Have you worked out what leads your creative spirit? Do you have to work at being creative or does it just happen? I am sure it is different for everyone and I’d love to know how your creations happen.
This portrait, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was painted just after the French Revolution in a brief period when women were allowed to exhibit in the Salon. Women around this time were creative but confined to flowers and the like. I can only imagine the passion that must have been under the surface of women who wanted to paint other subjects when passion for women was confined to finding a suitable husband and looking after him. Perhaps this is what Villers is trying to convey with this portrait.
I have been struggling with creativity since I received a cancer diagnosis, followed soon after with my husband’s diagnosis. Where I used to write everyday it became difficult for me to write at all. It was as though any creativity had been sucked from me. Where I used to come up with stories for the prompts with minimal thought, I now couldn’t come up with anything.
The same happened with Toastmasters and impromptu speaking. I have always had trouble with being given a topic and being expected to give a speech on it immediately but I had reached a point where I could do it and do it reasonably well. Corresponding with my loss of writing ability was my inability to think on my feet and come up with a speech. My creativity had gone.
It was clear to me that three things had shifted. I could no longer find the humour in anything. I wrote about the importance of humour here. Secondly I had always let things swirl around in my head. Not consciously thinking of them but ready to recognise a thought that would fit. This meant that by the time I came to put story to paper it was already formulated in my head and it didn’t take a lot of time to put it to paper. Now I had other thoughts swirling through my head there was no room left to manage stories I might want to write. More importantly perhaps, I had lost my passion.
I turned from writing and speaking to photography. I’d always taken a lot of photographs but now I was attempting to take photos as an art form rather than just aim and click. Another creative pursuit which somehow seemed easier than writing and speaking. I had the passion – in fact I immersed myself so deeply that I stopped living life. It gave me something that could drown out reality. It gave me an addiction – but I’ll leave that for another post.
One of my New Year goals was to complete level 4 in the Engaging Humour Pathway of Toastmasters. It was time to start and I have known since November that January would be my first speech in it. I remember looking at it briefly and just as quickly put it the side. I would do one of the elective speeches instead. In January I started preparing but found that there were no electives I could do in the time frame so it had to be “Give two impromptu speeches from the list provided.” The list had around 18 speeches. I was supposed to find personal stories that I could adapt to fit several of them and be prepared for whatever was thrown at me. Some topics were outside my experience and interest e.g. Your company is about to merge and you explain why this is a good thing to your employees. There were so many of this type I just came up with a total blank and because I was blank on them I was blank on all of them. the speech was also supposed to be humorous.
Two weeks before I sent the list to the person who would choose my topics. She rang me and told me to narrow it down to 12 scenarios and add some context to the bland scenario given. I tried. I took it to 12 but the context (creative thinking in its own right) alluded me on most of them. Eventually 3 days before I sent her the topics, minus context in most cases, and told her I would just wing it.
I was so nervous I felt like pulling a sickie – but that is not my nature. I contemplated letting go of my goals and just leaving Toastmasters. On the day of the two speeches I managed to pull together a few stories, a couple of speeches and a few nothings. I am goal oriented deadline driven so something had to happen. I hoped I would get topics that the speeches would fit into and not be given the totally unprepared scenarios.
My Toastmasters club is a hybrid club, meaning that we meet both online and in person. At the meeting I watched the guests roll in – several from the USA, one from Canada, and numerous from different parts of Australia. If I’d been nervous before (and I was) now I was terrified.
The time came and I received a topic that I had prepared. The prepared went first. It was starting a new job as a clinical nurse specialist in intensive care responsible for staff education. This was a topic I knew because in an earlier life this was exactly what I was. I knew my qualifications and I knew what was important. Not creative just something I knew. I started with a joke As you have just heard I have been employed as CNS responsible for education, that is, My job is to talk to you, and your job is to listen to it. If you finish first, please let me know. Humour was smattered throughout and personal stories were easy.
The next speech was totally unprepared. I had thought being a comedy club a eulogy for a friend would not be picked but I also thought if it was, all I had to do was bring to mind a dear friend, tell the funny stories and it would be fine. Again I started with some humour. I’d love to say it is a pleasure to have been asked to give a eulogy for Graham but to be perfectly honest it’d be a much bigger pleasure if he was standing here beside me. From that point it was quite easy.
I wondered if it would be obvious that one was prepared and one wasn’t and from the evaluation it didn’t appear that it was noticed. The sense of relief that this was over was huge. It wouldn’t have mattered how long I’d had to prepare these I wouldn’t have been any more prepared than I was but the satisfaction at completing this goal and the boost to my self-confidence was immense. It gave me the fourth ingredient to my particular needs in order to be creative. I have to know my subject whether it be by personal knowledge or research.
Now I know my creative needs are 1) be able to see the humour in situations 2) have some brain space, 3) passion and 4) know my subject. Do you know what your creative needs are? I’d love you to tell me.