Musings on Creativity

Sustaining Creativity

I’ve been musing on creativity over the last couple of days. As I said on Friday, I have been at the National Folk Festival over the weekend. Whether you are into folk music or not, watching such talented musicians on stage, you can only be impressed by their skill whether it be guitar, fiddle or tin whistle! I swear I did not know the tin whistle could sound so good until I heard Theresa from The Outside Track play it yesterday! These guys – well, four girls and one guy, are so creative with their use of their instruments. Ailie’s harp playing was like nothing I had seen before too. It seemed like she was not only providing some of the melody with her higher notes but also providing the bass notes like a bass guitar! Mairi was a winner for our family too because she is not only an awesome fiddle player but an Irish dancer too! I’m going to have to get my hands on their new album which is out in a few days!

Being at the Folk Festival left both my husband and me wishing we had stuck with playing music. I played violin for about 10 years from the age of seven but it slipped away with the pressures of study. I did continue with voice for a number of years – singing in choirs and musicals but that too came to an end when life got busy with study, work and travel. Somehow it always took a back seat after that – moving cities, having babies – life!

I wonder how other people sustain their involvement in it – or any other interest or pursuit. And I think a lot of it probably comes down to surrounding yourself with like-minded people. As far as music was concerned, I played in orchestras and sang in choirs but didn’t make deep connections with the other people involved. Playing music wasn’t something I did with the important people in my life (after leaving home – home was always filled with music playing!)

It seems to me that the people who stick with playing music are the often ones who become part of a community of people who play music.

Our communities can be so much more extended these days too with so many opportunities to connect to people online too. Another act we saw yesterday, Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton are still collaborating, even though they live nine hours apart. From what they said, it sounds like they were able to prepare for the folk festival and their new album via a lot of online collaboration. I picture them having a jam over Skype!

Thinking about the handmade community, there are so many wonderful and active groups in which to connect to other people – on and offline. For me, my weekly Print Club at Megalo is not just an opportunity to print but also a lovely environment for being encouraged and to encourage others, to be inspired and to learn from others. And the inspiration and encouragement available online is endless.

Creativity and Wellbeing

It is only in relatively recent years that I have realised the importance of creativity to my wellbeing. I have always had my sewing machine close at hand if only because it is so useful to be able to take up a pair of pants (let’s face it, I am less than the average when it comes to height!) but there have been times – extended times – when I have not been able to find the time to be creative (or have not made it a priority). Looking back over those times, I also see they are times when I have felt stressed and frustrated. Unfulfilled. Depressed even. There is a very large hole in my life when I am not creating in some way. I now realise that there are two things, other than the loving and supportive relationships in my life, that I need to maintain my emotional equilibrium – exercise and creativity. I am learning that it is important for me to make these things a priority in my life.

And I don’t think I am alone. I haven’t done a literature review on the topic but, from the reading I have done and from talking to others, I know there is scientific support out there for my theory that creativity (in whatever form it takes) is important for wellbeing and good mental health.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a psychologist who works in the field of happiness and he talks about the concept of ‘flow’. Flow is a state of being so involved in what you are doing that you don’t notice time passing, when nothing else matters. His thesis is that people are happiest in the state of flow and that a state of flow is reached only when there is an appropriate intersection of skill and challenge. I am so fortunate that “flow” is what I often experience when I am working on a creative project so perhaps that is why creativity is so important to my mental health.

I’m yet to experience a state of flow on a run. Maybe that will happen one day. But I know there are other chemical things going on that make exercise good for my mental wellbeing!

What about you? What do you do that brings about a state of flow? Is being creative in some way important to your mental wellbeing? Tell me about the creativity in your life.

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6 thoughts on “Musings on Creativity

  1. Robyn Thurecht says:

    You’re absolutely right about creativity and well being Rebecca. Years ago, as a frustrated creative writer, I put together a course on how to write, using techniques to get you into your right brain. I did a lot of research and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was one of my favourite authors who ‘got it’. I, like you, need to be creative or I get frustrated, cranky and yes, depressed. I notice with my kids, especially my 8 yr old, when he is cranky and I ask him if he’s been creative today. Often he’ll grouch at me but then he’ll go away and draw something, or write something, and it’ll be smiles again. Life without creativity – whether it is sewing, painting, drawing, cooking, gardening, anything that brings you into that state of flow (yes, even running I hear!) is worthwhile making an every day priority. Loving your blog by the way 🙂

    • admin says:

      Thanks Robyn. Delighted that you are enjoying the blog! I have to admit I have not really thought about the children’s creativity in terms of how it affects their mood but, of course, it is the same for them!

  2. Amanda says:

    Yes, making music has always been the one for me. Just the presence of a piano in the house always draws me to it, even though I only dabble. There is something wonderful about being able to sit down and lose yourself in playing music for a while, however badly! It’s always a mood changer. A number of changes in my life, not least of all having children, left me music-less for a while. The joy of getting back into playing and joining an orchestra again has given me the opportunity to claim a small part of my life back – something that I am doing just for me. The sense of well-being I think not only comes from the pride in what am able to create, but also claiming back a little time for myself.

    As adults, we are not just allowed to follow our whims anymore. It is a wonderful thing to watch children at play – creativity is the nature of the game, all day long. It is probably what frustrates me when I am waiting for them to be doing something like pack up their toys, eat their dinner or have their bath, because, for them, it is just another opportunity to find time to play! Wouldn’t it be lovely to approach cleaning the house with the same sense of creativity and fun! Imagine if you found the “flow” in that!

    • Blue Radish says:

      Ha ha! Yes, finding ‘flow’ in housework would perhaps mean a cleaner house but I think that perhaps there would not be the right intersection of challenge and skill to sustain it!

      It is lovely that you have managed to get back to music-making and it is really important to eek out a time for yourself despite the busy-ness of our lives (should I say our children’s lives!). I totally agree that it is great for lifting your mood – just listening to music works for me.

  3. Tracey says:

    Totally agree with your thoughts around creativity and well-being. Over the last couple of years I have invested much more energy into being creative and working with other creative people. It has helped me manage a stressful job, I am more happier, I think better and overall feel so grateful for the many wonderful people and things in my life. Am loving your adventure Bec – all power to you! <3 xx

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