what connecting with my inner child taught me about creativity, fear and perfectionism.
I remember one trip to visit family in Ireland when I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old, I was delighted to receive a set of watercolour pencils; a pad of watercolour paper and some brushes as a gift. My creativity was awakened.
I loved to open the tin and the run my fingers over the lovely sharp pencils; take them out and rearrange them in various patterns – rainbow, favourites, and then back into a rainbow. I also loved to flick through the pad of paper, feel how the paper was both smooth and a little bumpy. And the brushes! So soft.
I can clearly remember (just once, maybe twice) filling a jam jar of water and sitting down to create my masterpiece – and then the horror settling in that I didn’t actually know how to paint.
What I had not noticed at first was that these fabulous new art supplies came with an unexpected (and most unwanted) additional gift of overthinking and perfectionism.
What if I made a mistake?
What if I made a mess?
What is I discovered I had zero talent and ended up disappointed at how useless a painter I was?
So, they sat in the drawer, unused. Now a representation of my lack of artistic ability that got pushed further and further back in the drawer and eventually given up to the next jumble sale, not as an act of generosity, but to be finally rid of the bitter reminder that the cost of creativity was too high for me.
It’s such a shame to me now, remembering that feeling of wanting to be creative – really, desperately wanting to be the child that sits and paints and creates beautiful things – but that fear of doing it and getting it wrong was crippling.
How was I ever to become someone who paints if I wasn’t going to actually do it?
Why on earth did I expect to be good at something I had not done before and why was the choice to not even try somehow more palatable than the idea of trying and getting it wrong?
My inner child still longs for those watercolour pencils and I often regret that I could not pluck up the courage to try. Because now I know that to try and to fail, and try again is the best way to learn and discover.
I’m under no illusion that I could have been some kind of child art genius, but I just know it would have brought me pleasure if I had been able to get past that initial fear, and then the disappointment that I’d only ever create shit art.
Because now that is what I do – create shit art - and it brings me great joy! It’s the process and the act of creation that counts, not the end result. When I sit down with paint, brushes and paper, hours slip by unnoticed as I drop into the flow state of creation. The same happens when I write flash fiction, poetry and even when I write my newsletters and blogs.
Being creative and doing it for play – for no other purpose than the enjoyment of it - is really all that 6-year-old version of me wanted, yet the fear of doing it wrong held me back.
And I connect with that version of me every time I feel those creeping fingers of fear coming into my creative space. Whether it’s sitting down to make shit art; developing a new service offering for clients or writing a social media/blog post – fear and its pals come and set up camp to watch and make judgy comments.
Fear will always be there, but the opportunity to create and connect may not.
When I look at that regret for not playing with my watercolour pencils (through a lens of self-compassion and without judgement) it reminds me that the cost of regret is higher than the cost of doing something scary.
Choosing in the moment to be bold, and do something scary pays off more often than not – if only we allow ourselves to trust that we have the capacity to handle whatever comes next.
Make the shit art – it may lead you to create ok art and then pretty good art. It may not.
Publish the blog post – it may connect with someone who needs to hear exactly what you have to say. It may not.
Share your new services and products – at worst you’ll learn what needs to be better/different, and imagine if in doing so you connected with the most wonderful community and customers?
The more we allow ourselves to play, to create simply for the sake of it and to allow ourselves to be a beginner, to be imperfect - the more we can connect with what really fires us up and brings us joy.
Playing, experimenting and exploring - it all stretches our comfort zone and teaches us more about what it is we are really capable of.
And it makes showing up for our business less scary too. Reframing things like social media and building community as playful, joyful acts takes the pressure off, right?
The voice of fear and doubt can be loud and pervasive – it’s coming from a part of you that feels risk taking is dangerous and best avoided. But, we are no longer our 7 year old selves too scared to pick up the paint brush. You can face the fear, take a deep steadying breath and make your mark.
3 ways to tap into your inner creative spark
ndI truly believe that to be human is to be creative, and we all have that natural drive do be creative inside of us. Creativity is not always encouraged, however, and there are so many things that get in the way a hold us back - fear, comparison and doubt being just a few. If you feel disconnected from your creativity, here are some ways to get your spark back.
Ask your inner 7 year old. Connect back to what you loved doing simply for fun as a child - where did your natural creativity lead you then? Chances are, there is still going to be a connection to those creative outlets that are going to bring you joy now. Follow and trust your curiosity.
Make shit art on purpose. Let go of the need to have all the answers and do the thing perfectly - make the mission to simply make shit art. Look for how you can find some joy in just trying, some pleasure in learning and some grace with making mistakes. Break the rules, do it wrong, make a mess. Have fun.
Check your consumption levels. The opposite of creating is consuming, and if you are stuck in patterns of over consuming - scrolling, buying, binge watching etc - then it's going to be harder for your creativity to come through. Let yourself get bored and see what comes up. Falling into patterns of consumption can also be a sign that you are burned out and in need of an energy reset - listen to your body and your intuition, what is it saying you need?
Follow your daydreams
Imagine if you were to look back in a few years time - what would you regret more?
That you spent time connecting to your day dreams and exploring your creativity, making mistakes and learning - or that you gave in to fear and didn't try?
I know which would be my bigger regret - which is why creativity and play have become regular practices to support both my wellbeing and the development of my business.
Need a little support to build and flex your creative muscles? I love to support passionate creative souls who long to be bold and show up in the world. Book a call today and let's chat