Healing with Creativity can be done in many different ways and we will explore a lot of them through different classes and workshops. Here are some key points
Creativity enhances self-knowledge and self-expression.
When we’re creating, we are making decisions about what we like. What colors appeal to us? Which shapes we are drawn to? What textures do we enjoy? What words do we prefer? You may think you don’t have any opinions on these questions, but you do! To create is to make choices; to make choices necessitates paying attention to our inner selves as we assess which elements do and do not please us.
Not only are we tuning in to ourselves when we create, but we also are expressing ourselves by making an external representation of our internal world.
Self-knowledge and self-expression are particularly important for people living with chronic illness. Chronic illness changes our identity: The person we become living with an illness is different from the person we were before getting sick. It’s easy to feel lost, wondering who we are and how to define ourselves in a world that doesn’t seem to make a lot of space for illness and disability. Creativity is a way of defining and expressing identity and can be a way to solidify and expand our self-perception.
Creativity connects us to others.
Those of us who live with an illness or are alone often experiencing physical and emotional isolation. Connection through creativity can overcome that isolation. When we share with others, we are showing them ourselves. They may share with us how our creative endeavour makes them feel; they may inquire about how we became inspired to create our work. A dialogue is opened.
Additionally, those of us who get hooked on creating inevitably are drawn to the creations of others. We find ourselves seeking out and being curious about other people’s creativity. We can even engage in online forums and Facebook pages devoted to discussion about creating.
Creativity takes us outside of the limits of our bodies.
Creating changes and expands our minds, teaching us to be alert to the infinite details of the world around us. When we feel ill, it’s often difficult to be mindful of anything but our pain-ridden bodies. Creating turns our attention outward. People creating often describe a feeling of being in a pleasurable “flow” in which they lose track of time, worries, and bodily aches. When we have the experience of tapping into this flow, we gain access to a creative part of our mind that continues to delight us even when we are not actively creating. We notice color and form in nature, in architecture and design, in the infinite details of the world. We can take pleasure in the delicate leaves of a houseplant sitting in our living room; we can enjoy the way that fruit looks arranged on our plates. Our lives are broadened in ways that our bodies can’t limit.
Creativity can help us attune to process rather than product.
When we create, we often have an idea in our head of what it will look like. I’ve come to learn that what we create on paper will look very different from that Idealized image. My skill level varies depends on the medium, and I make mistakes (that I learn from). But there’s always something to like. I can see my work getting better with practice; many mistakes are happy accidents that teach me something new and unexpected. There is pleasure in imperfection, in working in the present moment with all of its limitations.
This pleasure in the process can affect how we see ourselves. There are days that we hurt, days that we don’t look our best, days that feel dark. They are just pieces of our ever-evolving journey. We are always learning, growing, surprised by life. We are dynamic, not static — ourselves a work in progress.
Start small and have fun.
If we provide children with paper and crayons, they grab the crayons and color on the paper. They don’t say, “I’m not artistic,” or “I wouldn’t know how to begin,” or “This is boring.” They say, “Yay! Art!” For children, art is playing. Remember what it was like to play? You didn’t second-guess yourself or worry about not being good enough. You didn’t give yourself a grade or chastise yourself for your performance. You just had fun.
So grab a crayon or a paintbrush or a pencil or the camera on your phone. Draw a picture, take a picture, look at a picture, even just notice how blue the sky is. And if you prefer art in other forms (music, theater, dance, etc.), go for it! I hope that the practice of creativity, in whichever way you choose to engage with it, benefits you, and brings you joy.
We will continue to explore more ways of healing with creativity in the weeks to come.
Have an Amazingly Creative Day,