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An article I saw via Twitter this morning got me thinking about why more adults don’t consider themselves creative. The article suggests that we are all born with creative abilities and somehow these get lost along the way for many people. I would agree with this, and I think the reason why this is the case is this – as we grow up we become more and more fixated on always getting things right and being judged on the things we produce. This starts at school where children are being assessed at younger and younger ages and assessment, generally speaking, does not nurture creativity, it stifles it. How can you be brave enough to try something new if your future success in life is deemed to rest on this or that test? And this continues throughout our lives. It is a rare and valuable employer that fosters creativity in their workforce. More typically they want people to conform to a standard way of doing things, to ensure consistency. Creative thinking may be seen as volatile and dangerous, and not to be encouraged. You want to keep your job, you produce results, not waste your time taking chances on crazy ideas….and yet we all know crazy ideas are usually the best ones.

Young children have no such fear, they create joyfully and without any concern over how ‘good’ it is. Children see their creative works from their own, internal, point of view. They don’t look at something and judge it critically from an observer’s point of view. Ok, this may be because they don’t yet possess the reflective capabilities to view the world as another would, but I think we can learn something from them. Being creative is a process, not a result. I once took a class called ‘Drawing for the Terrified’. The name summed me up. The tutor, Kerry Lemon, was excellent and tried really hard to get us to focus on paying attention only to the sensations that occurred as we moved the pencil over the paper, rather than worrying about what it would look like when we were done. I learnt a lot from the class, however, I did find it incredibly difficult to shift my anxieties and pre-occupation with how I was doing compared to others in the class. It didn’t help that many of the others there said they weren’t terrified at all, but went to every art class they could, so I felt like the odd one out. And, inevitably people wanted to compare end results which meant I ended up feeling like a talentless numpty. But it was a valuable lesson to me to try and let go of any notion of success when being creative, which, of course, is easier said than done.

I’m continuing to work on shifting my focus to enjoying being in my creative flow and letting the end product stand alone. Don’t create for other people…yet….start by creating for yourself. If you are nervous I would recommend saving your early creativity for your own enjoyment only. Don’t share these precious jewels with anyone else. I have some poems I wrote, utterly unselfconsciously, when I was 17 which I have never shown anyone and they feel special to me. As soon as someone else were to read them I would start thinking about how ‘good’ they are and worrying about syntax and rhythm etc, whereas now they evoke priceless memories of how it felt to be the 17 year old version of me.

So, go be creative, and if you find it hard, don’t worry, it’s not that you can’t do it, or that you’re not ‘a creative type’, it’s just that you’ve forgotten how to.

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