Thursday, February 18

re-discovering creativity (i)

I want to talk with you guys about two aspects to my creativity.

The meaning of creativity and creative soul-need.
Beliefs around what is of value/has meaning in life.

Today I'll chat about the first.

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved two things.... books and stationary/art supplies (pens, pencils, paints). I have never been able to have enough of either. One of my favourite things in early school was to create my own books. I still own two from about when I was 10.

A very early memory, right back to my first year in school, was colouring in a worksheet. When I claimed to have finished, the girl next to me told the teacher that I hadn't coloured in the thumb. There was this lone thumb for some reason. Anyway, the teacher looked, smiled (a smile that only now I can decipher), and said that I had simply done it realistically.

You see, my thumb was neatly outlined in medium brown, and then shaded softly in a mixture of brown and pink. It was a very adult colouring-in method.

My mother taught me how to colour. She also taught me how to behave. As well as telling me that I could be and do anything but that the preferable choice would be becoming a doctor. Yup, I learnt all about perfectionism very early on.

And learning that, and believing it, stifled and stomped on my creativity.

I have owned all types of art supplies that have either remained untouched or barely used. Something drives me to have them, but between my soul and my hand lies a malfunction. And it has nothing to do with ability.

I believe everyone has a creative side and it is expressed differently - writing, art, cooking, ideas, problem solving. Yet some people have a creative soul. These people need to create, or unhappiness tinges everything in their lives.

Unfortunately, this soul-need can become stifled, muted, side-tracked, thwarted, and down right abused. In believing the lie of perfectionism, my mind interpreted creativity as Art.
Creativity for its own sake is wasteful, pointless, something for children, fun for a frivolous workshop but not more, and on and on. A creative soul is an artist's soul. I'm no artist. I can't even draw. So I told myself subconsciously.

Might as well put my energies into the academics. Reading, studying, teaching, learning, all relatively safe. Put a pencil or brush in my hand and a soft vulnerable centre feels wide open to attack.

Motherhood triggered my creative soul, and I have been spinning around in circles trying to find outlets. Coming across crafting has been a paradox. On the one hand it provided that creative outlet, on the other, I was trying to be crafty. I even bought felt for Pete's sake.

T-shirt I've owned since I was 16ish, used for art projects across several years. 
I just 'happened' to find it a few days ago.

But you know what? I'm not crafty. I enjoy craftiness, to a point. Crochet is sticking around for a looong time. And I certainly enjoy seeing other people's crafty works. But this is about my creative needs. Ultimately, I'm arty, or is that artsy?*

But that realisation was frightening! I'm not an Artist! I shouted at myself.

The understanding finally came.

A creative soul has absolutely nothing to do with being an artist

Nothing, zilch, nada.

A creative soul is.... a creative soul. A need to create. That's it!

After that it's up to the individual how it manifests.

But of course, despite the amazing fabulousness of that realisation, I needed to work through the perfectionism. The next foothold seemed to step into an abyss. Just create?? Seemed infinite, without bearing, without solidity. Create what? What was worth creating? What am I good at? What could I do well enough? Could I learn oil painting now? On and on, all centring around ideas of worth and results.

And finally, back I came to the centre, my centre. If creativity was nothing more than that, to create, then it's the process that matters.

No, the process is everything.

Ohhhhh, those people that had this simple yet profound understanding as children and never ever lost it. You lucky people.

* This is NOT a question of any being superior! Just what is authentic for an individual.


  1. Felt??? My Gawd, woman, next it will be googly eyes! Seriously though -- fly, fly, FLY with your wonderful creative self! You are right to let go of expectations and outcomes -- just have fun DOING!

  2. ~create away...there is no right or wrong...allow inspiration to sweep you up in its arms and may it blossom into a bounty of beautiful things made by you...brightest blessings~

  3. I'm sat here, crying. Tears of relief and I'm not sure what. I've been wrestling with a dilemma to do with my children's schooling - in a nutshell whether to put them in an academic school which delivers great results but where I fear they'll be pushed and pressured (which my parents are strongly encouraging me to do) or put them in a more gentle nuturing school where academics are delayed. Your words here, about seeking perfection, how that "stifled and stomped" you creatively, well, it's like a sign, and I'm sure I've been led here to read these words for a reason. I know what in my heart is right for my babies. Thank you - whilst I'm sure this result would never have been in your contemplation when writing this, you've made all the difference to me.

  4. I hear you Mon! I am stuck in my own creative void at the moment, hence my lack of blogging.... just sitting here trying to feel it out.
    Thanks for the inspiration :)

  5. Julie - I tried to respond privately but couldn't find an email for you. I didn't want this to become a gush vest :D
    So I'll just say, that you put tears back in MY eyes in return. I appreciate you sharing this, makes all the difference to me....

