SPREADING CREATIVITY: PART TWO - SEEDS AND STONES

By: Elena Campos

 

I experienced first hand how creativity can revolutionize everything for one person, and how the changes made within have the ability to alter the lives of those around us. Creativity is miraculous in that way. The effects of transformation that creativity generates within one person extend outward, inspiring others to transform themselves as well. When creativity touched me and helped transform my life, I felt like I had discovered a secret and I had to share it with EVERYONE! Something so simple had a massive and profound effect on me. Imagine what it could do for the masses!

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

So since then, the driving force behind my life’s work has been the desire to spread the seeds of creativity to the people around me. My hope is that the seeds that I sow will find a home within the hearts and minds of the people in my community, and those seeds will grow into something much greater. Not only will these seeds of creativity help transform individuals, but they will also help transform our communities, and eventually the whole world will be affected. When creativity can flourish, lives will change, people will begin to heal, problems will be solved and together we can create a better existence for everyone. It is like a stone being tossed into a still pond. The ripples extend far beyond the place the stone made contact with water. Pretty soon, the effect of a single stone can change the entire surface of the pond.

This journey of sowing seeds or throwing stones, however you choose to see it, began with asking my friends and family to get creative with me. I saw how creative acts such as art making, writing, cooking, and playing music were positively impacting the people I cared for most. Then, I had a gallery show that displayed some of the artwork that generated change and transformation within my life. My work inspired others, not only to get more creative, but also to face their fears and hardships with creativity in mind. I was in awe of what was happening around me. My life was changed by creativity and it was starting to impact others. I knew in my bones that more people had to know about creativity and its benefits. Then I began talking to strangers about it. I was the girl dressed head to toe in purple, going on and on about art therapy and asking strangers to draw with me. Clearly, things haven’t changed too much in the last 7 years, but nowadays, I am under the umbrella of Kalamadoodle, working with others who are just as passionate as I am about creativity.

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

Having decided that spreading creativity was going to be my life’s journey, I was going to need other ways of introducing creativity to the masses. Besides asking strangers to draw with me, I began guiding a weekly Creative Explorations class at Amber Way, a facility for people suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Then I started teaching an after school art program for elementary students. Then I had several wonderful opportunities to guest lecture at Western Michigan University on topics such as Art Therapy and Spirituality, and the benefits of creativity. And most recently, I have been a part of Kalamadoodle, sowing seeds of creativity every month in breweries across town. I have experienced and witnessed first hand how creativity can influence and change lives and I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience it first-hand too.

In my years of experience and research, I have taken notice of many ways in which creativity can benefit and influence your life. Everything from boosting self-confidence, to healing emotional and physical wounds, to fostering personal growth, to finding meaning in this world of chaos. Creativity can help guide you through all of that! Creativity is not only life altering, but also life enhancing. People who are creative on a daily basis are more positive, persistent, resilient, adaptable, energetic, observant, brave, curious, and open minded.  Who doesn’t want to be more of all those things! BUT WAIT… There’s more! Creativity can reduce stress and enhance problem-solving skills, which in this day and age, is essential! The list of amazing effects that creativity has upon you goes on and on and on…

Yes. You read that right. I am saying that creativity can actually make you more awesome than you already are, and all it takes to start is for you to utilize your inherent creativity. That magical gift given to you at birth when you took your first breath. If you need easy ways to start being creative, check out the list I provided in my last article. All you have to do is start and you will immediately begin to reap the benefits of everyday creativity. 

So we’ve discussed what creativity is, how to start being creative, and the helpful ways that it can impact your life, but what is key in my reasoning for why you should be creative is that your creativity POSITIVELY impacts those around you. Your newfound creative endeavors have the power to not only change your life but also spark someone else’s creativity. You too can sow seeds or toss stones into the ponds of others and create waves of change. Or in your creative endeavors, you may create something that positively impacts someone else. Let me tell you a story of the first time I changed a life when I used creativity to enhance my own life.

There were 17 of us sitting in a circle, holding the plaster masks that we made from our own faces. Our task was to make a mask and then decorate it, the outside representing how we portrayed ourselves to the world, and the inside was to represent the things we hid from the world. We went around the circle, sharing our masks and describing them to other group members. The outside of my mask was divided into three sections, and each section was a different shade of purple, representing the different aspects of myself. A long chain of beads and sequins hung down from the side of the mask, representing all my goals and aspirations for those three parts of me. After happily sharing the outside of my mask, and describing the complexities of my life, I did not want to share the inside of my mask with the group. With gentle coaxing, my mentor (and now friend) Gay Walker, urged me to share the inside of the mask. Instantly, I started to cry.

While the process of making this mask soothed me and brought me some comfort, the things I was hiding from the world and chose to represent on my mask were not happy. In actuality, they were down right terrifying. Never before had I spoke aloud what I was about to tell a bunch of near strangers. The inside of my mask was black and bloody. Painted bruises covered my eyes and my mouth was sewn shut. Black lace created an “X” over the entire mask. The long chain of beads and sequins that once represented my hopes and dreams now stood for all the things that had been taken from me. I was a survivor of rape and physical abuse and I had never told anyone before.

The act of making the mask and sharing it aloud was extremely cathartic. It actually opened the door for many other works of art that I would create over the next several years and it was the first step toward healing and finding peace with my past. What was even more extraordinary was the effect my work had on the others in the group. The young lady that sat across from me also had a brightly colored exterior to her mask. She explained the outside of her mask and then noted to the group that if it had not been for the bravery I had shown by sharing the inside of my mask, she would have not shown hers. She was a drug addict and the entire inside of her mask depicted her struggles with her drug of choice. When we left that day, she pulled me aside and hugged me, telling me that because of my story, she was going to get help that day and she was going to beat her addiction. I never saw her again but it was the first time I realized that not only can creativity heal, it can inspire others to do the same.

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

I may have inadvertently tossed a stone into this young woman’s pond, but the waves that creativity brought about for the both of us were profound and life altering. Even in the smallest of ways, from the smallest of acts, you too can change your life and positively influence those around you. That is why I believe everyone should be creative. Not only will YOU be a better person because of everyday creativity, but also the WORLD will be a better place because of it. And isn’t that what we all want, a better world to live in and pass on to the next generation? Yes, what I am saying is that you can be a part of that if you want to be. Your creativity can in fact, change the world.

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

Photo: Matt Geerling - Rupert's Brew House 3.16.2016

You may believe that changing the world is far fetched. Unattainable. Impossible. Beyond your grasp. Yes, you are but a small speck on a big, blue planet, but the impact you have on this world can be revolutionary. Each and every one of us has the ability to sow their own seeds of creativity to those around us. It all begins with you and how everyday creativity affects your life. With time and practice, it seeps into your being and changes you. Everyday creativity can transform you in many ways, but it all boils down to four areas of your life: your mind, your body, your spirit and eventually, your community.

How creativity impacts you mind, body, spirit and community will be the next four installments of this blog and I look forward to sharing these ideas with you.  I hope something in the words I write inspires you and that you continue to be creative everyday. You never know how your creativity will impact your life or how it may affect others. I will see you all again at the next Kalamadoodle event, on April 20th at Arcadia Brewing Company from 6:30-8:30pm. I look forward to hearing how you too have sown seeds or tossed stones into the lives of others. We could use a little more of that these days.

Doodle on, my friends!

- Elena

 

SPREADING CREATIVITY: PART ONE

By: Elena Campos

 

“But why do I need to be creative?” he asked me rather abruptly. I was in the middle of my lecture at the College of Health and Human Services on the subject of how art therapy could impact one’s spirituality, and I wanted to reply, “Well, because creativity is amazing,” but that clearly did not convey the amount of knowledge I had on the subject. Hoping to provide all of the detailed information he needed, I responded to his inquiry by telling him we could meet after class to discuss it further, but he didn’t stick around after the lecture, and I never saw him again.

The young man’s face and his question stuck with me for many years. This big question he had asked me to explain has also raised many others that I have wanted to seek answers for. Who squashed this young man’s creative spirit, and how can I help prevent that from happening to others? What had made him think twice about putting pencil to paper? How can I rekindle that creative spark in anyone who feels like they have lost it? How can I help spread creativity?

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 12.16.2015

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 12.16.2015

In the beginning, I attended Kalamadoodle events not only as a way for me to flex my creative muscles, but also, as a way for me to further understand this question of, “why do I need to be creative”. I thought there was no better way to comprehend this great topic than to be fully submerged in the idea of creativity with my peers. Walking from table to table, admiring the pieces of artwork and talking to their creators, seemed like a great place for me to start building the answer to this question. Fast forward to today and here I am, writing about creativity, trying to change one mind at a time about why it is so incredibly important.

I often see people struggling to get in touch with their creativity. In my many rounds at each monthly Kalamadoodle event, I notice at least one person cautiously playing with a colored pencil or crayon, but can’t seem to put a mark on paper. Or, away from events, when I talk publicly about the idea of bringing craft and creativity together, someone always comments that they can’t draw a straight line, so clearly Kalamadoodle isn’t right for them.  And even more heartbreaking, is to witness someone who says they aren’t creative at all. GASP!

"You don’t have to find validation from the masses to create something of meaning."

