Have you ever had that conversation where one of you is quite adamant that you’re really not that creative?

Maybe you’re talking to someone who finds out you’re an artist and instantly goes into ‘oh I’m not artistic at all’ mode.

Or you’re talking to an artist you feel is far ahead of you and it makes you question your own place – or even validity – on the path.

Recently I had a conversation like that with my mum, and as we talked I realised I wanted to share it with you.

{Because when you’ve been blogging for ten years, pretty much anything that happens is automatically run through the ‘is this useful for my artist friends’ filter. ;)}

Mum was saying how she didn’t feel she was creative, mainly because she doesn’t make art, or make anything with her hands that could conventionally be called a creation.

As you might imagine, I was immediately ready to get into it, since due to the nature of my work and who I am I think about this stuff all the livelong day. I am permanently immersed and simmering in a vat of creative experience, thought, and practice.

I’m sure that must sound nonessential or frivolous to some, but I can’t imagine who. 😉


The painting metaphor


I think I did at least manage to wait until she’d finished her sentence, and then I started sharing the very different way I see it. As I talked, a visual began to coalesce in the way it sometimes does when you know the essence of what you want to say but aren’t exactly sure of how you’re going to say it.

One of my favourite – and, I have to say, one of my most effective and personally meaningful – analogies for more or less anything in life is the painting process.

I have yet to come across a problem so far that cannot at least be partly informed by reference to the process of making art, and vice versa actually.

And even if someone hasn’t painted since they were too young to remember, they can understand the analogy by its being removed from their personal issue at that moment and seeing it in a new context. Everybody wins.

So here’s what I said to my mum.

When you’re making a painting, you’re taking a series of actions based on knowledge, skills, experience, feelings, memories, and intuition.

What you know how to do – the techniques, the understanding of composition and values and so on – meets and merges with the invisible and the unknown.

It creates this endlessly evolving and fascinating dance, in which you are a player but not the controller. To paint is to practice repeated surrender while applying what you know, to carve out the path forward.

{See how it applies so beautifully to All Life Things?}

So when you’re painting, you’re creating the conditions for a painting to emerge, for something to happen where before there was nothing.

You bring your skills, knowledge, and love, and then you have to let go. Over and over.

My mum doesn’t paint or craft anything with her hands, but {just like any human being} she has all these elements at her disposal.

She has skills, knowledge, experience, love, and an understanding of how to organise certain elements. She also loves people, and if you ever met her you’d no doubt join with those who’ve commented on her generosity, her non judgmental attitude, and her ability to create an atmosphere where it feels safe to relax.

{I can attest to this from the many years she spent taking care of me as a clinically depressed and barely functioning human, apart from the general mothering.}


Creative tools


So with all these tools, for want of a better word, she can create spaces where people can interact and enjoy an experience.

A classic example is family gatherings at my parents’ house in the summer, when there is a delicious buffet lunch spread out for all of us to take out to the garden, an easygoing atmosphere of welcome, and usually some homemade baked goods for after.

{In fairness to my dad, I should add here that it’s not just mum making all this happen! Both my parents are involved in this; it’s simply that the conversation was with and about her.}

Mum hadn’t considered our summer gatherings {or anything else she does in this vein} a creative act because it doesn’t fit in the ‘usual’ box of what we might think of as creative.

And yet if creativity is creating something from nothing, that is exactly what she does. And I bow to that skill because my creativity does not lie in the realm of organising and curating in-person gatherings. 😉

What’s more, because it comes easily to Mum, she hadn’t seen how she has been weaving together her social skills, her huge love for people, her Christian faith, and her instinctive ability to create spaces where people feel safe and loved. So she hadn’t considered it to be a true gift or creative offering.

She hadn’t seen its value to others, and therefore the necessity of her unique brand of creativity.


It’s true for all of us


If you’re reading this, you’re almost certainly already making things with your hands and know yourself to be creative {even if you’re still struggling with calling yourself an actual artist :)}.

But do you really understand how creative you are? Do you get that it seeps into every corner of your life without you even trying?

My invitation to you today is to reconsider yourself {even more} as a creative being, and maybe even those around you as well. When you allow yourself to witness your creativity outside the bounds of the thing you usually create, even if it’s actually many things, you’ll find there’s always more.

Creative thinking and action show up in every corner of our lives, and the more we recognise that, the more it links all the parts together.

And linked and integrated lives mean integrated and whole people. And whole people are the ones who are going to lift the rest of us up and carry the human race forward to something more than what we tend to see on the news.

You know, just minor stuff.

But even if that weren’t the case, and even if you’re not as obsessed by ideas of creativity and process as I am, making anything at all where before there was nothing, be it a painting, a symphony, a garden party, or a schedule to make people’s lives easier, don’t underestimate how powerful you are and how everything you create adds value to the world.


Where does your creativity show up outside the studio? What strands of yourself and your innate qualities do you weave together to create something where there was nothing before? Tell us in the comments!