‘Creativity is something you practice not just a talent you are born with’
Wise words from IDEO design gurus David and Tom Kelley. In one of their contributions to the Harvard Business Review they talk about four fears that hinder most people from accessing ‘creative confidence’.
They blame creative blocks on four core fears: the fear of the ‘messy’ unknown, the fear of being judged, the fear of taking the first step and the fear of letting go.
They liken these fears to serious phobias and point to the work of renowned psychiatrist Dr. Albert Bandura and his groundbreaking work in helping people overcome their greatest fears. Dr. Bandura gets his clients to step-by-step increase his patient’s ability to deal with the feared object, for example, a snake.
The first step is looking at it in a two-way mirror, then looking at it through a doorway, then touching it with a big industrial glove and finally touching it bare handed. The key to over coming these fears?
Small, baby steps.
Simple, isn’t it?
Since 2002 I have been running creativity workshops in some form or other. In the first couple of years the workshops were inspired by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I organised small groups of about 6 - 8 people for a series of workshops over 12 weeks. We came together, did some activities and tasks aimed at reconnecting with our creative power and shared and supported each other through the journey of creative recovery.
It was great fun and most people reconnected with their creativity and completed creative projects that to that date had only been a dream. Vanessa, who was interested in interior design and had started to delve into tiles and ceramics, followed the techniques for the full 12 weeks and began by doing some mosaics, then got a job at an exclusive tile showroom, for many years now she has been running her own interior design company in Sydney.
Another lady in her late sixties, finally got around to clearing out her studio by the river and began a series of watercolours which she turned into postcards to send her friends. One man, Peter, loved to write but was so afraid that if he put pen to paper it would all be rubbish. He began a gentle free writing practice that freed him up to express himself authentically and discover what he really wanted: to begin his own consulting business in alternative medicine and martial arts.
At the time I was deeply taken aback by the effect that the workshops were having on people... and on myself. During that time, I received funding to direct and produce my play Trollop(e), received funding for a novel, started a Masters and most importantly, planted the seeds that would grow into Act Out and later into, Edgewalkers.
What I was unwittingly but effectively doing, was not just cautiously guiding individuals along their journey of creative recovery but I was also letting myself take the first steps and overcome the incredible fear of the messy unknown that working for myself presented.
Those small, safe and simple creativity workshops were my way of crawling before standing up; toddling before walking. I learnt one workshop at a time, a few clients at a time; learnt by gently doing & learning what needs to be learnt to establish a new business based on creative approaches.
'I'm going to look like a fool!' one client said to me. He was part of a group being coached in assertive communication.
Yes! That's what I thought too when I thought about approaching clients with these 'airy-fairy' aesthetic, embodied, arts-based approaches, 'they're going to laugh at me!’
But they didn't.
Today based on my own ideas, practice and research, I am able to work on what I feel inspired to do. Today I am happy to stride in some areas of my life and toddle slowly in others.
What messy unknown are you scared of? What are you fearful of being judged about? Where are you fearful to take your fist step into? What are you holding on to?
Remember what the creativity gurus said: small, baby steps!