Tag Archives: Creative Confidence

Creativity Falsehood #3 – “I am too old to play.”

I had been using this excuse myself for so long that I really had to step back and think about it. I’d just become so accustomed to it that it felt like truth.  When I gave it some more thought I realized that this idea is a really common message we hear, either explicitly or implicitly, as we grow up.  We live in a culture that highly values work: we don’t take our vacations; we’re afraid to be caught leaving work early; and we commonly answer the question “How are you?” with the reply, “Busy.” Play is considered something for children and part of becoming an adult is leaving those childish pursuits behind. I suspect that losing our creative confidence as we move into adulthood is part of this.

Though child’s play and adult play may take different forms and serve different purposes, it is no less important. When I started creative play, I brought some joy back into my life, my stress went down, and I also started being more playful in general, which I am sure my family appreciates.  The Help Guide lists the following benefits of play:

  • Relieve stress
  • Improve brain function
  • Stimulate the mind and boost creativity
  • Improve relationships and your connection with others
  • Keep you feeling young and energetic.

So the real truth is that you are never too old to play, but a surefire way to make yourself feel old is to have a life that is all work and no play. I’m tired of feeling old, aren’t you?

 

Creativity Falsehood #1 – “I am not creative.”

Hogwash!  Pure and total hogwash! But, hogwash that I am familiar with. Had you asked me ten years ago if I was creative, I would probably have responded with a tentative “Yes?  I guess so.”  I mean, I thought I was kind of creative and I enjoyed doing creative things like scrapbooking, interior decorating, and quilting, but Art was literally my worst class in high school. My grades in Physics and Chemistry were higher and I had to call a smart friend after each chemistry experiment to ask, “What was supposed to have happened here and why?” I would adamantly have said, “I can’t draw.” So, while I enjoyed being creative, I felt that I was failing miserably in some areas that are key for creative people, like drawing.

But then, during the second phase of my creative play experiments that I described yesterday when I was the parent of a toddler, I realized that my toddler was wildly creative. She came home from day care every single day with a stack of paintings or collage art. She enjoyed mixing paint colors just to see what would happen. She painted her hands and made multiple hand print paintings because, well, why not? Watching her being fully creative, experimenting with anything and everything, without any question about her ability or whether she should try something, I realized that creativity had to be innate. We must all be born with it, I thought, because she’s way too young to have learned creativity and though I am her mother and I think she’s awesome, I also recognized that she was no different from any other kid in her class. Every parent went home with the same stack every day.

I got confirmation of the idea that creativity is innate reading Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. We are all born creative, they argue, we just lose our confidence somewhere along the way to adulthood and stop believing that. As I have experimented with my own creative play, I have realized that it is a great way to get that confidence back. Sure, some of the stuff that I have created has been absolute crap, but I do have a trash can and I know how to use it. But, I have been happy with most of what I have created and I have found that doing something creative makes me feel creative.  Bit by bit, one 15 minute exercise a day, my creative confidence has come back and now if you ask me if I am creative, the answer that you are going to get is “Yes!”

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol. 1: Issue 8) – Creativity is Innate

I have been thinking about the nature of creativity for years, but nothing has helped me understand the topic more than having a child.  My daughter created fearlessly from the moment she could first hold a crayon. But, judging from the stacks of papers other parents took home with them from day care, she’s just as creative as the next kid. Watching her and her peers, it has become clear to me that creativity and the desire to create are innate. It is something we are all born with, but somehow, it gets beaten out of us so that as adults, we are much more hesitant to ask, “what if?”  Her innate ability to create without hesitation is what Tom and David Kelley call “creative confidence.” As I suspected from watching my daughter, we are all born with it but can get buffeted by life enough that by the time we’re adults we believe that we never were creative, that we weren’t one of the lucky few who were born creative. Not true.  We were all born artists, but over time, we lost our creative confidence in different ways.

So, what now?  As the Kelley brothers describe, creativity is a muscle that can get as flabby as my abs. You just need a little exercise, or maybe even a little creative play.  No matter how long it has been since you got a little creative exercise, that little girl or boy who mixed paint just to see what happened and then painted his or her hands is still in there. So the next time you begin a project, maybe don’t start with a pattern or a book, let your inner artist out to play a bit.

Read January’s post – Know When to Walk Away

Creative Play Newsletter (Vol. 1: Issue 7) – Know When to Walk Away

I am stubborn. (I can hear the people who know me well chuckling at that. “Yeah, a little!” they are thinking sarcastically.) In a lot of ways, that stubbornness has served me well in life, but it doesn’t always serve me well in the studio. I like to get things done and I like to get them done on time, according to MY plan.  But, what I have had to learn over the last few years is that art doesn’t work that way. The Muses aren’t consulting a gigantic project plan and saying, “Ah yes, today Julie is scheduled to complete the quilting on her current piece.” My plan for the day and their plan for the day don’t always align and I hate that.

In my other life, I am a great project manager and am really good at getting things done. When things get hard, I roll up my sleeves and work harder. When a task is taking longer than expected, I make a cup of tea and I work longer.  That does not work in art. Yes, there are times when things are really working well and you do just need a little more time or a little more effort, but there are also a lot of times when more time and effort are just counterproductive. In those moments in the past, I stubbornly tried to work through it. I would just keep sewing even after my thread broke for the fourth time AFTER changing the needle, rethreading the machine, and giving it a good cleaning. I would press on and sew a seam again after having sewn it and taken it out six times already. I would just keep getting more and more frustrated and my language got worse and worse, but I would keep at it. I’d square my stubborn shoulders and just try to work through it. I failed and finally, dawn broke over Marblehead and I realized that unlike PowerPoint slides, art cannot be forced.  Thus, one of the greatest lessons I have learned recently is that sometimes when creating art, you just have to walk away.

I have just learned that there is a name for this action, for walking away when your art is screaming at you that it just is not going to get done today. Tom and David Kelley in their 2013 book called “Creative Confidence; Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All,” call this activity “Relaxed Attention.”  “Relaxed Attention” certainly has a more positive spin than spewing a string of expletives, throwing up your hands and stomping out of the studio while muttering “I GIVE UP!” (which is usually how it happens for me).  Instead, cultivate some relaxed attention by doing something else. Take a “thought walk,” as they call it. Go out for coffee. Sleep on it. Throw your project plan out the window.  In this month of goals and resolutions, know that sometimes you have to just give it time and take a break.

Read the December Creative Play Newsletter

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