The Creativity MythApr 14, 2022
I have taught various forms of design for decades and have loved working with people from all walks of life from primary school age, right up to degree level and beyond including those who are reinventing their calling in their seventies. I have also spoken to a lot of prospective students of all ages who are thinking of taking a leap into the unknown to change their career. Many feel called to work with nature or to satisfy a long held creative itch. The call might have started as a whisper, gradually increasing in volume and persistence until it became difficult to avoid and refused to be put off any longer.
I’ve been there myself. I’ve done my time working in an office with all of the politics and corporate practices that this involves. I was terrible at it. I tended to speak my mind and resent the inherent bureaucracy in equal measure. I felt like a battery hen gazing out of the 12th floor window down onto a fragment of park in central London, dreaming about how to become a free-range chicken. The call got louder until it was time to retrain. I was lucky enough to have a creative training background, but for some the challenge is even more daunting because life has done a pretty good job of convincing them that they are not creative.
I see so many lovely people who are coming to terms with a growing conflict. Many times, they have been categorically diagnosed in the past as ‘not creative’. Perhaps by a disinterested teacher or well-meaning family member. They might have been encouraged to get a sensible job with a steady income – but years later the sensible job does not satisfy and that call to creativity is growing more impossible to ignore. There is a part of them that yearns for creative practice, but the logical side of their thinking is certain that this will lead to inevitable ridicule and humiliation. We all have a protective ego that prepares for the worst, but boy can it be a party pooper.
I have also seen how our feelings about creativity change as we grow up. A process that I am still going through might I add and enjoying the journey far too much to worry about the destination.
If I were to ask those primary school kids that I taught so many years ago, if they liked art and were creative most of the hands in the room would shoot up enthusiastically. The excitement was electric as they could barely contain their love of just being creative. Creativity was just playing and making stuff. It didn’t need to be strictly defined and it could involve anything from mud pies to rose petal perfume or pipe cleaners. There was no wrong way to do anything until a teacher raised an eyebrow about colouring in that ran over a line and so was deemed ‘wrong’. Over the years when asked the same question fewer hands would go up, less and less each year until reluctant teenagers would self-consciously half nod a vague interest from the safety of the corner of the room, for fear of being labeled ‘the arty one’.
So by the time life further entrenches a reliance on the logical side of the brain with all of the stresses and deadlines of modern life, our natural creativity gets further shut down.
But creativity is natural to us all, it’s a vital part of what makes us human. It refuses to be neglected and if we try, it will call to us. I believe that we need to feed our creativity to lead a satisfying life, and I can say that since I retrained as a garden designer and allowed my creativity to fly – I have never been happier. Celebrating our innate creativity balances mind, body and spirit and it is available to us all. We have all been that eager child who knew that they were creative before anyone told them that they were not.
And so, we have accepted the creativity myth.
The myth establishes the idea that only the chosen few are gifted with that elusive creativity. Mere mortals can try but are innately incapable of successful creation. The myth propagates the idea that we designers work magic. We lock ourselves away in our ivory towers to work our magic in secret, and jealously guard our process.
Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. We are all creative. Let me say that again. I ask you to read it slowly and really take it in. WE ARE ALL CREATIVE – we all have the superpower. The power was strongest when we were children and if we are brave enough to reconnect with our own inner child, we can tap into an unlimited powerhouse of fantastic creativity at any time.
Our inner child is brave and can take risks, there is no ego and so no fear of judgement or making mistakes. Our inner child loves to play and experiment with a deep curiosity. Can you remember how that felt? I describe it as the fizzy feeling in the tummy, and excitement that wells up from your heart and bedazzles with all the possibilities of what can be made. For the inner child it could be a shoe box and a handful of pipe cleaners – but anything is possible because creativity is magic. And you are a magical human. As adults it might be a mood board and images of water features, or a selection of fine art prints that inspire planting ideas, but the fizzy feeling and the magic are the same.
I love teaching creativity both here at The Cotswold Gardening School and through my Mindful Creative Me courses. We have a long track record of helping even the most creatively unsure connect to their own inner magic. It’s the best part of my job as lead tutor. Creativity is the foundation for everything else that we do here at The Cotswold Gardening School and it is hugely rewarding to see how this voyage of discovery makes such a difference for our students. Not just in the careers but also beyond. Creative confidence spills out and into every aspect of who they are.