I have finally finished reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic.”
I had pre-ordered this book before its release in 2015, but have only this week managed to get around to reading it.
I have to admit that I didn’t find it earth shattering or particularly enlightening, as I think I have already been experiencing my own creative awakening for some time.
Liz writes in a way that is easy and enjoyable to read (which I am incredibly grateful for as a “non-self-help book reader.”) She shares her insights in a different way, often elaborating with personal experiences and anecdotes. The biggest thing I have taken away with me after reading “Big Magic” is that WE ARE ALL CREATIVE BEINGS.
I have always known this on some level and spend much time trying to convince family/ friends/ prospective clients of this fact. We all have the ability to create.
As Liz says, humans have been creating for tens of thousands of years- longer than they have been growing their own food!
Creativity is how humanity has shared its stories, developed new and exciting innovations and how humans have expressed themselves.
Creativity is innate and a vital part of who we are, yet it is an area we are reluctant to explore and share.
My own journey this far has led me to experience first-hand how important creativity is to me.
As a child, I was constantly making and doing. I would spend hours colouring-in, drawing, building elaborate sheet fortresses or cardboard box trains, masks and costumes to entertain my sister. Being creative was part of my everyday existence. It was fun, it kept me busy and it was an acceptable activity for a child.
When I reached high school, the opportunities to be creative were significantly reduced. I attended boarding school, so any after school creative activities had to be sanctioned and approved by the staff.
I studied art until year ten and enjoyed these lessons more than any others, though I did not like that we had to produce artwork that the teacher and curriculum set. Three years of pumpkin still life paintings and little opportunity to be completely creative or express myself freely, quickly took the fun out of art.
My second favourite subject at school was English, especially in years eleven and twelve when I had dropped art, for physics and chemistry.
I loved reading Shakespeare and studying the classics. I loved that we were asked to write about our interpretations of the themes in “King Lear”, “Hamlet” and Hardy’s, “Far from the Madding Crowd.”
I loved that I could pour my teen angst into poetry and creative writing. English became my opportunity to live a small creative life.
The problem with being creative in a school setting is that everything is assessed and marked.
I remember submitting a highly personal piece of prose for an English assignment. It was picked over by my teacher and returned with red corrections and comments indicating that it was below standard. I don’t think I have written poetry since.
I believe it is the constant assessment at school, and the constant critiquing of our creative efforts, that quickly discourages us from sharing our creative endeavours with the world.
We quiet that inner voice, telling ourselves that it is not important, not productive, not good enough, to be given a place outside our mind. We give up doing the things that bring us the most joy and stop sharing our gifts for fear of being judged, criticised, ridiculed.
We stop being vulnerable and cease to share our stories.
I know that once I hit university, life became too busy for me to pursue my creativity. I starved it with science, mathematics, research and assignments.
When I look back now, the parts of my undergraduate studies I enjoyed the most were the specimen drawings in zoology. I poured all my pent-up creativity into detailed sketches of rat digestive systems and prawn nervous systems.
When I started to study primary teaching, it was as if my soul finally breathed a sigh of relief. I was finally creating again! Even though I was only making posters, worksheets and games, I was creating something.
The following years allowed me to continue creating in this manner, but as the focus of the curriculum changed to more mathematics and science based, and the paperwork, meetings and planning increased, there was less and less time available to “make.” It was much easier and time efficient to go online and find a worksheet that someone else had already created or to buy the resources I needed.
The more I suppressed my need to create, the more stressed and anxious I became.
By the time I decided to walk away from teaching, I was doing nothing creative for myself.
It was as through my studies in Art Therapy that I rediscovered and reawakened my creativity. I was having to do art as a way to express myself. My assignments were based around art, and my creativity mattered. I was encouraged to develop a regular creative practice, to do art lessons and visit galleries. I realised that I had been starving my creativity and now that I was feeding it again, I could not stop.
I am the first person to say that “I am not very artistic,” but I have also realised that it doesn’t matter. I need my creativity to have a voice if I am going to survive.
I have to create as part of my self-care. It is how I relax, express myself and meditate. It keeps me sane when things around me seem to be in chaos.
It doesn’t matter what I am creating to make me feel good. I dabble in so many different things that I now fully understand the old saying, “A jack of all trades, master of none.”
I still struggle with sharing my creative pursuits with anyone other than a few close friends and family, for fear of judgement. I still compare my art to others and wish I was more talented like them. I am still finding my own unique style and a way that feels comfortable to share my voice.
In the meantime, I allow my curiosity to lead me. I scan Pinterest for inspiration and ideas. I watch YouTube clips to see how other people do things. I try new ideas regularly and decide whether it is for me or not. I take bits and pieces from all over and cobble together my “creations.”
Some of these creations will never see the light of day, and I am learning to be okay with that.
My art does not have to be pretty. It does not have to be viewed by the public. It only has to be seen and expressed by me.
It gives my soul a voice. It allows me to communicate my thoughts and feelings. It gives my logical brain a break from trying to rationalise and overthink everything and make everything perfect.
My creativity is purely for me!
I would like to encourage you to find your creative voice again. That thing you used to do before the world told you it was not good enough/ productive enough/ valuable enough. That thing you put away in the back corner to do once all the “important” stuff was finished.
Make the time to bring it out and play for a while. Your soul will thank you for it (so will your family, friends, colleagues…)
Your creativity is what makes you a unique individual. It needs to be expressed in whatever way feels best for you.
If you find it a struggle to get started, that’s okay. Often it is the most important decisions we make that are the scariest, but also the most rewarding.
Go and buy those art supplies you have been craving, sign up for that course that piqued your interest, visit the garden shop, pull out the sewing machine or cook books… Whatever it is that makes you smile and feels like pulling on a favourite, comfortable old pair of shoes, go and do that.