Monday, January 18, 2010

"I'm Just Not Creative"

“I'm Just Not Creative”

….is a lament that I hear from a surprising number of successful adults who have demonstrated creativity in multiple areas of their lives, but are somehow unable to perceive how their gifts are manifesting themselves.

I blame this phenomenon partly on the undeserved mystique of the artist—this pervading idea that the world simply is made up of two different people-- gifted creative “types”, and the pragmatic, unimaginative sort who lack the ever-elusive Artist Gene.

Many of us were labeled, categorized, and filed away early in life. We were told that we were not artists because we didn't excel at drawing or activities that required spatial acuity. We were given up on if we didn't immediately demonstrate a “natural gift” for music, or singing, or dance. Even in art classes, neatness and accuracy was often valued over exuberance and expression. Many of us had talents and inclinations that simply went unrecognized, or were promptly shut down by adults.

And what didn't get shut down, we eventually learned to send into exile ourselves, after enough negative consequences were experienced as a result of our creative expression. For many of us, it's taken years and years to coax our artist out of the cave we banished it to, and begin to trust it again. Some of us still keep ours safely sealed in that darkness, and go on believing what we were told—that we are “just not creative.”

I also think that our culture's strange love-hate relationship with artists adds to this problem. We both venerate and mistrust artists. We've built up a powerful mythology about creative folk—that they are are incapable of linear thinking, that they are free-spirited, lazy, flakes, that they are eccentric and unable to manage adult life, and that they somehow simultaneously live in genteel poverty, yet must have been born into wealth in order to have the luxury to cultivate their mysterious gift. Some of us feel that if we talk about our creativity, we'll be labeled negatively, or regarded as a fringe element.

When artists are separated from the culture at large and held up as the Other, it only serves to further alienate us from our own creative force. And this myth of the artist as other is often cultivated by artists themselves, who can easily begin to believe in their own hype and “specialness”.

I believe that everyone is a creative type. In fact, I believe that it's impossible not to be creative. And I believe that each one of us has the potential to heal whatever wounds were inflicted on our inner artists and move into a greater fullness of expression.

It's a path that I walk every day; slowly learning to open up, to drown out the voices from my childhood that still echo in me: stupid, lazy, sloppy, worthless; don't try it, don't say that, you can't, you can't, you can't. The voices that for almost 40 years managed to keep me from writing. The voices that grow weaker and more powerless as I take more and more risks.

In the Spring, I will be teaching a series of workshops through the King County Libraries entitled, “I'm Just Not Creative!” This is a gentle but direct challenge to any of you who still believe this about yourselves. Don't worry; we'll walk through it together, sharing our fears. I'm holding intention for it be accepting, playful, warm, and fun. And you will leave with a piece of art that you can tack up on your bulletin board and gaze at every time you begin to think that you are not capable of creating anything.


Anonymous said...

The workshop you plan will be a godsend to many. It brings up two thoughts for me: That creativity is about trust. Trust is who we are and that the source of creativity, the same source from whence we came (however you choose to view that) is infintite. The second thing it reminds me of is a call to youth, before limitations were given us. Here is a snippet from Faust, spoken by the Poet:
Then bring me back the days of dreaming,
When I myself was yet unformed,
When song welled up in me, and teeming
The tuneful fancies in my swarmed.
I’d all the misty world before me,
And every bud with promise sprang,
And every valley, to restore me,
Burgeoned with blossom as I sang.
I nothing had, yet was not poor:
The spur of truth was mine, and fancy’s lure.
Give me those days with heart in riot,
The depth of bliss that touched on pain,
The force of hate, and love’s disquiet –
Ah give me back my youth again!

Jo-Ann Svensson said...

oops, that anonymous was me, Kristen, I thought I had put my name...

40licious said...

I love that! I wish I could be there!

The Good Typist said...

Jo-Ann, I knew that was you! :) Thanks for sharing that poem--I love it. And 40, you are looking hot in that photo, woman! How the heck you've been? Where are you blogging nowadays?

Jo-Ann said...

And 40??? I wish! But I will take the hotness adjective, yes I will. And, never to look free advertising in the mouth, my blog is

Patrick said...

//I blame this phenomenon partly on the undeserved mystique of the artist—this pervading idea that the world simply is made up of two different people-- gifted creative “types”, and the pragmatic, unimaginative sort who lack the ever-elusive Artist Gene.//

Completely agree. Folks really do themselves a disservice when they discount the incredible human creativity they bring to even the most diminutive task. There's nothing that can't be its own form of art - right down to the stock broker. The way we dress, who we love, and how we live our lives is little different from the artist painting a canvass.

Jessie Carty said...

i think that is a fantastic idea for a workshop! i really want to teach some kind of writing course for teens but not sure how to get one started. i wonder if my Y would let me do one..