Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fostering Creativity, Part One: Being Gentle With Our Creative Selves...

After posting about being at the mid-way point of my 365 {photo a day} project. I 1) received so much support and encouragement that I am so grateful for. So thank you. But, 2) I also received a lot of comments complimenting my ability to change course, be lax in certain areas, and choose not to share my work on certain days. Many of you were relieved and felt that you now could lighten up on your own expectations. It brought up some interesting points and topics of discussion of things I feel very strongly about with regards to personal creativity and I wanted to devote some time to sharing my views.

So often, we start out enjoying our creative time. But somewhere along the way, past the point of excitedly dipping our feet in new waters and before we get to where we feel truly confident in our talents, we begin treating our creative selves somewhat harshly: we expect a lot, we are highly critical, we often and easily get angry and/or frustrated. If we view our creative spirits in the same way we view the creative spirits of children, how would we feel about our the ways in which we are attempting to foster creative growth?  With children, we nurture creativity: we praise efforts, we encourage growth, we withhold criticism, we don't  judge their artwork by the standards of others, and we celebrate growth and improvement. Because of these gentle, positive messages, we allow children to feel that they are safe to learn, safe to experiment, safe to try new things, and safe to be themselves within their creativity. We teach them that if they keep working on something, that they will improve. And we let them know that their creations, the manifestations of their inner selves, are beautiful.

What might our creative potential be if we were to be as nurturing to our own creative spirits as we are to those of children? What if we praise our efforts, no matter how small or misguided? What if we stopped criticizing our own work harshly? What if we infused our creative process with gentle positive messages? If we apply the same theory of thought concerning the creative souls of children, then this gentle approach would allow us to grow creatively, to feel safe to learn and try new things, and to feel confident about being ourselves.

A common misconception is that in order to improve at our skills, we need to push ourselves. We believe that criticism {even the harsh criticism that we give ourselves} is helping us to get better. However, studies have shown that children respond far better to positive reinforcement than negative and our creative spirits {being childlike in nature} respond the same way. There are a number of ways to improve at a skill that don't involve harsh criticism: research, tutoring, focused practice. These methods can be very powerful if we're coupling them with feelings of encouragement and safety. Our creative souls need to feel that their steps of learning, their experiments, their attempts at greatness will not be belittled.

Creating should, first and foremost, be something that we do for ourselves. Both the process and the end result should only be shared if we feel inclined to do so. We need to take away our self imposed measures of success and simply ask ourselves if we enjoy doing what we are doing. And if the answer is yes, than we have definitely succeeded. By definition, creating is a process. Part of that process is learning. We need to incorporate that aspect into the positive feeling we have surrounding the other aspects of creating and enjoy it as such.

We need to be encouraging and supporting and rallying on our efforts, however small or elementary. We need to be our biggest fans, not our worst critics. Every single creative venture is an opportunity to learn and, more importantly, an opportunity to have fun. Children color and create because they enjoy it. Before we were trying to be the best or stay on top of our skills or carve a name for ourselves in the creative world, we enjoyed creating too. So if we can get back to that place of just wanting to create for ourselves, for the way we need it to complete us, and the feeling it brings, while leaving aside any negative aspirations, our creations can come from a place of deeper authenticity. This, coupled with our nurturing and positive reinforcements, has the power to skyrocket our creative potentials.

**{I'm thinking next week} I will discuss how to tap into your personal creative flow and use it to further your creative potential. **


Jenny March 2, 2010 at 1:35 PM  

I love this. What you have said is so perfect, and really touched a cord within me. I am kind of at that point where I've stuck my feet in the waters, and now am setting into a personal 'style' for photography, and getting down really what I like and want to do...but I'm being so hard on myself. I feel like I'm not doing anything the *exact* way I want. And I should remember to nurture the creativity instead of squash it! --- you are so right. I love this series and can't wait to here more from you!
{love the blog}!
Jenny {roseymama on flickr}

MainePoiriers March 2, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

Your words are so true! I am SO hard on myself with my photography. I actually downloaded 3 photos of my son onto Flickr then deleted them before finally leaving one up for you all to see of my son as if a photo of my little boy wouldn't have been "Flickr-worthy". I need to give my self a break and LOVE my work. Thank you!

