Stoke your Creative Fire
Updated: Jun 20
"Creativity is intelligence having fun."
-- Albert Einstein
Creativity: The use of imagination or original ideas to create something new.
We all have a creative fire inside us.
Creativity is magic. When we create, we take our knowledge and experience, our hopes and dreams and create beautiful unique things.
Many will say that they are not a creative person because they are not an artist, but everyone has the capacity to create.
Part of the issue is that we may have learned to associate creativity with the arts.
In fact, all aspects of life call for some degree of creativity. Art, music, writing, food, crafts, clothes, furniture, engineering, home making, gardening, finance, ideas and problem solving, expression of emotions; all of these can equally be defined as creative in nature.
We do not have to be experts in a craft to hone and benefit from our own creative skill. Its value is not lessened by our not being a master. In fact, much of the healing lies in the journey. Finding joy in our creativity is what is important, and it is in that joy that we gain the many associated health benefits. In finding what activities best suit our creative nature, we walk the path towards finding ourselves.
Mental and physical benefits have long been demonstrated and art and music therapies are recognised disciplines within healthcare. Stuckey et al reviewed the relationship between creative arts and health outcomes and found clear indications of the significantly positive effects on health. Jenson showed that Art therapy reduces physical symptoms and improves mental health and wellbeing.
A very recent study looked at the effect of a ‘creative green prescription’ and showed that arts and nature-based activities, have synergistic benefits that have the potential to make a significant impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of adult mental health service users.
In 1990 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the phrase ‘Flow State.’ He also calls this hyper-focus. We have all experienced being in the zone. True concentration, a merging of action and awareness, loss of self-consciousness, an altered perception of time.
Does that description remind you of anything?
This description of flow state is very similar to the trance of hypnosis which can also be thought of as the deep relaxation that occurs when we meditate. Creativity is therefore a form of meditation; true focus on one thing for the purpose of emptying our mind of worry and rumination.
Again, you may well recognise in this that creativity fosters mindfulness. Our whole focus on what we are doing in the present moment.
Creating something also gives a sense of purpose.
Creation allows self-expression and can help us to process events – the best example of this being journaling which in truth is personalised storytelling.
In their book ‘Ikigai’ Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles describe a formula for choosing vocation.
It must be:
Something you are good at
Something you can be paid for
Something that you love
And something the world needs
Although we are not discussing choice of vocation here, we think that these principles can go a long way towards stoking creative fire.
As we said, you do not have to be good at something to benefit from doing it, but a certain aptitude can increase the joy of creating something that you are ultimately satisfied with.
If you can be paid for your work, all the better. As long as earning money does not become the focus of your crafting, selling your work may improve your self-worth and motivate your create Self further.
Most importantly, if you love the process then your motivation to take time, and sit mindfully with the activity, will increase and you will undertake do more to nourish your spirit.
If you are doing activities that are appreciated by others, such as tending a beautiful garden, making music for tired shoppers or knitting cardigans for babies or hats for asylum seekers, again your motivation increases as does your sense of being part of something bigger. This directs your energy towards helping others, which has ‘feel good’ value of its own.
All of these things we know improve our mental wellbeing. Creativity is in fact a super tool of self-care.
Why is it then that we do not embrace this fabulous self-help tool?
Even when we are prepared to accept that we are creative, life, work and our other responsibilities often dampen our creative fire. We find we do not have time. We see creativity as a luxury and as such it takes a back seat as other, more pressing activities are prioritised over it.
How many half finished projects are lying in your cupboards waiting for your attention?
What stops you from getting them out?
We do not need to finish a creative project to reap the rewards it has to offer us. The benefits of creativity lie in the doing and not in the end result.
What about the project creates the barrier to getting on with it?
Where does the resistance come in?
Are we afraid that it will be marvellous? Perhaps our talent will horrify us by challenging all those comfortable negative core beliefs about our self-worth? What if we got above ourselves? It might be a long way to fall. Isn’t it safer to leave it undone? What if taking time for frivolity lead to a neglect of our duty? What if people thought that we had too much time on our hands for pleasure and not enough work was being done?
Despite our best efforts, our creative fire never actually goes out and all we really need to do is a little stoking and fanning of the flames. We need to challenge everything that rises up within us to obstruct our creative path.
‘How to Rise – A Complete Resilience Manual’ from Sheldon Press takes you on a journey of self-discovery; it shares over 60 tools and techniques, including meditations with purpose, visualisation exercises and practical tools to help improve your mental wellbeing, reduce anxiety and allow you to take control of your life
We all fall down, with over 60 skills, tools and techniques this book will help you rise.
Stuckey HL, Nobel J. The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. Am J Public Health. 2010;100(2):254-263. Jensen A, Bonde LO. The use of arts interventions for mental health and wellbeing in health settings. Perspect Public Health. 2018 Jul;138(4):209-214. Thomson LJ, Morse N, Elsden E, Chatterjee HJ. Art, nature and mental health: assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a 'creative green prescription' museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking and collections. Perspect Public Health. 2020 Sep;140(5):277-285.  Mihaly Csikszentmihályi (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row