“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about… say yes quickly, if you know, if you’ve known it from before the beginning of the universe.” – Rumi
When you think about creativity what comes to mind? I know for me, I immediately have images of famous painters or musicians. I think of great works of art hanging in galleries and songs that have been written that set my soul on fire when I hear them. And yet I realize this is a limited view of creativity and since I am neither a famous painter or musician, what does that mean about my capacity for creativity in the world?
We often need the reminder that creativity is not exclusively about having specialized artistic talent. This seems obvious I suppose but I must admit, that has really been a challenging lesson for me to learn. We often attach creativity to art and think that if we can’t draw, dance, sculpt or write music then we are not creative. This is a self-limiting thought that keeps us from engaging in creative process.
It is actually quite hard to define creativity. It is really about ideas and our amazing ability as humans to generate unique and imaginative ways to transcend the traditional, to solve problems or bring something new into existence. We are all creative. Yet, we don’t often all fully realize it, embrace it, and embody it. Our creative capacities need space and nurturing to express themselves.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray Love, says “If you can just release yourself from the anxiety and burden that might be associated with the word ‘creativity’ you’ll see, in fact, that you are an enormously creative person”.
When I was completing my dissertation, I hit a pretty significant writers’ block, as so many do in the process. I wasn’t sure where to go next… 4 chapters in and dead stop! I felt stuck in my writing. I looked to my dreams to see if they could shed some light on what was happening. I again experienced this feeling and theme of “stuckness” both in my dream life and waking life. My next step was to reach out to my editor, a gifted and wise woman who deeply understood and hosted space for the creative process of psychological writers. She suggested I make art (!) and create a piece that represented each chapter of my work and see where that would lead me next. My initial reaction was “But I’m not an artist!”. She wasn’t deterred. She encouraged me to let go of any expectation about the final product and engage in the process of art making.
So, I dutifully went to the store and bought some paper, canvasses, colored pencils, water colors, and paint. I put on some inspiring music, started with a meditation, and then began to hold the topic of my work in my imagination as I engaged with the materials in front of me.
Now it’s true, I am not a skilled or accomplished artist. But what was illuminated in that process was that I AM creative and in a welcome and open hosting environment, I can create things that hold meaning and beauty.
I ended up creating an artistic and creative representation of each chapter that opened up my writers’ block and allowed me to not only see but also feel and embody the way forward in my work. And, of course, self-doubt was a big part of this. I needed to move into that feeling and allow myself to become fully uncomfortable and a bit anxious (yet simultaneously joyful in the creation) for the creative process to be activated.
For me, this was less about actually using the artistic modalities of paint for example and more about doing something different. Engaging creativity means solving a problem in a new way. I typically express myself through writing or movement. In my story, I needed to engage in art as my relationship to that has always been a bit muddled and clouded by perfectionism. Grabbing these art supplies was different and opened up something that was stuck. For you, it may not be engaging with art supplies, but may be writing a poem or dancing to music that inspires or the development of a new process at work, or simply thinking about a problem in a new way.
I leave you with this quote from Rollo May from The Courage to Create:
“The creative process must be explored not as the product of sickness, but as representing the highest degree of emotional health, as the expression of the normal people in the act of actualizing themselves. Creativity must be seen in the work of the scientist as well as in that of the artist, in the thinker as well as in the aesthetician; and one must not rule out the extent to which it is present in captains of modern technology as well as in a mother’s normal relationship with her child. Creativity… is basically the process of making, of bringing into being.”
Do something differently. Host your creativity in the ordinary day to day life. Express your story.