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Maria Chatzi : Are You Blocking Your Creativity?

Are You Blocking Your Creativity?

By Maria Chatzi

What is creativity: a skill, a process, a state or a quality? To me, it's all of the previously mentioned. No matter what you consider it to be, in order to cultivate or let it flow or acquire it you need to give yourself permission to try things out and believe you can succeed as others can. The following is a true story that shows us how the power of our attitude and a positive self-image could bring forth the creative power within us.

I've once taught a series of workshops with a group of ladies of various ages and all walks of life. The aim of the workshops was to guide them through methods and techniques of crafting eco jewelry, in order to help them become more creative.

In one of these workshops, I taught them how to make bracelets out of paper cup rims, plastic bottles and the inner paper roll of a masking tape. After presenting a particular technique to my students, who were beginner to intermediate level, I asked them to try it out on the spot, as it was obviously an easy one. Walking around the room, while my students were absorbed by their creative passion, I noticed a young lady not older than twenty-five, who had been staring at the materials laid in front of her and nervously twisting a satin ribbon for almost fifteen minutes. That was long enough to make me wonder if she was visualizing her inspiration and working mentally on the design or if the materials she had in front of her didn't inspire her at all.

"Everything all right?" I asked.

"No." she said with a sad look on her face. "I'm not good enough at this. I can't make a bracelet. I don't have good ideas."

Three strong negative statements: "I'm not", "I can't", "I don't" formed her self-image. She was blocking her creativity.

But she was there with us. She wanted to be "good enough", just didn't know how. It hadn't occurred to her that she was her only obstacle—she wasn't allowing herself to be creative.

"Why don't you get a look at what other people here are making? It may help."

She said O.K. but, by the look in her eyes, I realized she must have had convinced herself nothing would help.

"Look, it's not that you're not good enough to make a bracelet. It's that you're not as good as you would like to be. But that's O.K. I'm not as good as I would like to be either. I never was. And I guess I will never be. It's true there are other people who may be better than we are at making jewelry. That's why I've learnt so many things and I'm still learning. You can learn too. But you've got to start from somewhere."

She was listening in silence, her eyes and ears wide open to my confessing that I wasn't as good as I wanted to be.

"Are you good enough to use the scissors and glue? Are you good enough to sew a button? Are you good enough to make a simple knot? Are you good enough to string beads? Are you good enough to twist paper and fabric strips?" I asked.

"Yeah... Sure I am." she answered without hesitation, as if asked the obvious.

"Then you're good enough to make a bracelet with the simple technique you've been taught today. That's where you've got to start. No one's asking much of you. I'm not giving you a mark or a bad report on anything. Just play with your materials—have fun."

She took a deep breath and smiled. Then, she started cutting a shape out of a colorful piece of fabric, as if she had just grasped the meaning of our workshop.

There was no time left for her to make her bracelet on that day's session. But she made it at home and brought it to me some days later. It was simple but beautifully crafted, with a little paper rose attached to it. Best of all, she told me she was going to make another one the following week, to correct mistakes she had made with this one, and then she was going to teach her younger sister how to make one too. Honestly, I didn't know what mistakes she was talking about. I only said: "It's very pretty. I'm sure your sister will have a great lesson with you!"

Words are extremely powerful. Thoughts are extremely powerful too. Words shape thoughts and thoughts are expressed through words—there is a circle here that could become vicious, if you're not on the lookout for little things that could turn into stone walls blocking your creativity. By using the second phrase instead of the first one, when talking to my student, I slightly shifted her perception from the all-negative to the negative-positive. What I mean is that the phrase "I'm not good enough" may be synonymous to "I'm not as good as" but the connotation of the two phrases is different. "I'm not good enough to ..." arouses a feeling of despair and helplessness, it is a statement that judges your ability to be a creative human being and emotionally leaves no room for hope. Whereas, "I'm not as good as ...," in spite of being a negative statement, expresses a comparison you make of your creative work to someone else's, who is doing better than you—which means, you may not be there yet, but, with hard work and persistence, there's a good chance you'll eventually get there.

I haven't seen that young lady since. But I've got a feeling that her creative wings are strong enough today to get her to heights she had not dreamt of ever before. Once you understand what being creative is all about, it is easy to become the explorer you once were, in your early childhood. It only takes your determination to avoid the pitfalls of negativity and a dream to succeed. •

© 2013 Maria Chatzi. All rights reserved.

Maria ChatziMaria Chatzi is a teacher, jewelry artist, and craft designer who loves nature, learning and helping adults and kids discover their creative side. More »

Updated 1/21/14