First, it seems most important to clarify what creativity is at a fundamental level. Creativity can be defined in many ways, just like “love” or “happiness”. While it may be hard to describe this magical idea, at its core, creativity is taking new and imaginative ideas and putting them into reality. Whether they are physically tangible like artwork, a novel or the next great invention, or intangible concepts like ideas, music and personal transformations; it is the act of thinking outside the proverbial “box” and producing something worthwhile and valuable. And of course, the creator can solely define what makes it, “worthwhile and valuable”. That idea is what makes creativity so powerful. You don’t have to find validation from the masses to create something of meaning. You alone can find great value from what you create and that can be enough.  

The next thing to focus on when it comes to creativity is that everyone is inherently creative; something we are born with. I can hear skeptics scoffing at my claim, but hear me out. One of my most favorite quotes on this subject is from an article in the 2009 November/December issue of Psychology Today by Carlin Flora. In her article “Everyday Creativity” she says,  

“When we think of creativity, we think of Mozart, Picasso, Einstein – people with a seemingly fated convergence of talent and opportunity. It’s too narrow a set of references, because the truth is that all sorts of people, possessing various levels of intelligence and natural ability, are capable of engaging in fulfilling creative processes. Just because you’ll never be Brando or Balanchine doesn’t mean you can’t harness your idea-generating powers and make your life your own masterpiece”.

When we believe in the idea that only people who have a natural talent or who have spent their entire lives training to be an artist, or dancer, or musician or chef, have the ability to put their creativity to good use, it is doing nothing more than preventing you from appreciating your own creative potential. Plus, you are more likely to squash the creative urge of those around you if you believe only a few can be creative masters. The key is to remember that creativity is part of our human existence, a gift given to us at birth.

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 12.16.2015

Photo: Lori Gottschling - Arcadia Brewing Company 12.16.2015

Some of the most creative individuals in the world are children. They have this seemingly endless supply of imagination that can come up with stories, pictures, scenarios and eventually, little personalities that makes them unique individuals. The hardest part is to continue to foster that youthful sense of wonder and wild imagination, into adulthood, so we can continue to expand our creative tendencies throughout the rest of our lives. Believing that a creative spark is only found in children is a thought that prevents adults from reaching their creative potential. We are born with this trait. It is only for our benefit that we keep that creative spark burning brightly.

So as I said, we are born creative. The hardest part is staying creative. While Kalamadoodle mainly focuses on creativity from an art making perspective, creativity does not start (or stop) there. Luckily, there are so many ways in which you can begin to foster your creative thinking. Here is a VERY short list of ideas to get you started:

  • Try a new route to work, school, or your favorite coffee shop
  • Style your hair a new way or wear different clothes
  • Play pretend
  • Make music
  • Dance in your living room, or take a dance class
  • Try a new recipe
  • Get a tattoo (temporary or permanent)
  • Reorganize your living room
  • Take an unplanned trip
  • Write a real letter – not an email
  • Read poetry
  • Day dream
  • Tackle unsolved dilemmas in your life
  • Try a new form of exercise
  • Talk to strangers
  • Take photographs
  • Visit a flea market or antique store
  • DOODLE!!!

It is not always the product of our creativity that has value and meaning. It isn’t always the poem that you write or the meal you cook or the photograph that you take that is amazing. To be completely honest, the product might be a terrible. In fact, it probably will be terrible if this attempt at creativity is completely new to you. I know I have sat down to try something new and failed at my first attempt. But that is just fine! What is most important is the act of using your creativity over and over again. It is the PROCESS that has the most benefit. Using your creative muscles and practicing creativity regularly makes it flow more easily from you. And, who knows? You may actually surprise yourself with the product of your new creative endeavor and it could be the most amazing thing you have ever done!

We have covered what creativity is, who can be creative and how you can practice creativity everyday. So now, we have reached the big question. The very question that started it all, “Why should I be creative?” It is still a loaded question, full of possibilities and endless discussion. It has taken me years to build a foundation of understanding to get to a point where I can confidently tackle this question, and how it benefits you and the world around you. So, I believe it is time to give you a break, and allow you to think about how you are already creative, and let you process new ways to be more creative.

In fact, lets meet up at the next Kalamadoodle event and talk about it more. I want to hear about your current creativity and how you plan on taking it to the next level. Enjoy a break during the midweek grind, and flex your creative muscles with us at Rupert’s Brew House, March 16th from 6:30-8:30pm. Come drink and draw with us and we can talk about creativity.

Also, stay tuned next month for a follow up blog post on my reasons for why you should be creative everyday. My hope is to continue this discussion on creativity and how it can benefit and change your life. Combining a bit of humor, some personal stories, a little research and many years of experience and insight, I hope to continue to spread creativity and help to inspire you to find new and exciting ways to be creative everyday. Doodle on, my friends! Until next time…

-Elena