stuck on. After the last Eid break, I felt burnt out and could not think or talk about business. I was exhausted, and desperately in need of a break to empty my cluttered mind. My summer holiday felt weeks away, and I knew I could not stay stuck in a rut until then. So, after hearing about the many benefits of solitude, I decided to take some time out on my own, to recharge and hopefully feel inspired again.
I locked myself in my room for 24 hours and asked my family not to speak to me and let me be. My phone was switched off and I didn’t use any digital devices. Instead, I had books, a sketch pad, and paint, and I prepared snacks of fruits and vegetables. I then laid down on a mat, closed my eyes and relaxed my brain.
After some time, I took out my sketch pad and started painting; it was nothing specific, just strokes and abstract shapes. I painted for hours, receiving some inspirational ideas during the process and the answer to a question related to my business. When the 24 hours was over, I felt more relaxed and at ease; I was once again reminded of the power art had in my life.
It’s inspiring to see how art and entrepreneurship are constantly overlapping. In his biography, the late Steve Jobs revealed how a calligraphy class he took at college inspired the Serif and San Serif fonts he used for his Macintosh computers.
The founder of Facebook, Mack Zuckerberg, collaborated with artists to paint the company's office walls. In a Facebook post dated October 18, 2016, he wrote: “When you step onto our campus, you should feel like you can shape the world around you. That's why ever since our first office, we've had local artists come in and paint the walls to inspire creativity and create an evolving environment.”
You don’t have to be an artist or possess an artistic talent for art to help and inspire you in your business. You could simply doodle in a notepad, especially when you feel lost or overworked. You could visit a museum or an art gallery and just look at the art presented there. You could also sign up to an art class, such as calligraphy, sculpting or sketching to try something new.
Stepping outside your comfort zone can expand your perception and inspire your way of thinking. That’s why I always experiment with new modes of photography or visit art shows and workshops I would not normally choose.
Bring art and your business together; doing so could achieve impactful results.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi