“The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.” ~ Brené Brown
As I sit here, I am about to write for the first time in over 10 years and it is making me deeply nervous.
Writing, dancing, singing, and painting—really, being creative—haven’t been a part of my everyday life. I had developed an inner resistance against anything creative or vulnerable and I didn’t even realize how a lack of creativity can influence one’s life in such a negative way.
When I was younger, I used to write poems and little notes in an attempt to express those rebellious teenage feelings. I loved it. I was proud of my writing, even though I never shared it with anyone. It was just for me—a way to keep myself sane in the haze of hormones and the fear that I might not be good enough the way I am.
But right on the edge of adulthood, I threw away my journals.
Suddenly, I felt the need to disconnect from all the emotions I had felt as a teenager: fear, abandonment, anger, loneliness. I started to act as if all these feelings didn’t belong to me—like a piece of unappetizing food that you’d just spit out. I wasn’t fully aware of this at the time, but I wanted so badly to become a different person. My teenage-self would have done just about anything to belong to a group, and writing, or any other form of creativity, certainly wasn’t one of the options at the time.
What I didn’t realize then was that disconnecting from hurt wasn’t the best way to do this.
As a young adult, I started to become more and more anxious to the point of experiencing frequent panic attacks. As we often do in situations that wear on us, I tried desperately to find a way out of this suffering. I stumbled upon one simple word, again and again: creativity.
Although I tried my hardest to ignore it, I felt a pull within me. But there were emotions that I had denied for so long that I couldn’t face them, even if I wanted to—or at least that’s what I told myself. In the end, it took me years to realize the obvious message my life was trying to tell me: “Get back out there, girl! Show them what you’ve got. Dance, write, paint, create!”
Not knowing what to expect, I signed up for the Elephant Academy Audit Program. I was drawn to the program because of topics like journalism ethics and social media, but the one topic that fell to the back of my mind ended up being the one that made me feel most vulnerable, most anxious, and most passionate: writing.
What I learned was that starting a creative process can lead us to a more relaxed life, a flow. Expressing our emotions in a safe space can release a strength that we didn’t know we had, therefore easing our suffering.
For the first time since forever, I stopped denying my creative potential and instead worked on unlocking it. As a result, I was able to work through difficult emotions and reduce my anxiety. I finally understood how denying my own creative potential, my fear of judgement from others, had caused me to live an emotionally unbalanced, fearful life.
The formula for creativity is simple, yet oftentimes it makes our hands shake, our voices tremble, and our ground tilt. But why is that?
We avoid being judged out of fear. We want to disconnect from negative emotions. But when we do this, what we’re actually doing is breaking up with the beautifully vulnerable emotions we need in order to be creative and healthy.
Yes, as I am writing these lines, my hands are still shaking—but that doesn’t scare me away anymore. I may have denied it in the past, but being creative, writing my heart out, is one of my passions and I’m going to reconnect to that precious, vulnerable, hurting part of myself. And so can you.
Looking back at my story, I can say one thing for sure: Denying our creativity isn’t going to lead us to a healthy, balanced life. Just waiting for creativity to happen doesn’t do that either—we need to go for it, full force.
In these past few months, I’ve come to understand the difference between being open to creativity and actively working toward creative goals. And let me tell you, the work makes all the difference.
Creativity gives us the opportunity to lean into our vulnerability and turn it into a beautiful piece of art. So let’s make it happen.
Author: Svenja Dietz
Image: Núria/ Flickr
Editor: Nicole Cameron