Hello! Welcome to week 2 of the #sparksummerschool. This week we are going to be spending time looking Inside.
Last week’s focus on Play was an opportunity to take a break from ‘work as usual’ and to create a little distance between our thinking, over-analytical minds and our creative impulses. I hope you managed to find a bit of space or time to create in a fun, unrestricted way. But don’t worry if you didn’t – it’s not going to negatively affect what we do here this week.
This week I want to begin ‘Looking Inside’ as a way to re-consider what it is that drives our own creativity. To understand the combination of passions that make up our own distinctive outlook on the world. It seems to me that the term ‘creativity’ is used as a catch-all, massively generalized way of looking at people. It often gets used to refer to very specific things like the ability to draw or other forms of art-making, it’s often diagnosed for us when we are small so that people live with the misbelief that they are not creative just because they didn’t fit into a cookie-cutter definition of what creativity looks like in their school, community or culture.
I have a very broad definition of creativity. I believe it is an innate, essential component to being human. By our natures we are creative – we have taken the world and shaped it to our own needs and wants, we have problem-solved so that we have survived and thrived (perhaps too well, but now isn’t necessarily the time for that discussion!)
It is something within all of us that finds its way out into the world in specific and distinct ways. Your creativity and my creativity are related but are not identical twins. Your creativity may thrive when you work with your hands, another’s may blossom when they dance. Creativity may be an inspired solution to a difficult mathematical problem, it may be the creation of a meal when there is nothing in the fridge. I really cannot emphasise this enough – creativity is not limited to the application of skill to an artistic process. It is about transformation, about innovation, about possibility, about vision, about connection – it is without medium, because it exists in everything.
Why am I going on about this on a course that is mostly aimed at craft makers, artists and designers? Because I often worry that we get so caught up in our own creativity narratives, which we have been building for so long. We recognise that we are good at something and then that something defines us. It can be hard to break out of established ways of working or approaching things because we worry about how that looks to other people, that they will think ‘where did that come from? She’s not a painter, she’s a jeweller…’ that by doing something different we might diminish the work we currently do. Which I think is a shame.
Creativity is not a noun (thank you Austin Kleon) it is a verb – it is something we do. But, for those of us who have been through any kind of art education (whether at school, college, university) or those who rely on their creativity for their job (in industry or self-employed), it often feels like our creativity is brought out in service of other goals, that it is a tool. We are asked to fulfil briefs, to pass exams, to please clients, to make work that sells. Often our creativity is funneled into a form that works for others, that does not allow for its own irregular shape.
In this week of the course I’d like us to start re-writing the creativity narrative, to begin to re-frame creativity as a state of doing, of being, of seeing the world. I’d like us to reclaim our creativity on our own terms. We’ll do this by considering the beginnings of our own creativity. By paying attention to the situations and places where it emerges, the conditions where it flourishes.
Start by asking yourself:
- What is my creativity narrative?
- Do I hold any assumptions about creativity (and my creativity in particular)?
- What limiting beliefs do I have about what my creativity can and cannot be?
- For me, is creativity a noun or a verb? How do I feel about that?
Then, I’d like you to spend some time reflecting on your earliest memories of being creative:
- When did you realise you were creative?
- What creative activities did you enjoy doing most as a kid?
- Which ones did you find challenging?
- Are there any creative activities that you no longer do as an adult?
- Why is that?
- How do you feel about that?
Then, consider how things have developed as you’ve grown:
- What other things have you embraced within your creativity?
- What things give you most pride, allow you to feel in touch with your creativity?
- When have you felt most creative? Was it a time in your life, a place, an activity?
- What was it about that situation that allowed you to feel that way?
- How do you feel about your current level of creativity?
- Do you have enough opportunities to let it come out and play?
Some of these questions may be hard to answer or may leave you feeling a bit uncomfortable. When I was a kid I used to do a lot of musical activities at school (I played instruments and I was in a choir for 7 years) but since then I’ve hardly done anything musical and recently I realised that this was making me very sad. Because my creativity isn’t just about creating things with materials or words, my creativity enjoys sounds and emotions created by the human voice or the vibration of strings. It’s no longer enough for me to engage with music as an audience member, I need to be producing it myself, it is an aspect of my creativity which I allowed to disappear and it has had consequences. So, when I consider what I want my new creative narrative to be, I want to build in the space to return to old loves.
Spending some time this week thinking about what your own creativity looks like, how it shows itself, what it most desires could be an incredibly positive act. Hopefully this journey won’t be too painful for you, like I suspect it may be for me. But if it is, ask yourself why. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that now may be a good time to address any imbalances you feel you might be experiencing. However, if you’re feeling creatively fulfilled and free, this time contemplating the nature of your creativity will only strengthen the bond you already have with your inner creative life. It might be a good time to check in, to consider where you’d like it to take you next.
RESOURCES FOR THE WEEK
The resources I’ve selected for you to read, watch, listen to aren’t a definitive list. There’s lots out there on creativity in general (although fewer things that help you define the nature of your own creativity).
I’m not expecting anyone to go out and get all the books or to listen to every episode of these podcasts. They’re just some places I found interesting ideas or that sparked some thinking for me
Later on in the week I’ll be asking you for your list of resources to do with Looking Inside – I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Don’t forget to check back in on Wednesday (on Instagram) where I’ll be sharing this week’s practical activity.
Good luck reflecting this week!
“Fear is boring, and other tips for living a creative life” by Elizabeth Gilbert ideas.ted.com
Don’t fancy reading Big Magic in its entirety? Well then, this digest of ideas from the book and Gilbert’s famous TED talk will give you a flavor.
A lovely short read capturing the spirit of the poet who said “it take courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
“Reconnect with your purpose” melodyvaughan.com
An article about gaining inner strength and through that reconnecting with the purpose to your creativity.
Letters to a Young Poet & Letters to a Young Painter by Rainer Maria Rilke
Two incredibly short volumes of letters by poet Rilke to young artists offering advice on how to live as an artist, one written when he was himself young, the other towards the end of his career. The first volume, in particular, has some incredibly moving passages on the impulse to create. Read my review here.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
There is a reason this book is so heavily recommended. I’d be remiss not to include it here as it is still one of the best books on living creatively. Here’s my review.
Wired to Create by Scott Barry Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire
Chapter 2 Passion & Chapter 4 Solitude
A really good book in general, but these chapters are particularly relevant. Read my book review here.
Conscious Creativity by Philippa Stanton
A fun book that overlaps a lot with Play, but which asks you to discover ‘what sort of creative are you?’ through investigation and instinct. Lots of activities for people who like books with lots of doing.
‘Three ideas. Three contradictions. Or not.” Hannah Gadsby
At the heart of it, a talk about self discovery – “what’s the purpose of my human?”
‘Creative is not a noun’ Austin Kleon
A talk that considers the nature of being someone who works with their creativity.
Courage + Spice with Sas Petherick
This podcast devoted to helping humans with self doubt is full of lots of great content for self discovery.