    Global Mama - get your paints out! :)

    Debra - oh dear... *holds hand up* I bought googly eyes too.... ;)

  6. Thanks Mon, you've got me thinking, as usual. I would definitely have always said I'm not really a creative or artsy soul. And yet the last few years - yes corresponding to becoming a mother - is when I started writing and blogging. All non-fiction stuff so I didn't really think of it in terms of needing to create, just in terms of needing to communicate and connect around ideas...But the other thing is that I LOVE doing crafts with my kids. I LOVE Michael's craft store and Oriental Trading company and we spend hours at the table making our own valentine's and Xmas decorations and whatever I find...I thought of that as being driven by them, but truly I enjoy it so much now I am wondering, are there other creative sides to me that have been repressed and might come out if I let them? I will ponder...

  7. This is a great post. What an important point that is so easy to lose sight of.

    "No, the process is everything."

    Thanks : )

  8. One thing that I love doing is taking used children board books and then turn them into little scrapbooks.It is a great way to recycle. I made them into vintage looking recipe books for my two sisters this last Christmas with our grandmothers and mothers favorite recipes.

  9. I think we often dismiss our need for creativity by connecting it too closely with the word "artist." Not that there's anything wrong with that word - but we have so many expectations attached to it.

    But all souls are born to create - artist tag or not. It's so important for us to embrace that as you have!

  10. Oh Mon, I can so relate to all of this, right down to the perfectionistic mother (in my case an unfullfilled artist who had done "the right thing" by her parents) stifling my creativity. I keep taking out my own stash of supplies hoping to let go of that perfectionistic voice in my head and just let go. I may just join you on this journey!

  11. Yip, the process really is everything. And TRUST in the process. The outcomes take care of themselves.
    Art and Fear is one really really great book I've mentioned before.

  12. The fact that you found that shirt was a lovely sign! Will enjoy seeing whatever process you decide to share.

  13. Got me a little teary-eyed. "Artist" was my first self-proclaimed ambition when I was little. When I was in middle school, I won an award for "most creative artist" though till this day I have no idea what they meant by that. I didn't feel creative. My teacher encouraged me to take a college credit art history class when I was in 9th grade, and I was too scared. I signed up for a drawing and painting class instead, but on the first day I dropped out because I felt like there were too many rules (I felt that art should be what the artist wants it to be, and not held up to any standard). I realize now she probably just wanted to get us thinking in different ways, but then it was too stifling for me. Some ten years later I signed up for a drawing class in college, and again dropped on the first day. I don't even remember why this time. I absolutely value creating for the pleasure of it, but for some reason I keep getting scared out of it. Why??? I have boxes full of art supplies that I never use, but keep thinking I will. Not sure what I am waiting for...

    Crafts I like for the practical usage, and that it is a form of creation wherein I get to add my personal touches or even have complete control over the outcome. I call it being "creative" but not necessarily "art." (Though it could be.)

  14. I am so glad you are entering into the process again. I would say more but honestly I'm exhausted, I can't think straight ... but please know how much I am *feeling* happiness for you.

  15. As someone who was always described as " the academic one" and my brother " the arty one" I feel so much idnetification with this post.

    and yes I was indeed very sucessful academically
    and my brother is, indeed " the arty one" he IS an artist, one who lives by what he does...

    But you know what, so do I, now...with the craft workshops I teach ( paper making, green woodwork, paper casting, and the cards I sell and the green woodwork I do and all the other child friendly craft stuff I do at Eco club and in my Forest School sessions......

    It has taken me 40 odd years to realise, but just becaue I can't put paint on to a 2 d canvas and make a recognisable image DOES NOT mean I am not creative, or a craftperson or an artist....

    I agree so much with your post and as you can probably guess, am nodding my head furiously in agreement :-)

  16. Hey compostwoman.

    You bring up the important issue about how we label our children, even when we do so in a supportive way. We are all multi-dimensional. We ought to at least allow our kids to discover all their sides, the amazing ones and the ordinary ones. The ones that will bring them success and the ones that will simply put a smile on their face.

    Go you with all that creativity too!

  17. :-) I *love* the "go me" comment!!

    Thank you so much ( big hugs from me...)

  18. I agree that we need to focus on the transforming power of the creative process itself. So often we get caught up in the "end product" without enjoying the creative joy that we feel as we allow ourselves to share and grow creatively. Once that creative door is opened and allowed to stay open, there are really endless opportunities for self-awareness and new paths for self-direction.

  19. This is beautiful, thank you! ;)

    I have owned all types of art supplies that have either remained untouched or barely used. Something drives me to have them,
    [but between my soul and my hand lies a malfunction. And it has nothing to do with ability.]

    totally resonates with me.
    hugs, Jenn


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