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When imagination returns

Jun 15, 2022 | Random Vibes, Small Biz Resources

First off – a disclaimer. Yes, I know… wow Gub, a disclaimer already?! Yup, and knowing me – there could be a few…

I am not self doubting in the least.

I approach most things thinking ‘of course I can do this!’ But well, no surprise, but often (very often) I can’t. And it’s not from lack of confidence…

Why is this relevant? Well, I am about to fill you in on how I viewed my creative abilities, and I’d hate for you to think a little confidence would’ve done the trick. Because, in actuality, it was a lot of a lot of things that eventually did the trick. Some I can put my finger on, and some that are a tad tricky to explain. But I will do my best. Not because I have a particularly unique experience or some foolproof approach, but because through these experiences I have found such joy – and if one other person can find the same or reads this and thinks – ME TOO! Then, well, I’d be pretty chuffed! 

Like I said, no foolproof approach here, more of a haphazard ‘stumbling into’ than a mapped out path. Aren’t the best things always?!

The stumbling began at around 15, I was wholly unsure of myself… what I liked and disliked, what drained or what made me happy. Oh, and I had no idea of my style or taste. Not that my aesthetic is anything to write home about, that’s Laurie’s department, but you know, it’s mine and I guess that in itself should be worth writing home about.

So, there she is – just a young nugget with really, very little idea of who she is – standing, overwhelmed and downright terrified in the entrance of the boarding school that would be home for the next few years. She was terrified because it’s a rather daunting entrance hall, and although anyone might be in the same position, she hadn’t really been to school before, let alone a boarding school. 

Strange, isn’t it, that my first real school debut was at 15? But I’ll tell you more about that another time. 

That overwhelmed little girl learnt to love school (well the people there, more than the school itself) but it took time, and in that time she become too accustomed to the feeling of fear and being overwhelmed that she started running  – from a lot, but mainly feelings – and even when she was no longer overwhelmed or out of her depth, she was so used to running, she didn’t really know how to stop.

No big childhood trauma, toxic upbringing or anything like that – just a frightened child who learnt that it felt easier to run than to stand and face too much of her life. The reason I am telling you all this is that in running I didn’t just run from angst or anxiety or fear, but also from myself. That is how it works isn’t it? You don’t get to pick and choose. Maybe (not to sound cheesy) because feelings make us who we are more than much else and in numbing how one feels, one dulls oneself.

I lost touch with myself.

Like I said – this isn’t a sob story in the least, which is basically the whole point of my sharing it with you. It’s simply to show that something rather small, something I’d never have expected, was the root of my seemingly non-existent creativity.

How, you ask? I think both Tess Guinery and Sylvia Plath hit the nail on the head. Let’s start with our girl, Tess.

When imagination returns, it means we are back in our body.

Tess Guinery

Back in our body – interesting phrase for two reasons. Firstly, it implies we can leave our body. Secondly, that we can come back to ourselves. I can speculate how I left my body – I ran fast enough to fool myself I lived in a constant state of being ‘okay’. To protect the little girl, unsure of how to handle such change, I stopped feeling both the good and the bad. Feelings that have the ability to place us so firmly in ourselves that we just about feel our emotions in a caught breath, a twisted stomach, or a heart fluttering with peaked excitement. When I look back – it’s easy to see how I would not have known my imagination all those years. When I existed outside of myself, I never allowed myself to be swept up in enough of life to birth creativity.

And I remained like that for years. 

I was living a pretty wholesome, fun life surrounded by people who really loved me (they still do, but these days, I do too) – until around 5 years ago.


(I’m about to tell you about something that may lead you to say, “but Gub, you said this wasn’t a sob story”… but trust me, it’s not.)

We all have hard things, we all learn to do hard things well, that’s just life. When you learn this while loved, cared for, and safe, you just don’t get to play the ‘hard done by’ card.

As I was saying, 5 years ago I got sick, and was handed a cocktail of autoimmunity, a syndrome, a blood disease, and a few other complications sprinkled in for fun. Towards the end of those years, I had to feel, to stop running, and face life head on. Fun times, fam. You know what it feels like to have a decade of emotion hit you in the course of a few months? Well it’s not pretty, it’s many things, sure… but pretty is not one of them.

I didn’t have this massive realization or an earth stopping growth in maturity that catapulted me into dealing honestly with myself. I’d love to say I did, but I didn’t. And that’s why I am telling you about it – perhaps you can waste less time than I and get on with your own honesty without needing quite as many weeks in a clinic and far too much time alone. 

But that is what got me there in many ways: time alone.  I had no one but myself and a few books for weeks on end. My wonderful Aunt had given me The Artist’s Way which somehow instigated the journey of coming back into my body as I learnt to experience emotion again. It opened up a world I never thought I would be privileged enough to be a part of. And just like that, having grappled with disappointments, hurts, and heads of anger at being sick, creativity began to seep into my thoughts.

