Monday, 11 May 2009

"but I'm not creative!"

Consumption Rebellion

I've started showing my friends my recent efforts in house decorating recently. Many of my friends have commented on how creative I've become.

Whenever I hear them say that I always feel like laughing. See in highschool, I never saw myself as "creative". In fact, when it came to the arts and home arts my grades were:

Art = 'C-' final comment by my art teacher in my highschool certificate was "Eilleen draws/paints to the best of her ability".
Cooking = "D"
Sewing = "F"

My experiences in highschool pretty much ended up with me believing that I was not creative at all. In many ways, this view stopped me from trying to live a simpler life for a long time. To me living a simpler life would mean that I would need to learn how to cook (but I can't cook!), I would need to learn how to sew (but I can't sew!) and I would need to learn how to make do with what I have (but this would mean my house would look like crap because....I'm not creative!!)

For years, I fell into the "commercial" view of what makes a beautiful home (ie buy furniture/home decor to look exactly the display room), what makes a good meal (ie a good restaurant) and buy all my clothes. Every now and then I would have "brilliant" ideas of how something could look better or taste better but I would quickly dismiss those ideas because....I'm not creative.

Believing I was not creative left me no option but to be an over-consumer.

Then one day, I stopped consuming. I made my impulsive decision not to buy anything brand new for a year. And suddenly I learned home skills...bit by bit. I still didn't believe I was creative, but now I am being forced to sew buttons back on shirts and coats. I slowly learned how to cook.

And then something strange happened, the more I did these things, the more ideas I had about how something could be altered in a different way to achieve different looks. Now that I can sew on a button, I can now sew on lots of buttons (to hide stains on my daughter's shirt):

Now that I learnt that I can add flour to a basic stew recipe to thicken it and that thickened stew can be the filling for a meat pie:

And the more I did these things, the more confident I became of what I am capable of doing. My children started to ask me to fix or make things for them. And I was now more willing to give it a go. And one day, as I finished a drawing my son had asked me to draw, I realised that little voice inside me that used to tell me that I was not creative had been silent for a long time.

And its amazing how freeing that can be. So now I try my hand at anything. Some things don't turn out well, but I learn from it. Being creative doesn't mean not making mistakes. To me, being creative is having ideas and turning those ideas into reality... and this includes working out what won't make that idea work.

For me, being creative meant having to learn some basic skills then surrounding myself with people in real life and on the internet who can show me the many ways of using those basic skills to maximum effect.

And more importantly, being creative means NOT listening to that voice telling you that your idea will never work because you're not creative.

my latest creative effort - mirror painted to achieve a stain glass look and old hallway table restored and painted for shabby chic look.

So now whenever I hear other people say "but I'm not creative!" I tell them, "Me too! but its amazing what non-creative people like us can do!"


Maggie said...

You are so right. Creativity must be nourished. It blossoms as it is fed. Execution is a different game. The technical skills for execution come with effort and instruction. I have found that instructions written for children are often a good introduction to something I am trying for the first time, while instructions for adults often assume some prior knowledge.

Regan Family Farm said...

Thank you, Eilleen! I suffer from insecurity, uncertainty, fear of commitment, and paralyzing indecision! I'm recovering from years of thinking that beauty is outward and a magazine is THE authority on what makes a home thanks to all of you women out there who love simple beauty, and the men who appreciate and encourage us!

Mare said...

I agree with you whole heartedly. I think one of the absolute worst things you can do to a child is label them negatively. It stays with them/us for so long...I was told i could not sing well as a child(imagine that! A sweet little child voice) but that never stopped me from singing thank goodness! Now i sing all the time, just because i am happy.

NMPatricia said...

I got that too - from teachers and my parents. Not a lick of talent or creativity. What began to free me up were my kids. I made stuff for them when they were small knowing it wouldn't last or they would grow out of it! I went under ground for awhile with work and teenagers. After I turned 50, things changed again. I stopped caring what other people liked (except I am having problems with sewing my clothes, but I am working on that...). However, I still have to guard against comparing myself to TV, magazines, Internet, you name the outside influence. I even get uncomfortable at church!

Kate in NJ said...

Great post! I think you are very creative, and I am glad you share it with us.

Sharon said...

Great article and so true! My "I'm not creative" attitude has held me back for a long time. I've recently quit letting myself say that and am taking baby steps also to learn new things and ways to beautify my life.

Anonymous said...

You just did strike a chord with me... thank you for sharing your thoughts!

Bec said...

Having seen your journey to creativity has been amazing and inspiring. It is truely amazing what can happen when instead of following trends and the so called social norm we follow our hearts and our dreams.

mountainwildlife said...

Thank you so much for this article - I am actualy in tears! I am almost 40 and have also just realised I can do things - I CAN cook! I CAN make things! It takes something to shake those old beliefs, for me it took motherhood and staying home to have the courage to try home-making skills instead of relying on consumerism. I recently overheard my friend telling another that I was a great cook, I was shocked! Could it really be true?!!
Thanks for the article :-)

cathy c said...

I totally relate to you and the comments! I got a F in sewing/home etc. and now I think I am pretty good. I just let go and some stuff works and some doesn't. I give myself credit for TRYING. That was a big step... Thanks for a great post!

cathy c

Ali said...

love your post - I totally agree with all you said.

Karen said...

Believing I was not creative left me no option but to be an over-consumer.

This leapt out at me. It seems to be to be absolutely key to US and UK learned helplessness (only countries I've ever lived in, so I can't speak for others).

Time was, these things were not considered to be particularly "creative" - you did them because you had to, they were just normal. You didn't sing around the piano at home or the pub because you were particularly musical - you did them because it was a fun form of entertainment.

I'm not going to say that the recording industry is EVIL - I adore having mp3s of favourites to listen to any time (oh, the divine Ella Fitzgerald!), but I grew up in a singing family, and have always found my peers' attitude that the only way to enjoy music is to consume it as a commodity really weird.

On the flip side, people were just as cowed when it came to education, career aspirations, etc., on the grounds of class and gender and ethnicity as they are now.

The problem isn't that things are worse now, but that the range of activities we mentally restrict to Professionals/People More Competent Than Us has broadened considerably as a natural side-effect of a consumer culture.

And it is soul-destroying. I'm another almost-40-year old who is discovering that life is only just beginning as I find (to my amazement) that I am more competent than I believed. mountainwildlife, you are not alone!