Many people think creativity means that you are good at creating artistic projects, but to me it is a much bigger idea. I think it is about using your imagination and thinking ‘outside the box’ to come up with an different idea or a solution to a problem – which may equally be artistic or practical. I like this explanatory quote from Kyna Leski, a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design.
“It [creativity] doesn’t mean producing something. You can produce something mindlessly. For me, creativity means discovering or creating something that didn’t exist before, or that you didn’t see before. By definition, that involves learning.”
Yes, of course! Most parents give their young children crayons and paper to play with to learn the magic of creating something that didn’t previously exist. If we are fortunate we then go to school and are further encouraged to create. Sadly, at some point our creative projects may be criticized by someone whose opinion we respect, and from then on we then feel we’ll will never again be ‘good enough’. (An event that also generates a mean-spirited inner critic, whose joy in life is to keep reminding you of this.)
Many students find wonderful teachers who can counteract this false belief, and who foster creativity. Ryan Cassie is a teacher who believes that, “Everyone is creative. It is fundamental to human brain circuitry. Everyone is able, at a young age, to explore the world in ways that are unique to them. You’re not born a machine with only one way of doing something.”
While my evidence is purely circumstantial, having learned many moons ago that with my hands busy I became more relaxed, there are also academic studies that came to similar conclusions. Most cite the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the Hungarian psychologist. He identified and named the psychological concept of ‘flow’, which is described as being in a highly focused mental state. I believe it is when we are engrossed in a creative activity that we easily reach ‘flow’, and being intent on our task, naturally relax and return feeling much less stressed.
Other research shows that those parts of the brain concerned with “planning, inhibition, and self-censorship are lulled during creative expression, and researchers think this may indicate creativity can happen ‘outside of conscious awareness and beyond volitional control.’ ” Whatever studies you choose to read, and there are many, the upshot seems to be that creating can be relaxing.
I started this site to provide a place for others to find resources to help overcome their fear of being creative, or to get back to being creative after a break. As I have learned more I realized that relaxing through creating is only a small part of a bigger picture. It is about harnessing the benefits of creativity to help us work through stress, to become more mindful, to overcome our inner critic, to give ourselves permission to make time for ourselves, and to learn to trust our intuition. Creativity is a path into improving our inner lives as much as it is about creating projects. I hope you will join me on this journey!