In my early thirties I threw myself across the stage with wild abandon, singing and acting in shows like “Brigadoon” and “Hello Dolly”. My child self was alive, well and playful! I love show people. They lead with their hearts, and their creative child. They’re free and inspired, willing to become their imagination and be vulnerable in front of us.
Later, life events and fears weighed me down. My child heart didn’t sing or act for many years. She couldn’t, she was in hiding.
I have a theory that creativity, giving birth to gifts for the world, is all child’s play. It comes from our core essence – it’s fresh, unselfconscious, brave, free, soft focused, open, naïve, trusting, the fount of all possibilities.
Watch a child building sandcastles. He’s not concerned about the incoming tide or his ROI. He’s focused on his task, not seeking applause; open to his random imaginings, to a change of direction when the water seeps in. He’s giving his entire body, heart, and mind to the task. The art itself is his joy!
Every child creates, so it follows that every adult is creative. Our health depends on the free expression of our playful, creative tugs.
Too soon our child is layered in armour that looks like a thousand dollar suit. He learns to colour inside the lines. The precious child-self is carefully buried beneath a judgement here, a tight box there. Her open, free heart becomes closed, her child-like abandon protected under fears of critique, exposure, and shame, hurts, and heaviness.
Lack & Attack Fears
Our million-year-old reptilian brains have been only too successful at screaming their lack and attack fears in the face of our creative urges. You’ll recognize the “Lack Song”: “I don’t have enough time, money, support, talent or space. When I have an island, better job, empty nest, seniority, degree, then I’ll play big, create my art.”
The attack refrain is loud and clear: What will they say? I’ll be judged, demoted, shunned, visible, blamed. Everyone will laugh at me. What if I FAIL?
The creative voice of our playful, expressive child digs in deeper, she’s harder to hear and difficult to coax outside, off her comfy chair. She may peek her head out, but retreats too soon in fear of being seen and heard.
We itch to express innovative ideas in the boardroom, begin our compositions, novel, dance company, inventions and designs. But we fear getting it wrong, making a mistake, not being good enough, looking like a fool, never realizing that there is never any lack for creating and there is no attack worth our soul’s retreat. So we play it safe.
Trust Your Self
There is a yearning in you that no one else feels. It’s uniquely yours to be manifested in your special way. Trust that, because it’s integral to you, it’s imperative to your well being to express it. Trust it’s valuable for your audience to hear it, read it, taste it, feel it, wear it or use it. Not to everybody! But to your people. (If you’re continually bringing your best self and receiving blame and shame in return, reconsider if this is your troupe.)
Learn to play again. What did you do when you were young that filled you with freedom, laughter, joyful focus, and sheer abandon? What delights your inner creative child? What movement, games, colours, music? Frolic alone or with like-minded, safe friends. Some companies know the value of play for opening the right brain so that innovation can run free. Employees surrounded by toys, colours, whimsy and lighthearted environments experience less fear and inhibition – and create art.
Have A Beginner Mind
Be willing to be less than perfect right now. Be in beginner child mind – open, receptive, questioning, learning. We seldom see the tentative frames of a Spielberg’s first film, the beginner words or score of a Hemmingway, Bernstein. We believe we should be an expert at first run. Give your art space to grow, trusting that within the 100 ideas or songs that sputter is the gem that rockets. A spark of brilliance appears when two sticks are rubbed together, a lot!
A Masterpiece in 15 Minutes
You can hold your fears at bay for 15 minutes! If you intend to present an innovative idea to your boss each month open an idea file, work it every day for 15 minutes, structure something, and on the 30th press send. When my clients have big goals, they “open a file” and label it, “My Screenplay”. Now they’re in business. Open it everyday for at least 15 minutes and work it. You can build art one baby step at a time.
No Comparisons Allowed
You need only to bring your essential self to the artistic table. There is nothing lacking in you. You are enough. Judy Garland said, “Always be a first rate version of yourself, instead of a second rate version of somebody else.” Be clear that you are a complex web of traits and talents built to specifically express your essence. If someone offers up a critique, look inside to see if you are being TAO: Transparent, Authentic, and Open. If you are, there is no need to hear judgement unless it teaches you.
When I go to my core essence for writing inspiration, I ask, “What is my intention? To whom am I giving the gift and why?” That gives clarity and removes ego. I’m giving from my heart. “The work knows more than we do”, reminds author Sarah Ban Breathnach. Trust that if you have the heart yearning, then you have something to give. The Work will find its way.
And, always check for evidence of a fear-need to grasp, get, pull attention toward yourself. Grasping will show up in your art. It’s not the child’s way; it’s the armour talking.
Where does the fear stop you? At the beginning, when you never open a file or get to the dance studio? In the middle when it’s harder than you thought it would be? At the end, just another tweak before hitting send? Trust your inner knowing. Stop, breathe, go inside your body. Ask there. Intellect is the enemy of creation. With soft focus see if what you’ve created is work mined from your heart, with pure intention and with open abandon. If so, throw it across the stage!
Trust your essence, debut, repeat. One day you’ll be a master. Your audience is waiting.
12 Ways To Free Your Creative Child-Self
- Heal any heartache with extreme self-care.
- Walk in nature, calming your fear brain, paying attention to details that delight and inspire you.
- Take a camera, charcoal, journal – zone in on beauty, whimsy, a story.
- Strap on the blades. Drop and roll down a clover hill. Throw the ‘pie’.
- Join an extemporaneous comedy group.
- Ask yourself, “Am I climbing the right mountain?”
- Practice mirror writing like Leonardo to activate the right brain.
- Write or doodle with the opposite hand for artistic mind jogging.
- Activate your five senses. Gather aromas, music, colours, tastes, and textures that delight you.
- Visit a dollar store – buy toys!
- Ask yourself, “What do I know that I don’t want to know?”
- When your prehistoric brain screams lack and attack say, “Stop It! I’m too young for that nonsense. I’m busy building castles.”