As a child I was always making, drawing and painting. ‘She’ll be an artist that one’ relatives used to say to my mum. I loved nothing better than sitting down for hours with a big pad of paper and some pencils. I was easy to buy for at Christmas and birthdays – anything to do with being creative, whether that was yet another set of watercolours or a make your own jewellery kit, was met with huge enthusiasm by my young self.
In my teens I hung out with the art students in town. They were the tribe I felt happiest with. They gathered in the Boars Head on a Saturday in a patchouli fug and had philosophical conversations that I didn’t understand, read interesting books and knew all the obscure music. They were cool. I wanted to be an art student but I didn’t get through at interview. They suggested that I went away and worked on developing a more substantial portfolio. Then times got bit tough at home. My dad became ill with motor neurone disease and me and my mum were also looking after my very elderly granddad who was bed bound. We couldn’t really afford for me to do a college course. I needed a job that would support me. I got a job as a nursing assistant in the big old psychiatric hospital opposite the art college and decided I liked it enough to stay. I never reapplied.
The years passed..
After 2 years as an NA and having obtained the necessary O levels via distance learning, I completed my nurse training. Marriage, a house move and children followed. I discovered that I did have an academic bent after all. I got promotions that required more qualifications, I worked hard and boy it was hard, studying and working at the same time with two small children, trying to be a good mum (yes I have faked the homemade cake thing for school fetes), commuting up to an hour to work each day with no family nearby to help and in between all of this my mum passed away and I lost another two family members. With each new job came more responsibility and less and less time for anything but work. I didn’t pick up a paintbrush or a pencil for over 20 years.
It was when Pearl was in hospital that something most peculiar happened – I felt this overwhelming urge to do something creative. Aaron bought me whole load of art equipment and I started dabbling. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. When we started doing craft shows with the candles and Aaron’s ironwork I printed a few up as cards and to my surprise they sold. The cards have now become a staple part of the business and they sell well. It’s great when a customer comes in and says – “those are lovely” without knowing they are my designs.
I have no idea where this creative urge came from. In his 2014 blog in Psychology Today Romeo Vitelli wrote about the link between adverse experiences such as trauma and illness and creativity www.psychologytoday.com/blog/media-spotlight/201402/can-traumatic-experiences-make-you-more-creative hIt appears that life changing events may be a trigger for creativity in some way. Whilst it was Pearl that went through the actual trauma of illness – it was all of us that were affected. I still find that walking into the hospital where it all happened makes me relive the event in my head – I feel instantly tired (that’s my personal stress response – if I am traumatised I just go to sleep, it’s a bit weird but I have always done it).
I am never going to win the Turner Prize or be the next poet laureate but that’s not what it’s about – I create and write because I enjoy it. I find it relaxing and it does something positive both for me and to me.
Starting to paint and draw again seemed to trigger off other creative activities. I started writing and performing spoken word poetry at local events and found a whole new group of people. I perform and write when I can, though these days I am so busy I can’t do it as often as I would like. I noticed something else happening too. I realised that I was becoming more aware of creativity in my day to day life. When people think of creativity they usually think of some kind of artistic endeavour but actually we are all creative. It may be something as simple and mundane as knocking together a meal out of whatever you have in the cupboard or working out where to put things in your house to make it look good and work or you. Creativity is a state of mind. It’s about looking at the world outside your usual limitations, about seeing things differently, thinking beyond the obvious. You can read more about everyday creativity in Carlin Flora’s article in Psychology today https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200911/everyday-creativity
I realised as I was writing this blog that I have always been creative. I may not have been painting, writing or making but I was being creative, I just didn’t think of it that way. I was a psychiatric nurse for years and we are a pretty creative bunch, used to thinking up new and alternative ways of engaging with people to help them, I am a mother – there’s nothing like having children who ask endless questions to make you think outside the box (why is the sky blue? Why is rain wet? Why does that music mean that the ice cream man has run out of ice cream? (Hahaha yes, it worked a couple of times). I have built my garden from scratch, can cook a meal for two carnivores and two vegetarians, all of whom dislike a range of common ingredients, I could go on. We all have creativity inside us – how do you use yours?
My top 10 tips for creative living
- Do lots of things – you never know what will inspire you. There’s a salsa dancing class – never tried it? Why not try it? Never been to the theatre? Try it. Say ‘yes’ more often. Change your routines, walk home a different way, shop for your groceries somewhere different, read that book you would never normally pick, try on that outfit you would usually pass over.
- Talk with lots of people – people are interesting and you never know who will inspire you. Notice it says ‘with’ not ‘to’. Ask questions, listen, be open to other peoples thinking. You don’t have to agree with them but seeing the world through someone else’s eyes can change your perceptions.
- Stuck for a solution? Think outside the box – turn it upside down, pretend you are an alien who has never encountered this particular thing before, how would you approach it?
- Consider everything – no matter how daft. It frees up your thinking.
- Don’t self censor whilst your thinking – just get it all out there before you start deciding what won’t work
- Don’t worry about failing. If you found a solution onetime, you could probably do it again.
- Be positive – approaching things with a negative mindset is not conducive to creativity
- Focus but let your mind wander in between – sometimes solutions seem to come out of the blue but when you analyse these events it’s often as a result of them brewing away in the back of your mind.
- Surround yourself with the things and the people that you love
- Enjoy the process – satisfaction may not even be about the end result. It’s the getting there that matters.