Erika March 2, 2010 at 2:25 PM  

Agree! I feel like I'm still finding my photography style. And when I flip through tons of amazing photos, I sort of feel lost. I start pushing myself to find Me faster. But I love the idea of being gentle. Thanks for putting it into words.

Kim Klassen March 2, 2010 at 3:01 PM  

BRAVO.... perfectly said...

and i agree 100%

have i told you, that i just adore you? :)

xxo, kim

Debra March 2, 2010 at 4:32 PM  


Congrats on being featured in "Artful Blogging" magazine ~ loved your article.


red or gray art March 2, 2010 at 6:24 PM  

hello I am here for the first time...your images are amazing!
two thoughts if I may:

the statement "Creating should, first and foremost, be something that we do for ourselves." is so liberating if you take hold of it...
secondly I teach music and movement to preschool age children and if we could be half as comfortable as they are the art would soar!!

I usually say very little on my blogs so you got the long version!

janine March 2, 2010 at 6:31 PM  

This post is such an encouragement. It's so true, when I think of the encouragement and praise I give my son for another page with a scribbled plane on it and compare that with the harsh criticism of my own photography or scrapbook layouts I'm a tad embarrassed. This week I promise to encourage myself and share anything I am proud of on my blog :)

Johnna Riddell March 2, 2010 at 7:34 PM  

O, Maegan...

thank you

that falls so short of what I am feeling inside right now, but it's all I know to say.
This was uplifting, enlightening and beautifully written... I cannot wait till tomorrow to read more !!!

I love that you likened creativity to children. It's so true, a lovely comparison.

I loved this! Thanks Again.

Corinne March 2, 2010 at 7:56 PM  

I want to shout a big AMEN to everything you just wrote :) Especially this:
"Creating should, first and foremost, be something that we do for ourselves."

Thank you.

Jamie March 2, 2010 at 8:49 PM  

Gorgeous post! I wish I could remember this more often I think if I did I would spend more time being creative.

Kristi March 3, 2010 at 12:36 PM  

Maegan...I really needed this. I have been struggling with many things lately and you named quite a few of them. I have felt really uninspired and haven't even wanted to pick up the camera for anything. To me that's really sad. I have also been absent for a while from flickr due to these things I'm struggling with. So, dear friend....thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me remember things that I managed to forget. This is my favorite part of your post..."So if we can get back to that place of just wanting to create for ourselves, for the way we need it to complete us, and the feeling it brings, while leaving aside any negative aspirations, our creations can come from a place of deeper authenticity." xoxo, Kristi

Maria March 4, 2010 at 1:30 AM  

I can completely relate to what you 're saying, this is such a thoughtful, well written post!

Jill March 4, 2010 at 4:50 PM  

So true! I think that applies to mothering too, which really is also a creative pursuit. Sometimes it's hardest to support our own fragile selves.

Laurie March 7, 2010 at 3:54 PM  

This is exactly what I need to read! I've been struggling with my 365 project in the way that I give myself so much pressure to perform.. and perform well all the time! I realized one night driving home that I don't give myself the same encouragement and courtesy I would a friend, child or any one else looking for inspiration or advice, I need to treat myself as I would treat someone else. It was huge.. and reading what you wrote solidified that for me..

looking forward to your next installment :-)

gkgirl June 12, 2010 at 8:12 PM  


i am blown away by this
tonight as i have just finished
writing about a very similar
issue i have been having.

then i read this
and it felt like an answer
to the plea i had just posted about.

that's amazing and ironic and
the universe answering in such a way that it kind of stuns me a little.

but i thank you for writing this
and for the twisted turns of
page clicking and blog visiting that led me to you quite by surprise, but i am very excited to read on with both your blog and your creativity challenge.


Carol July 30, 2010 at 7:55 PM  

I am so good at being gentle with others & reminding them to be gentle with themselves ~ How I NEED to remind myself ~ thanks so much for the "gentle" reminder!,
hugs & namaste, Carol