When I was at primary school I was in the top stream for one thing—art. I was in an extension class where we all sat around a vase of flowers, and painted! I remember loving painting those flowers, the evidence of which can still be found hanging pride of place in my parents' bathroom.
Because of my brilliant artistic ability, I was then asked—along with some other students—to paint some large pieces of paper black. But I simply couldn't go just up and down, I had to go sideways, and do circles, and shapes. This was an enjoyable experience for 7-year-old me, but my black piece of paper didn't look as good as everyone else's. I remember being ashamed and deciding I was no good at art.
I could not create like everyone else so I must not be good. I could not separate creativity and art, and from then on I did not see myself as creative.
I wrote a short story for school. It was a dark and flowing description of a man being hunted by his own shadow. As I wrote I felt the rhythm of the words, the heart of the story growing with the ever-descriptive language I used to describe the fear of one's shadow.
I remember proudly handing in my beautifully crafted story to my teacher, expecting to be lavished with praise and admiration; but my teacher began showing me all of my spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, and I failed. From then on I decided I was no good at writing.
I've always believed a creative person is a kind of tortured artist; staying up late perfecting their craft. I imagine the crazy ideas coming out of the depth of depression and anguish; sleeping never. The best ideas came out of the insane; creativity and insanity being difficult to distinguish.
I am learning that I am an ideas man; I can see what needs to happen for an idea or dream to come to life. I am highly creative, and my greatest love is to scheme and dream about what this world could look and be like.
The unusual, surprising thing I have discovered is the relationship between my creativity and my health. When I am healthy, then ideas come, they flow.
However, when I am unhealthy, tired, or stressed out ideas seem like a torturous burden. When I am unhealthy all of my ideas, dreams, and visions seem like a weight on my back. They feel like little glass shells, that when I show the wrong people will break on sight. It is as though my ideas lose the vision of what they could become, and shrink into nothing.
Life from light
Creativity does not take place in the dark. Creativity doesn't happen when life is at breaking point. It doesn't happen when all you can do is wake up in the morning wearing a smile like a hat.
Creativity happens in moments of peace. Where the soul has had space to breathe, and this breath expresses itself in action. This breath of the soul expresses itself in creating, bringing forth a new expression of good. Creativity happens in reflection, in the untangling of pain. Creativity is the stretch after a big run, pulling all the aches and pains into submission, and allowing them space to heal.
Creativity happens in moments of peace, and wholeness. Creating is an expression of a soul breathing, the outward expression of an inner joy; of humanity co-creating with the Creator and discovering closeness with itself.
Tim Shallard a co-director of Mosaic Workshop a shared creative space in central Auckland. He also works in a café, studies theology at Carey Baptist College, and runs a poetry collective. His passions include coffee, community, and people living the dream.
Tim Shallard's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/tim-shallard.html