‘Creativity takes courage.’
One of the many wonderful qualities of young children is the way they spontaneously and unselfconsciously embrace creativity. Give them some coloured pencils or a drum, lend them some clothes for dress-ups or put some dance music on, and they’re off. Children don’t worry about not being the next Picasso or Shakespeare, about the fact they haven’t sung for years and their voices are a bit rusty, about wasting their time when they should be doing something more ‘useful’. Creativity comes naturally to them, yet is also crucial for their development. Through creativity, children can process their experiences, learn to externalise feelings, engage with others around them, problem-solve, and explore new solutions.
Of course, as adults, we can also benefit from all these – who couldn’t do with ways to process our experiences, express ourselves, communicate and explore? Yet how many of us feel comfortable being creative without attaching a whole range of expectations, pre-conditions, neuroses and qualifiers to the process? It’s commonplace to hear people say self-depreciatingly,
‘Oh, you wouldn’t want to hear me sing.’
To which I can only say, why not – it would be wonderful to hear more people sing! But we often lack the confidence; maybe we no longer even know where to start. Sitting in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen or pastels, or being asked to sing when you haven’t sung in years, can be quite intimidating. And chances are, our initial efforts will look and sound pretty feeble. Yet creativity can open doors to us which pure rational thinking cannot – doors of self-expression, communication, healing, and community bonding.
As a music therapist, I’ve often worked with people who, for a range of reasons, are no longer able to communicate using words like we normally do. Music can be an incredibly powerful way for them to engage and communicate with the world, and to process feelings of loss, grief, joy, belonging. It seems a shame that, for many people, it’s not until something goes wrong in their lives that they become less self-conscious about being creative. I always feel a little sad when I hear people talking about wanting to be more creative, but lacking the confidence to begin. I’ve seen how much joy it can give to people to sing with others, draw a picture, write a short story or memoir. Dancing, making crafts, telling stories – these are all such wonderful gifts for us humans to have. Often, when people do make a start, they wonder why they didn’t do it years ago.
Some of the core attributes of mindfulness, such as being more non-judgmental and patient, more open and accepting, and cultivating trust and a beginner’s mind, can help us engage with our creativity. Having studied both classical music, with its emphasis on perfectionism and high technical skill, as well as music therapy, where we engage musically with people in a very open, non-judgemental way, has helped me to appreciate both approaches. There is a place for striving for high achievement in the arts, but there is also a place for simply being present with a creative process, regardless of the skill levels of the participants, just because it is so enriching and rewarding.
Henri Matisse is right, creativity does take courage. Perhaps this quote by Goethe can help us make a start:
‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’
Weekly practice idea:
How comfortable do you feel being creative? If you would like to have more creativity in your life, can you bring some of the core attributes of mindfulness to the process to assist you?