There’s a well-kept secret that no one tells you about being creative; you don’t have to be good at it to get the benefit.
When you’re young you’re allowed to be rubbish at painting and drawing and modelling things, and you still get encouragement and praise. I’ve been told by teachers of young children that they use clay to improve hand strength and dexterity, and painting and colouring in is all about fine motor-skills.
I get what the teachers are saying, because creative projects are definitely helping build hand movement, but I think they’re missing the big one; being creative is fun. It fills us with a sense of purpose, it’s practising problem-solving and interacting with our environment. All animals play as children to learn, and they carry on playing as adults to build relationships, practice skills and to have fun.
We are built for play and creativity. We are problem-solving apes. Taking things apart and putting things together are natural drives, but when we get to adulthood we seem to lose the idea that everyone is creative. We get put into boxes; there are people who are good at art and they are creative, there are people who can mend things and they are practical, there are people who put things where they should be and they are necessary, and there is no crossover.
What do we get? Increasing rates of depression, anxiety and unhappiness.
Creativity isn’t about the end product for me. Often the end product is a bit of a pain in the neck. What do I do with something that was created for creating’s sake? Where can I put another candle? How much soap can one family actually use? I have no interest in selling – that’s time spent on interactions and work that I could be using creatively!
Creativity is about the action of creation. I love being creative. I love doing DIY, crocheting, writing, drawing, painting, basket-making, origami, woodworking, felting, soap-making, candle-making, clay-making, etc., and of all those things there are only one or two in which I am better than an enthusiastic amateur. That doesn’t mean I don’t do all of them.
I love having the raw ingredients in front of me and fashioning them into something new. It’s a joy to see what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I get frustrated, sometimes I reach a dead end, but it’s always a learning process and that energises me.
Last week I was so tired I couldn’t bring myself to stand up to get a drink. I felt drained and empty, but there was a notepad and pen on the table and so I sketched an imaginary person on the page. By the time the lines had scribbled a swooping foot I had built enough energy to do what I needed to do.
Creativity is a need, you don’t need permission to go out and do it, you just need to give it a go. The day I realised that I don’t have to be an artist to deserve a go at painting on canvas, was liberating. I have painted some truly awful paintings and sketched some truly mediocre sketches, and I have loved it.
I give you permission to buy a canvas. I give you permission to be creative in whatever way feels best for you. If we treated children the way we treat ourselves, there would be no creativity in this world. There is a huge difference between innate ability and passion in a project. We need a bit more joy.
Along with Flo, Rhi Lloyd-Williams is a co-founder of Autism HWB. She is also a writer, poet, parent, playwright, blogger and all round good egg. She writes about autism on her website AutistRhi.com and you can find out more about her play, The Duck, at Autact.co.uk