I found myself buying paints, having no idea what to do with them. I had to scrub the charcoal from my fingers after hours of sketching. My thoughts at night shifted from to-do lists to colour palettes, storytelling, and re-decorating. My imagination, something I had long lost, had rejoined me. It was comforting, almost like the return of a missed friend, but it was also thrilling to know there was a world of beauty and creation I had yet to know.

Upon leaving the clinic that had begun a lot of learning to stand-and-face rather than to run-and-run, I went straight to design college. 

I think it’s important to note that creativity and imagination does not belong to ‘them’ (those that have preceived ‘natural ability’)

I think that’s also important to note that creativity and imagination (and all that goes along with it) belonged in my mind to ‘them’ (those that somehow had this natural ability, this God given gifting). When in fact, (although the Greats, I am sure have a lot more of that natural and gifted talent than many of us), those qualities are as much learnt skills, felt emotions, and understanding of self as anything else. And, in what is just marvelous news for those of us weren’t born holding a paintbrush or carving a marble statue, we have a damn good chance at entering the playing field with just a few tweaks!

We have gone an a rather arduous journey here, down many roads, albeit some were probably more necessary than others – but you know what it’s like when trying to sum up your own lived experiences – it’s hard! So, I will try not to lead you down any more roads that may be of little help. And what better way to do this than with a list – they really do help cut out the little needed kak, don’t they?

Yes, I know – lists aren’t all that creative – but the analytical, math-loving, problem solving, Gub is just as much alive as the creative, colourful and inspired Gub. Isn’t it simply wonderful to access both of those, to live towards fullness of our own possibility? We’ll have none of that, ‘I am not creative’ or left v right side brain sh*t. Remember that everyone is capable of imagination and creativity. Back yourself (cause I do) and leave no room for second guessing or criticism. But don’t just take my word for it, Sylvia Plath knew what she was talking about when she said, ‘Self doubt is the enemy of creativity’.

Self doubt is the enemy of creativity.

Sylvia Plath

So, that list? Here you go, add or subtract what you will. This is by no means a ‘one size fits all’, but perhaps it’s a good start and somewhere in the ballpark of helpful.

Don’t run, stand and face (and if you can’t do that alone, therapy does be pretty damn helpful. I promise;)

Feel those feels, remind yourself it’s okay to not be okay. We gots to get in touch with ourselves…and come back into our bodies (strange saying but you get me, right?)

I don’t really know how to phrase this without being weird but I will give it my best shot… Check in with your inner child. (Nah, that still sounded weird.) What I’m trying to say is, get in touch with your deep, vulnerable self and figure out why you started to shut out or shut down certain parts of your imagination or creativity. Maybe it was a mean kid on the playground or a disinterested parent who couldn’t be bothered to praise the crayon stick-man drawing you worked so hard on. 

Now that you know who that inner child is (yup, still weird to say)… begin undoing some of the untruths, speaking gently, and reassuring yourself that you are capable of creating and what you create is worth celebrating. 

Create space in your life. Slow down, spend enough time alone to get to know yourself. Just like you would spend time with a friend in order to know them, do the same to know yourself! Go to coffee, take a long walk, put your thoughts onto paper, lie in the bath – anything! Just take your foot off the gas and make the time to meet all the parts of yourself you didn’t know were there!

Get inspired! It’s pretty simple. Fill up! Find beautiful things, listen to the music you love, read a wonderfully written book, scroll through pinterest, or even sit on the lawn and watch the clouds change shape. There’s so much around us to delight and inspire, don’t waste what’s waiting right on our doorstep –  the more we look up and appreciate what’s right in front of us, the easier it becomes to live inspired! Doesn’t that just sound marvelous? Living inspired? Having creativity tumble out of us, spilling over?

Be brave. Have the courage to start. Anything, it doesn’t matter whether you’re picking up a crayon or a loom, a stick of charcoal or face paint, a leotard or a piece of clay. It doesn’t matter what it is you are doing, if you are brave enough to start, brave enough to try something you aren’t good at, brave enough to express yourself in what you are doing. I promise that something good will come of it. 

Stop criticizing yourself. This is not an ‘if it happens’… it’s a ‘when it happens’. We live in such a critical culture and we’ve learnt to internalize that criticism too. But just stop it. It’s neither helpful nor honest. When you’ve created something, drawing on your own (real and felt) feelings, understanding yourself – it cannot be wrong. Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve had courage, you’ve been brave, so celebrate the damn creation!!!

Have fun, explore, learn from others, expand your skills. And voila! Now that you are learning to get back to body, you can find real joy in creating! Well, I did. 😉

NINE simple steps. JK LOL. They may sound simple enough but they are actually kak hard. Isn’t raw honesty always? So take baby steps and don’t be discouraged when change doesn’t happen overnight (if it did it, it wouldn’t be real or authentic). That’s what we are after –  real and authentic.

Keep us in the loop, we want to hear about what you’re creating. We want to see what you have been up to. And if you have any tips for us, swing them this way – we think we’ll be adding points to the list for many years to come. We’re just scratching the surface here!