How do we protect our creativity and should we nurture this important sense of self?

We should not be afraid of the past and as ‘creatives’ we cannot afford to be overawed by the back catalogue of other people’s creativity. If we concentrate on the now and consider how and what we are thinking at this very moment (yes I know Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now) then you will soon discover no one else has had your thoughts, of course they haven’t, they belong to you. Inevitably you may well be pondering the same kind of idea or subject matter, but your narrative arch is going to impact on how that information or stimulus or idea is going to be processed and inevitably it is yours. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t debate, listen, explore with others; conversation with like-minded individuals can prove to be inspirational as I have found round the dinner table at the retreat.

However, showing up to write, paint, play, compose, sing, dance, sculpt, or whatever is important, is a significant key to living a creative and fulfilled life. Not doing this can spell the beginning of neglect and it’s funny how things degenerate, decay, become sluggish when they are abandoned and it’s a process that occurs rapidly.

I once moved into a house which had been owned by two elderly women whose interests lay in the cerebral rather than the visceral shall we say. I started to clear out the back bedroom one morning and shifted a chest of drawers and behind this piece of furniture I managed to pick up a long ribbon of dust which had collected over many years. It looked like a grey, woven material and I could hold it in my hand, if it had been practical to put place it in a glass box I would have liked to keep it being such an extraordinary thing. For me this represented incremental increase. Miniscule detritus had collected over years to form this extraordinary composite and it grew as a direct consequence of neglect.

I guess you can view this metaphor in one of two ways, either things will continue to happen without my attention or this is all that’s left of creativity – it’s your call.

Too many people are afraid of being found lacking, of having insufficient skill, or that it is not enough to simply have ideas, they need to be executed at the highest level. Why? Personally, I am quite fond of the adage, ‘If you are not making mistakes then you are not trying.’ It lets me off the hook every time and I am grateful for it.

Persistence has to be key here, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the need for 10 000 hours practise before you can be adept at something, like playing an instrument for example. We are too strung out on notions of genius, which I think is a patriarchal concept that requires binning. Grit and determination can bring creativity to some kind of fruition, inspiration sometimes has little part to play.

The key is simply to do and keep doing; for me, that is the beauty of keeping a daily journal that I never re-read. I am no longer a self-censor I just write and keep doing it every single day. It is the place where I explore, imagine, distract myself, daydream and keep the ink flowing onto the page. It is my daily exercise, it’s my attention to me and the things that motivate and inspire, prevent and annoy.

I have learned to listen to myself and have stopped predicating my ideas while  promoting ideas and opinions of others. They are all filtered now. It is a space where there is security, debate, appraisal and impatience. In the moments where I am overwhelmed by negativity, fear, frustration or inadequacy I return to the journal and work through my feelings logically – funny really when I see it as a ‘creative journal’. Perhaps over the years I have come to re-define what creativity might mean.

What it has taught me over and above everything else is that no one can remove my creativity, it can be bent out of shape, it can be siphoned off, filtered but it is never destroyed, it’s like a piece of sour dough, enough always remains to form a starter for the next loaf – keeping the journal ensures the yeast is kept alive.

Some interesting reading if you do want to explore other people’s ideas of course!!!

  • Lehrer, Jonah – How We Decide – Mariner 2010 ISBN-13: 978-0547247991
  • Lehrer, Jonah – Imagine – How Creativity Works – Canongate Books Ltd 2012
    ISBN-13: 978-1847677860
  • Tolle, Eckhart – The Power of Now A Guide To Spiritual Enlightenment Hodder Paperbacks  2001  ISBN-13: 978-0340733509
  • Cameron, Julia – The Artist’s Way – Pan; 7 edition 2011 ISBN-13: 978-0330343589
  • Gladwell, Malcolm – The Tipping Point – How Little Things Can Make A Big Difference Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition 2002 ISBN-13: 978-0349113463
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