Wednesday, 15 January 2020

"I'm just not very creative..."

“Oh, I’m not good at things like this”, “I’m not crafty at all”, “I’m just not very creative”...... I can guarantee I will hear at least one of these phrases every single time I run a workshop, or even just talk to a friend about my job, and it frustrates and saddens me SO MUCH.


When I posted on Instagram that I was doing some research for this project, @CraftyDutchie messaged me to say that she feels that creativity and skill are two very different things, which I absolutely agree with. But I think what concerns me is that people’s insecurity about their perceived skill level actually puts them off engaging in creative activities. 


Sam runs an annual Christmas wreath workshop for her friends every year and says that every year, without fail, someone will put down their effort from the previous year, “when it was bloody great and they had so much fun drinking prosecco and making it. And THAT is the reason I do it - not because we’re all Martha frickin Stewart, but because it’s the chance for us all to gather, chitter chatter and learn a little from each other.” She says it makes her sad; not only because it’s so untrue, but because they are being restricted by their definition of perfection. “I’d love more people to let loose and have fun with it - we all just learn as we go, right? After all, every craft is honed from hours of practise, trial and error, and glue gun injuries!”


Sarah Elwick is a fellow craft workshop leader, and sent me this message: “Maybe people say it to try and pre-warn us as their teachers not too expect too much - that the outcome might not be great?” and then followed on to say “but obviously there’s a part of them that is, or that really wants to be creative” and “it probably is a self-protective mechanism, isn’t it? And then we can only be pleasantly surprised.” I’d have to agree with this, and - forgive me for the generalisation - but this could be a very stereotypical British thing too?! Modesty/self-deprecation combined with some unnecessary apology. Interesting. 


Kirsty has attended a few of my workshops in St Albans, and digs a little deeper, saying; “I can do crafty things and I bake and I decorate cakes etc, I can do them really well and I love doing them. I have to follow something though, a recipe, instructions, template. I don’t seem to have that creative imagination that generates the ideas. Is this fixed or is this a mental block? I like structure and order and I see creativity as unstructured and disordered and messy.” I think this to some extent about my own creative imagination as well, except that more often than not when I’m following a set of instructions, my impatience will take over and I’ll go rogue, inadvertently creating something brand new after all! Sarah agrees, and admits that she likes both approaches (ie structured versus freestyle), depending on her needs at the time - sometimes she needs to create mindlessly, and then will follow a proper knitting pattern… but then sometimes she’ll be inspired, and carry on to do something completely unrelated! So sometimes even when we *think* we’re not feeling creative, if we allow ourselves to relax into the process and just go with the flow, inspiration can very easily strike! The sense that the creative imagination is a skill in its own right though, is a very interesting take on the subject though, and one I’m looking forward to exploring in more detail another time.


My friend Dora theorises that creativity is all to do with quite practical problem-solving - which obviously we ALL do, in various capacities every day.  I won’t paraphrase and spoil her beautiful words for you, but you can read her blog post about living creatively here (side note: it contains one of the best words ever: ‘oodles’ [heart eyes])


I do think it’s important to remember though, that the very place I hear a lot of this creative self-doubt is AT A CRAFTING WORKSHOP. So obviously some people are very much putting themselves out there to explore and enjoy creativity. But there are so many others that have this mental barrier of somehow not being ‘good enough’, and then hide behind it. 


There are of course those that don’t place the same level of value upon creativity because they have other interests, for example sports, that completely fulfil them, and absolutely fair play to them! But if creativity in some form or other is something you would like to explore more, my advice would be as follows, budget and/or confidence depending…

  • The internet is always a great place to start! Beware though, it is easy to lose hours of your life down the rabbithole that is Pinterest…… Try searching for a keyword such as ‘pompoms’ or ‘papercraft’ and see what it throws out - like YouTube, the more you use Pinterest, the more it gets to know you and the better the suggestions that will show up. You could always give my boards a quick scroll through as well ;-) Look up any artists or magazines that you admire on there too, as they’re bound to have pinned some interesting tutorials or things that inspire them.

  • Head down to your local Hobbycraft, The Works, or The Range, and just have a browse. The Works often has a brilliant range of craft books for just a couple of pounds, where you’d be sure to find something to inspire and guide you. The Range is another fantastic shop for gathering inspiration, stocking a HUGE variety of unusual bits and bobs that are hard to resist picking up. See what jumps out at you and you’ll find yourself thinking of different ways you could use it… Hobbycraft is good for complete kits, so that you don’t have to worry about trying to source all the equipment separately. From soap making to screen printing, pyrography to crochet, there’ll be something for everyone.

  • Rope in a friend, and browse your local craft workshops on offer. I find that they are often split into two categories - some are more of a fun session, with one project that you’ll get to take away more or less finished at the end. Others are more about learning a skill, and could take place over a series of weeks. 

  • Go easy on yourself! Make sure you don’t start when you’re feeling a bit tired, or grumpy, as that’s never likely to end well. Pay no heed to the negative voices in your head, put on some cheerful or relaxing music, and allow yourself to be drawn into the process. After a possibly self-conscious start, I’m sure you’ll soon relax, enjoy it, and then be amazed at where the time went!


Creativity is one of the most satisfying ways to spend time, ease anxiety, increase self esteem, or socialise and bond with others. It can be an outlet for depression, anger, sadness, joy, love, pain. As its most basic level, it will relieve boredom or have some kind of end product!


I absolutely love that this topic is stirring up such strong emotions in others, and am fascinated by all of the different perspectives coming forward! I met Joe at one of my Neon workshops; he works at a local secondary school as Head of Design and Technology, and has done some research in the area himself. He says “in a nutshell, creativity is both nature and nurture… some are born with predisposed skills such as colour perception, spatial awareness, coordination etc… but the bottom line is, unless you’re missing 80% brain tissue… you have creative capacity.” BOOM!!! 


Look out for my next post, ‘Letting Go of Perfection’...



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