Unleashing your inner creativity

I'm so grateful I started drawing and writing at an early age, before I realized what a daring thing it is to do...

...because creation is hard.

Have you ever sat in front of a blank page and willed a sentence or a line of drawing into existence?  What stopped you from starting?

Probably fear.

Fear of not being able to do it. Fear of not having any ideas. Fear that it will be horrible.  Fear that it will be really good, and then you'll have to live up to a new standard.  Fear that someone might say something devastating about it.  Fear that it won't be as good as.... (name your jealousy, Hemingway let's say, or Picasso).

When did that fear start?

I'm sure as a child you drew, and told stories, and sang and danced with exuberance and energy.

All children are artists.

They start out without self-consciousness as they play and paint and tell stories. They have no doubt that their drawing of a tiger balancing on a rainbow is the best thing you've ever seen.  They are convinced that the story they told you today, "and then a crocodile started playing the piano, and an ostrich was dancing" is the most fascinating thing you've ever heard. Except maybe for the story they told you yesterday, do you remember the one about the flying elephants?

Where has that child gone?  That inner child that can fight imaginary dragons and come home to supper having saved the world, and is ready for a glass of warm milk and bedtime...

That child is locked somewhere deep inside you.

And so is her exuberant courage; that's still there as well.

The trick is knowing how to unearth that courage hidden under all the anxieties of daily life. And once you've found that courage, how to protect it from the nay-sayers around you.

I don't have a bullet proof list of tips for this, but I have a few ideas...

(the examples I give deal with writing and drawing, but could work just as well for music, or quilting, or singing, or dancing.... )

1.  Ask yourself, "what's the worst that can happen?" You crumple of the piece of paper, or delete your document, and you've spent an hour writing or drawing something that didn't work. Sure, a grown-up might think of it as wasted time; a child wouldn't though. They'd think of it as a great hour of play, and maybe, just maybe, you've learned from your mistakes.

2. Start by making one mark on the paper.  Write, "The cat sat on the mat," and then ask yourself, "what next?" Or draw one line, and then another.  Draw a box. Draw a circle.  Draw the sun.  Just start.  And if you don't like it, crumple up the paper and go back to step #1.

3. Actually try to make something horrible.  Scribble on the paper. Press so hard with your pencil that it tears through to the other side. Mix all the colours together until you have muddy brown.  Write without any punctuation. Start spelling things how they sound, instead of correctly. Just bang at all the keys on the keyboard, and see what funny words and letters appear. Make a mess just for the sake of releasing all that anxiety. It's the best therapy in the world, and you might surprise yourself.

3. Take a nap.  Sometimes you're just tired. Treat your inner creative child gently, and you might find her cooperating.

4.  Make your favourite snack.  Really savour the flavours.

5. Reward yourself. When I was in grad school I would buy myself a pack of Cadbury chocolate buttons, and eat one button for every page of my dissertation that I'd edited. Children love rewards.  They love working towards them, and they love receiving them. Make it fun.  

Make it a game.

6. Write down all the things you're afraid of.  Once they're written down, some of them will sound as silly as the bogey-man under the bed; some of them will be valid. For the valid fears, make a list of reason why they will never happen. Make a list of reasons why you're brave enough.

7. Make lists of the things you loved when you were a child.  Some of these might unlock hidden inspiration or hidden courage, or just a little laughter.

8. Make lists of anything.

9.  Run around in the grass barefoot. Breathe fresh air.  Get some exercise. Your brain needs oxygen to be inspired.  Do a handstand.  Do a cartwheel.  Chase after pigeons. Lie on the ground and find shapes in the clouds.

10.  Arrange your supplies in order of colour, or size, or by how much you love them.  Isn't that lovely rainbow of pens beautiful?  When I was little I used to arrange all my bath toys and teddy bears.. it was a ritual of respect and admiration.  When you love the tools you work with, you'll do better work.

11. And, if all else fails, do #1, #2, and #3 over and over and over again until you actually start making something you really love.

12.  And then give your inner five-year-old a big hug.

The two of you are a great team.