When I was younger I wasn’t great at drawing. I was ok, but I found it difficult to draw things that looked realistic from my imagination – and I thought that made me no good at art. So I stopped doing art at school and because I was good at maths and science and focused my effort there. I told myself that I wasn’t creative, I was logical! Somehow I’d got the idea that the two were mutually exclusive!
That story carried on for a long time – through university and the early years of my career. I think it was early in my coaching journey (around 10 years ago) that someone challenged this belief that I’d made up by questioning whether creativity was just the ability to draw.
After some soul searching I realised that although I couldn’t draw that didn’t mean I wasn’t creative. I was an engineer, writing software, working in a research environment developing new approaches to solve customers problems. I was being creative in my day to day life without even realising it! Creativity is all around us – and is in all of us – it has so many different flavours!
Once I started opening up to this I realised that I had all sorts of creative outlets that I loved. Cooking a meal with just a bunch of ingredients and no recipe, taking photos, daydreaming about my next adventure…
I became more open to trying out more things. Rather than dismissing things as something I couldn’t possibly do, I gave myself permission to have a go. I discovered that I could sew things – making curtains, cushion covers and a quilt… I made a pac-man friendship bracelet… my husband and I created a logo for our wedding and proceeded to design and create all the invites, and branded games for the party. And I discovered that once I got into the creative flow, it things just seemed to work. I got more ideas, intuitively knew how to take the next step to make what I was doing even better. I loved it!
While I might have had a go at these things in the past, I would have gone in with the belief that I’d be no good at them, been super-critical of myself, over-analysed what I was doing and not been able to get into the flow.
This flow state, is so important for creativity. It’s the place where your thinking stops (or you stop listening to it) and you tap into a reservoir of just doing.
Most recently I’ve ended up going back to drawing. While we were making various things for our wedding I ended up needing to paint a sunflower. I googled how to do it on YouTube and then gave it a go. I was impressed – it even looked like a sunflower! 🙂 My brother and sister-in-law saw a spark in me, and knowing I was going travelling for 6 months, they bought me some watercolours and a book for my birthday which I could take with me, with the suggestion I could paint the places we went to. I thought “why not”!
A couple of months later we’d started our travels and I decided it was time to pick up the paints and find out how to do this stuff. I watched some videos and even managed to find a local watercolour class led by the amazing Jody Ziehm. I played a bit and it seemed to work. At one scary point, I realised that in order to paint something I needed to be able to draw it – obvious I know, but I hadn’t quite made the link – suddenly I was back in art class again. However I set aside the little voice screaming “but you can’t draw” and we made an agreement that I was just painting for me, as a record of our travels, and so it really didn’t matter if it was any good or not. That seemed to do the trick.
One morning, not long after going to Niagara Falls, I woke up with an idea of what I needed to do to paint the falls. I had a photo we’d taken that I could copy. I did a bit of research on youtube about painting waterfalls and I went for it. The result was pretty amazing! I was impressed. I had no idea where it came from! And I really enjoyed it!
Over the last 5 months, I’ve tried to pick somewhere in each place we visited on our travels which represented that place to me and paint it. Sometimes it has just flowed and sometimes I’ve sat there pulling my hair out thinking it’s all going wrong – and mostly the paintings have worked out! I’ve learnt loads along the way – the biggest thing being to trust myself, switch off my thinking, let go of the final result and let the creative juices flow – something definitely useful in all areas of my life!!
Are you creative? Or have you persuaded yourself you’re not like I did? Or do you have other labels you’ve given yourself? What might those labels be stopping you doing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.