Guilt free creativity…

A close up of an little thing I've been working on lately in gouache, coloured pencil, watercolour, gold foil stickers and gell pens
A close up of an little thing I’ve been working on lately in gouache, coloured pencil, watercolour, gold foil stickers and gel pens
I drew this on the train the other day.
I drew this on the train the other day.

Being creative is a strange and curious thing. As wanky as it sounds I feel like this way of thinking and looking at the world  is something I had no choice in having. I remember making things and loving to draw and paint from a really young age. In fact I can’t remember a time in which drawing and painting or even writing wasn’t part of my everyday life.

I remember there was a sense of preciousness about making things back then. A sense of freedom I suppose. I guess as a child we don’t really worry about paying the bills or having enough money to put food on the table. But I don’t think that is really what makes me feel so crazily guilty for making time to be creative.

In fact I don’t think it is me at all. Well I mean technically it is, but really I think I have been brainwashed over time to believe that creativity is not something to take seriously, it’s not important, or even scarier, it’s not valuable.

As an educator of the Visual Arts I often struggle to answer the question ‘but where will this lead me?’, ‘what career path can I get out of this?’ Well to be totally honest I have no idea. It may lead to a myriad of awesome jobs in the Arts or it may not. For most of us ‘creatives’ jobs come secondary to our art practice. It helps to pay the bills and take a break from our brains, that are often overloaded with ideas that we just haven’t figured out how to make something out of yet. The most important thing about learning (in my opinion), whether it is through the Arts or not, is that it opens up your mind, it helps you problem solve and critically engage with the world around you. Being creative means that you can take all these things and use them as fuel to create an artwork, a piece of music, a poem or a dance – isn’t that something important!

For me creativity is like a monster in my brain that never sleeps. It is always moving around, screaming thoughts into my mind. It never ends. It has taken me a long time to realise that working 5 days a week, like everyone else, didn’t really satisfy my need to make stuff. My husband Luke confronted me last year (whilst I had a bit of an emotional breakdown) and said ‘The happiest I ever see you is when you are drawing or painting’ with tears in his eyes – he gets it, that’s why I love him. But in my mind I was stressing out like a mad woman, thinking what am I supposed to do with this information? How can I justify not working full time like the rest of the people I knew? What would people say?

The guilt was immense. But I knew if I didn’t change something about my lifestyle then I risked killing that little monster in my brain, and I really didn’t want to do that.

I now realise I was afraid of ‘making’ because it would unleash that strong sense of uncertainty that comes with the creative process. I tried for years to squash it down into the recesses of a ‘normal life’. Taking risks, being unsure, a state of flux – this is what being creative feels like for me. It feels 50% uncomfortable and 50% amazing. It makes me 100% emotional. Feeling uncertain makes me feel totally vulnerable and ‘spongey’. The world gets soaked into to my pores, people, the light, images, music, sunshine – I turn into one giant sponge and often cry about everything. Making images, painting, feeling inspired  or ‘spongey’ gives me a great sense of wholeness and calm. Don’t get me wrong, I really love teaching but I don’t get this from working 40-50 hours a week.

When I went to the Big Hearted Business conference last year a lot of what was said hit home. For some reason being told that ‘what you make is important’ and ‘you don’t need to be one thing, you can be many things at once’ really resonated. I cried for about 3 days after the conference. The presenters reminded me why I loved making and made me question why I didn’t let myself have the freedom to do what really made me happy. I’d forgotten my little monster, I’d forgotten what made me, me. How awful?

Almost a year later and the sense of guilt as I make every image hangs over me still. I’m getting better at introducing myself as an artist again and a teacher second. I’m trying not to say either in a way that makes them seem unimportant like ‘Oh I’m a teacher’ – with a sad, sullen expression on my face. Or ‘I’m an artist’ really quietly spoken so people can’t hear me properly.

I’m sure one day the guilt will go, I hope so anyway. Let me know if you ever feel guilty about your creativity or how you deal with it or if you have never felt it? I’m interested in sharing our thoughts on this topic.

Bye for now.

I drew this on the train as well. I can't stop with the repetition of colour and shapes at the moment.
I drew this on the train as well. I can’t stop with the repetition of colour and shapes at the moment.