Creativity

creativity
Image courtesy of solargaria at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my last blog post, I spoke about joy.  In that post, I said, “We feel safe, cherished, fortunate and vibrantly alive when we are joyful.  However, that exuberance is often associated most with children, and is something we are encouraged to put away when we ‘grow up’.”  I also suggested you might like to “Dance.  Run.  Play.  Splash paint.  Sing.  Jump in puddles.”  I believe that joy and creativity are strongly linked, especially in childhood.

I’d like to look at this a little more, because I have been really struck by two things lately:

  1. That children are vibrantly, joyfully creative and gain much from this self-expression.
  2. That adults often see themselves as “not creative”, no matter how much they might have been as a child.

What happens between childhood and adulthood to cause such a change?  In many cases, it seems that the Inner Critic developed as our creative expression was judged by those around us – both formally (such as in school) and informally (by peers, family and even strangers on social media).  We are also fed a narrow range of what “creativity” means – usually limited to specific arts and musical endeavours, and specific ‘standards’ in those things.

However, I think creativity can be so much more than that.  Do you enjoy putting specific outfits together in harmonious colours?  Or applying fun makeup?  That’s creative.  Are you good at baking?  Or putting together meal plans and using or making recipes?  That’s creative.  Do you daydream about people, places, situations and imagine what might happen?  That’s creative!

The Inner Critic might be dismissing this, finding some reason it ‘doesn’t count’ when you do those things.  You might think that your work isn’t as good as someone else’s, or see flaws that spoil it for you.  Your Inner Critic is trying to protect you from deeper fears – maybe failure, shame or embarrassment.  It is hard to indulge your creativity when you don’t know what the result will be!  If you can view your Inner Critic more compassionately in this way, rather than fighting with it, you may find it much easier to stop it holding you back.

So, what if your creativity is still blocked?  Fortunately, there are a number of ways you might work through it.  Various artistic hobby groups and classes are available both online and locally.  Take time to find a space you feel safe and welcomed in, where you feel supported and free to let those creative juices flow.

If you would rather try alone, then you might like a self-paced course such as The Artists’ Way, Mindful Art Studio classes, or one of the free courses listed here.

You may find it hard at first to get going, and you may struggle to see ‘improvement’.  However, if you can let go of your idea of the ‘perfect result’ and instead be in the moment with the process, you may not only enjoy things a lot more but also end up going off in unexpected and exciting directions!  Plus, it is worth remembering that being bad at something is the first step towards being good at it!

What will you discover in your creative journey?

 

Please note, I have no commercial links or affiliations with the classes I have linked to – they are simply things that I have enjoyed myself.

Joy

joy
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I started my ten-part series about the ten positive emotions identified by researcher Dr Barbara Fredrickson a little over two years ago, and today I will be finishing it.

It is worth reiterating why I decided to do this in the first place.

Mostly, it was because learning about Positive Psychology challenged my assumptions of it.  I expected the course to be ‘fluffy’ – light and not particularly scientific, presented by smiling people who insisted everyone’s lives would be better if they just “thought positive!”.  It wasn’t like that at all.

Not only was there a great deal of rigour involved, but it also connected mental stress with physical stress and the bodily disruptions caused by chronic stress.  What came out of this was a message of hope.  Hope that the disruption and damage caused by stress can be mitigated and undone.  I was struck by the explanation that positive emotions are so often overlooked because they tend to be fleeting and not very intense compared to negative ones.  They are so easy to miss if we aren’t looking for them.

There is also the Inner Critic, who tells us that we are deserving of negative emotions and undeserving of positive ones.  The Critic tells us that the only way to learn and to grow is by going through bad experiences and negative emotions.  I don’t think that is the whole story.  I think it isn’t enough to just learn to process and work through negative emotions.  It is important, necessary even, to also work towards welcoming positive emotions into our lives.  Positive emotions are fragile things, needing to be nurtured like an orchid while we battle the bindweed of the negative ones.

Joy, I think, is easily overlooked in this way and needs that nurturing perhaps most of all.  Joy is unbridled and passionate.  We feel safe, cherished, fortunate and vibrantly alive when we are joyful.  However, that exuberance is often associated most with children, and is something we are encouraged to put away when we ‘grow up’.  Moments of joy, the moments when we laugh and feel expansive and could dance around the room… We squash it.  We come up with logical-sounding reasons not to indulge and enjoy ourselves.  The things that made us joyful when we were children are deemed, by ourselves and by others, as inappropriate now we are adults.

But who made those rules?  Why do we follow them?  What benefit do we get from reining ourselves in this way?

Try indulging your joy for a few moments, and see what happens.  Choose to let it loose instead of stepping on it.  Dance.  Run.  Play.  Splash paint.  Sing.  Jump in puddles.

What will you do?