Learning from the creative inspiration around us

The remarkable breadth and richness of creative influences in the world around us continually amaze me, be it the pleasure (or the pain) derived from a single sensory experience, hearing other peoples’ stories, appreciating the work of other creatives or receiving creative ideas or advice from others, or many other possibilities.

Consequently, the theme for my blog posts for this year will revolve around what we can learn from the world around us and the characters within it, what inspires or heightens our creativity and how we can harness these influences.

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Inspiration from an early morning walk © 2015 Jacquie Garton-Smith

When I start to think about by the magnitude of trying to take on board everything around me, I nearly hyperventilate, overwhelmed by possibility. But appreciation of the stimuli around us is not about generating creative overload! It is about honing our creative receptivity to help us make the most of the wonderful opportunities that surround us.

I have written before about the link between mindfulness and creativity. Experiencing the world mindfully and observing how it influences us is extraordinarily valuable. How can we write it, draw it, paint it, photograph it, sing it, dance it or in other way create it, if we live in a vacuum? While we creatives can be reclusive, experiencing life and translating that, directly or indirectly, to a creative form is valuable fuel for the creative fire.

And for many of us, creativity is intricately interwoven with wellness. I have summarised the evidence on the intersection between health and creativity a couple of years ago and have written about my personal experience of the healing power of creativity. I am especially excited to see increasing attention and research in this area. For example, Dr Christina Davies and her team at the University of Western Australia have recently shown that just two hours a week of arts engagement enhances mental wellness . I have no doubt that further research will continue to demonstrate health benefits from creativity for both mental and physical health.

The time I devote to my creativity takes time away from doctoring, mothering, family and friends, and at times, I do feel guilty about that. But I am convinced that I am a healthier, happier and more balanced person, doctor, mother, wife, relative and friend for allowing myself to also be my creative self. If I am not, who would know? I am who I am.

If you’d like to join me as I explore these issues further this year, please sign up to follow by email (your email address will be kept private and will not be spammed). You can also follow me on Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+.

In the meantime, I’d love you to think about and, if you feel so inclined, to share in the comments:

  • What do you think are your most powerful creative influences and how do you learn from them?
  • Are there creative inputs you may be overlooking and could be harnessing better?

Thanks for reading this post! Some of my other posts include:

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

Disclaimer

© 2016 Jacquie Garton-Smith

The healing power of creativity

The research demonstrating the health benefits of being creative was touched upon in my last post. We could continue to talk science but for me it is very personal story.

During the mid to late 1990s, my family experienced the losses of a number of loved ones mostly due to cancer. I was lucky in lots of ways. I have a loving husband and family. I had a few years of my career as a doctor under my belt, I worked with people who were supportive and I had worked previously with a palliative care team. I was well-armed to process information about what was happening and to help my family. It did get me to wondering how people manage to navigate the health system without a health professional background but perhaps that’s a topic for another time.

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Photo by Mia Holton

I ran between work, which I still found rewarding, and my role as a caring relative, always wishing I had found more time to spend with my loved one before they got sick. As each illness took its course, both difficult and precious times were shared, everybody made a significant contribution and we were brought closer as a family.

Life goes on. You pull yourself together and do the needful. Days and then weeks and months pass in a blur. But grieving is painful and I couldn’t stay numb forever. In the dark days that followed one of our losses, a dear and wise friend Dionne Lew suggested that I write and told me about “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. I was surprised that she even thought of me as a writer as I had focused so completely on my career that I had not written fiction since high school. In fact I had read few novels since school as all my reading time was spent on medical journals.

I took her advice and wrote, at first tentatively, and gradually found that I got my right arm and my life back. Allowing myself to write let me process things differently, even when I was writing fiction. I strongly believe that when you write, you won’t go anywhere that you aren’t ready to go. Writing helped me to move on. I am also fascinated by how reading fiction, which is something I now do regularly, can help us to access our emotions, learn and better understand ourselves in a way that direct examination of our own lives might not allow. And the benefits don’t end with the written word. I also found that I enjoy painting and have found gardening to be another creative outlet.

Interestingly over the last decade I have noticed that when I don’t find the time for creative writing, I suffer terrifying nightmares. Not the kind of things I want to share or would ever write about even in fiction. It is like the creative urge is coiled up somewhere in my subconscious and needs to be given an opportunity to come out. I trudge back to my computer, start typing and they stop.

How has being creative helped you?

What are the consequences for you if you are not creative?

How you might make a change that promotes creativity and health?

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your thoughts on creativity and health.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer

© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith  (Photo by Mia Holton)

Where health and creativity intersect

Being a doctor and a writer, it’s probably no surprise that I am interested in how two of my passions overlap.

There are clear links between creativity and wellness:
• The benefits of appreciating the creativity of others, how it makes us feel and what we can learn from it – art, music, photography, film and literature for example.
• Fulfilling your own need to be creative – be it one of the more traditional creative pursuits, or cooking a new dish, planting a garden bed or writing a Facebook post or tweet.
• The role of creative activities contributing to a range of benefits including to aid in learning and sharing of ideas, to reduce isolation, to foster companionship, to promote improved health and well-being, and even to reduce medication use and assist healing.

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Photo by Mia Holton

There are comprehensive reviews of the literature which demonstrate the evidence, particularly those by:
• Dr Rosalia Lelchuk Staricoff (Arts in health: a review of the medical literature, Arts Council England, 2004);
• Heather L. Stuckey and Jeremy Nobel (The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature. Am J Public Health.2010 February;100(2): 254–263.);
• Dr Patricia Fenner, Dr Bruce Rumbold, Dr Jean Rumbold et al (Is there compelling evidence for using the arts in health care? 19/6/2012) and
• Christine Putland (ARTS AND HEALTH – A GUIDE TO THE EVIDENCE Background document prepared for the Arts and Health Foundation Australia, September 2012).

So the science is there with more research underway.

Strangely enough the “mad artist” seems just as common a stereotype as the “mad scientist”. Perhaps this is more about the eccentricity that others perceive when someone follows their calling to the exclusion of other pursuits. Or maybe we are all a little mad?

Ironically some of the most creative people I have met have been the best adjusted and are often multi-talented.

The things that will benefit us the most are often the ones we most actively resist. If you think you are not creative, are you the one suppressing your creativity the most?

Some will struggle to get started, to even come up with a creative pursuit they would like to try. Just try. If at first you feel that you can’t, expose your creative self to the creativity of others. For example, you could check out an art gallery, the theatre or a concert or explore poetry, art or music online. If you have kids, do something crafty together. It’s okay to play with different ideas – have some fun. If you feel blocked, try something else.

Many of us will have to grapple with our internal critic, whether just starting out or well along the creative path. Doubt is normal. Tell yourself it doesn’t matter what the quality is. If you don’t try you will have nothing to show. Start something and see how it evolves over time.

We all know to be healthy, we need to exercise and eat well. But do we understand the role that creativity plays?

Being creative is healthy and it is healthy to be creative. Encourage creativity in ourselves and in others; from the cradle to grave, in our buildings and in open spaces, in students and in professionals.

It’s almost like a marriage vow: from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health…

Does creativity matter to you?

What is your creative vow?

How you might make a change that promotes health and creativity ?

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to share your thoughts on creativity and health.

With best wishes for your creative health and that of our community.

Jacquie

P.S. If you’d like to be sure to catch my next post, please sign up to follow by email. You can also follow me on  Twitter (@JacquieGS)Facebook and Google+ .

Disclaimer
© 2013 Jacquie Garton-Smith  (Photo by Mia Holton)