January 7, 2012
In this monthly column, Jennifer Hicks shares ideas about living a balanced life through creativity.
I am creative. But I haven’t always been aware of it. Up until about five years ago, I would never have considered myself to be someone with even an ounce of creativity.
As a kid, I can remember being “bad” at art — or at least that’s what I was led to believe. In the choir, I was told I had a “background voice,” so shouldn’t hope to ever be encouraged as a soloist. In the Grade 8 dance performance, I was (intentionally?) hidden in the wings.
It just seemed to be such an effort to engage in anything arts-related. There was no fun, spontaneity, or exploration.
Take, for example, those many years of piano lessons. Although I successfully completed my Grade 8 Royal Conservatory Piano Examination when I was 18 years old, that achievement was strictly based on my ability to memorize the music. I was very disciplined, so would “practice” to make my musical pursuits “perfect.” I never really felt the music. It was more cerebral than that — an academic activity.
There were no creative edges whatsoever in those extra-curricular pastimes. It was all quite scripted, and as I now realize, it stifled my imagination.
Fast-forward to my early adulthood. In my early 30s, a fairly major life-event shifted my ability to live life as I had been until then. It took a serious mental health crisis to introduce me to what I now know as my creative life.
How did I discover my creativity?
Firstly, I gave myself permission to explore. I had previously been so concerned about doing things “right” that I didn’t know how to take risks. I had been conditioned to follow the roadmap, to fit in (and some cases, blend in); to not draw attention to myself.
So I needed to dissolve the rules. Once I was able to let go of the self-consciousness of breaking free of restrictions, I was able to let my true essence out to play.
It started out with taking a drawing class. The teacher wanted me to draw a bowl of fruit. I understand why that would be important, but something in me urged me to branch out and discover my way of drawing. More than the fruit, I was compelled to draw the images that lived in my mind; colourful spirals flowing from beautiful women’s heads, mythical animals, and ideas that could only be communicated through abstract images. My approach rattled my teacher at first, but soon enough she was fitting her expertise into my creations, offering me wonderful advice.
And then the music lessons. They began with the goal of learning to sing songs dedicated to my family and friends. I later recorded those songs on a CD. Soon enough, my teacher encouraged me to just “play” with the instruments. One lesson I was jamming on a guitar, and the next keeping beat on a drum. I even recorded improvisational back-up vocals for my CD, scat style, with my teacher’s encouragement.
Later I began to explore dancing in a similar fashion. There was some structure, but I was mostly being supported to move in response to my own feelings. It was refreshing to be able to tune into the sensations in my body instead of “learning steps.” Ultimately, this allowed me to discover the thrilling freedom of spontaneity.
So now, I live my life in pursuit of creativity. I allow my creative instincts to customize my surroundings and to help me live in original ways that support me being in charge of what makes me happy.
While the earlier part of my life taught me about using my intellectual strengths, now I’m also able to recruit my imagination to give me guidance. And that has launched me on a thrilling life adventure where anything is possible!