Creativity: Joy and Torment
Joy And Torment
When setting up my Cavewoman blog , I had a vague idea that it was to be centred around the theme of creativity. But what did that really mean? After a while, I tried to get to grips with where I was heading.
So many thoughts and ideas started swirling round my head, like a swarm of leaves let loose by an autumn storm. The more I tried to chase them, the more they flew from my grasp and left me feeling bewildered.
What was I going to focus on? Who was ever going to read this? And, most of all, why was I doing this, exposing myself to the criticisms I dreaded?
I remember feeling as happy as a bird set free from its’ cage when first I began writing my blog. I was Cavewoman, wasn’t I? Brave and fearless, happy to turn my face to the sun, no longer hiding out in that dark, musty cave. Ready to forge new footsteps on unbroken paths, no matter what obstacles lay ahead.
But now I felt nervous, confused and alone. The big woolly mammoth towering in front of me no longer represented a lucky meal find. Instead, it filled me with terror and I wanted to run back to the comfort zone of my cave.
“Anyone who says “I don’t have a creative bone in my body” is seriously underestimating their skeleton. More to the point, they are drastically undervaluing their brain.” David Di Salvo
Why was I feeling like this? How could something that initially caused such excitement and joy turn into a leering monster of nightmare proportions? It turns out that this isn’t such an unusual reaction after all.
We are all creative beings , it is why every day creativity is so important in our lives. It’s quite obvious that, without our creative natures, human beings would have remained an under-achieving primate in the history of life. The ability to imagine a different world, one that included fire, stone tools, clothing and other inventions, was the thing that set us apart from all other creatures.
But that certainly doesn’t explain why I got cold feet about my new project. Quite the opposite, in fact. If creativity is part of our make-up, where does the fear come in? There has to be something more involved, something primal. The answer lies in basic brain structure.
Creativity versus Fear
Creativity means stepping outside your comfort zone and becoming totally immersed in a new challenge, one that takes up a lot of time and brain power. The cavewoman who created the first paintings must have left other essential tasks, like cooking, in order to do create something new. She was using her brain in a new and exciting way, but her basic instincts would have been pulling her in a different direction. Luckily for all of us, the ancient humans overcame their fears and doubts and flourished creatively.
What are these fears and doubts? It appears that the human brain is wired for ” fight or flight” at a very basic level and feels threatened by the pull of its’ creative inclinations because they throw instability into the mix.
Wasn’t everything okay the way it was, why change things? I just want to be safe, how is this helping? Why waste energy day-dreaming, when I could be doing something useful?
It is like there is a tug of war going on between two opposing teams and neither is likely to emerge unscarred.
So, is that all there is behind creative struggles, a battle between primal instincts and human creative urges? Well, as the movie title says, ” It’s Complicated”. While everyone has creative ideas, some of us act like magnets for them. Drawn to each and every shiny new object, fascinated by their steely brightness, but overcome when they attack all at once! Is there a particular reason why some people react like this and others don’t?
Knowing full well that most people don’t struggle with life as much as I do, I decided to do some online research. I just wanted some reassurance that there were other other people like me out there, that I wasn’t just a self absorbed crybaby, looking for attention.
An article by Jeff Goins caught my attention and, crybaby or not, it provided me with the security blanket I needed at the time. A pen picture of me, written by someone I had never met.
I felt relieved and elated at the same time, like I’d just landed in the Bahamas after a scary flight. Anything was possible now. I knew who I was, where I was going and why I felt the way I did.
So, what did he say?
He talked about the main characteristics of creative people and how these affect their lives. Their imaginations are firing on all cylinders, but this can cause problems with focus. They tend to be more interested in the process of creating something, rather than the actual product. The fact that they have a different world view than most people leads to problems with following rules and conventions. If you are a creative type, I’m sure you can relate to his descriptions. Some of these characteristics are evident in my September review.
” It is hard for creatives to separate their identity from their activity” Jeff Goins, writer
He writes that those drawn to creative pursuits tend to be introspective and over sensitive, with a strong emotional attachment to their own work. This is the one that resonated the most with me and helped make sense of my own creative journey. It’s something I touched on when writing about my ” Trapped ” photograph, when I ran out of a building rather than watch my work being judged.
So, where am I today with this journey into developing my creativity?
Have I learned anything? Is the torment of self-doubt worth the joy of losing myself in dreams and imaginings? Have I got what it takes to continue following a brave cavewoman’s footsteps into the unknown?
I guess I’ve learned that I’m braver than I thought, because I’m still here writing! I realise now that self-doubt is just a side effect of the creative process and that thought helps keep me grounded. And the joy I feel every time I complete a piece of writing, or edit one of my photographs, is worth the battles with my woodpecker brain.
There have been obstacles along the way, some of which have caused me to fall flat on my face and I still carry the scars. But it is the kindness of of others, those who helped me to my feet again, that makes me determined to follow my dreams. You know who you are and thank you. I couldn’t do this without you.
Reference on brain workings David Di Salvo, writing in Psychology Today
Autumn Fairytale photograph is my own.