I facilitated a workshop recently where one of the clients commented on how much she was enjoying the activity. As she could feel it relieving her stress she said she wanted to carry on at home. However, without hesitation she added ‘But I can’t do that, it would be a waste of time.’ Clearly I disagreed, but I was also curious as to why she thought this. When asked she replied, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be achieving anything….would I?’ She continued by saying she could see the purpose in doing it as part of the 3 day course but struggled to justify it as time well spent outside of that; although she had already acknowledged that it was helping to relieve her stress.
I explained the value there is it in, sharing information from the various articles and research that backs up the health and wellbeing benefits of being creative and taking part in an art based activity. (These are readily available by doing a general search on the topic on the internet). I added how it allowed her time to herself, reminding her how it relieved her stress, something she dealt with every day. Using words like nurturing and emotional wellbeing to describe the benefits was something she quickly related to, nodding enthusiastically. Yet still her struggle to give herself permission to spend time creating another collage was almost palpable. She continued finding reasons why she should not, stating she could be reading a book and learning something instead. This is true, but equally making a collage would allow her to express herself creatively, while relieving her stress. She had placed more value on learning, whereas I didn’t see one as more worthwhile than the other, they were simply different but of equal value.
This view is not uncommon when it comes to creative activities, raising the question how much value (financially or time wise) do people place on allowing themselves the ‘luxury’ of time out to be creative, especially with finances and time being considered two of our most precious and guarded assets. How do I win the battle of the mind that helps people understand the benefits before they have experienced it and can see it for themselves? I know there is no easy answer. One client was very honest with me saying they were cynical about spending an afternoon doing their collage when they ran their own business and time was of the essence. Afterwards this client described it as amazing and said she would be back. Another client described it as a childlike activity; cutting, tearing and gluing. I cannot deny that the act of creating a collage includes those elements; but perhaps it is the act of adopting a childlike approach that frees and opens the mind to be more receptive to new insights, perspectives and ideas.
We live in a society where there is a sense that every moment should be filled with doing, achieving and being productive. A friend of mine recently said that making time for our creative selves is as important as looking after our children, taking care of our pets, doing the shopping etc. I off course agreed, but while the majority of us make time for those things, we don’t for leave room for creativity in our lives. I believe that there are 3 key reasons for this
1. Many people do not consider themselves to be creative anyway
2. We demand high standards of ourselves and want our creative output to ‘look good’. At once creating a barrier to trying, not giving ourselves the permission to experience creative expression simply because we can.
3. There are those who do not understand or recognise the value of the creative process.
I have commented on the first and second issue in a previous blog.
I am quite sure that in relation to the third point, the importance of the creative process, I am not saying anything that has not been said before. However, as I am passionate about it I choose to raise it. The process is the most important part of any creative activity, promoting and supporting well-being and self-awareness. A key benefit and relevant I’m sure to all creative activities, is the intrinsic act of mindfulness, being in the moment fully absorbed in the activity. Speaking from experience and specifically about creating an emergent or themed collage, the act of looking through the magazines with a theme concentrates and focuses the mind while at once releasing it from all other concerns.
Additionally, words people have used once they have experienced the process and completed their collage include: clarity, relaxing, fun, self-awareness and therapeutic, reflecting the positive benefits of the activity that contribute to well-being. Yet these same people used words like: anxious, cynical, nervous, uncertain and I’m no good or I’m not creative prior to the session.
I am aware that there are many who recognise the value of creative activities and the health benefits, but there are many more who do not. The plethora of articles and blogs on the subject of health and well-being clearly demonstrates that we want to lead healthy, balanced lives. For some this means exercise and healthy eating, others spa treatments, reading or spending time with family and friends. I would argue that allowing space and time to explore and experience your creativity is as valid, valuable and important as any of these.