MAKING

Writings, experiences  and connected events for
the evolution of mind, body and soul

Creativity for Personal Growth

by Andrea Bussinger

The idea for this article was born several months back and I have to admit I’m a bit daunted by trying to explain “creativity for personal growth”—two terms which are so broad yet which have such a personal meaning to me. But as a creative coach, I of all people should know that it’s only by going into the dragon’s cave, where all one’s personal skeletons live, that one finds the gold amidst the rubble. So here I go, and I hope there’s some gold here for you.

Like many people, I was a creative child, constantly drawing, writing, and making things. Back then, personal growth meant nothing to me—I was just having fun. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Umm, that’s what creativity is—fun,” then I would suggest that you go back to the piano, dance floor, canvas or wherever you do your creative thing and carry on. But if, like me, you’ve felt painfully disconnected from your creativity or yourself, then this article is for you.

Everyone has times in their life when they feel uncertain: not knowing what you really want, or feeling a little “not yourself”, all the way on up to that full-blown “something has to change.” It sneaks up on you until one day you realize you are in poor health or feel profoundly frustrated or bored. This happened to me in 2015—and as I looked back at the last couple years of feeling stuck in my life, I saw that I’d also stopped writing music. Remembering many happy hours on the piano as a child, I bought myself a good keyboard and vowed to play it every day; with a few exceptions, I have.

Surprise

I wouldn’t have resumed a daily creative practice had I not been feeling so incredibly stagnant, both creatively and in my personal and professional life. My songs were becoming repetitive and unsatisfying, too, and I realized that at the centre of all this was me. For all these reasons and more I took a different approach: for the first time since childhood, I just played whatever made me happy. This varied from classical to improvisation, to picking up my guitar and singing songs. I completely stopped caring what anyone else thought. To my surprise, I found that the songs I often wanted to sing were the ones I had cut off my setlist years ago–songs from back when I was writing just for myself. These had a jaw-dropping honesty that I loved. I also took time to work on myself in therapy and with supportive friends.

Within a year, I made a drastic positive change and began to re-shape my life. My daily music practice is a tremendous source of joy and courage to me; it seems to rejuvenate me from the inside out, no matter how tired I am. It’s taking me into uncharted waters where new songs with new levels of honesty are bubbling up. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without it.

In times when we feel lost, what we are lacking is the knowledge of what we really want, how we feel, or what we value. We’re accustomed to thinking that silent contemplation or analysis is the best way to get in tune with ourselves; but in fact, creativity has a way of guiding us toward our inner voice. As a yoga student and avid freeform dancer, I know so many people who find that mindful movement has a special effect on them. I believe that creativity can also be done mindfully, with an intention to cultivate joy, clarity, courage, compassion or really any quality we choose. This kind of practice can create a haven of mindfulness, honesty, self-care and expression–what a combination! It’s a wonder creativity isn’t prescribed as an adjunct treatment for all kinds of ailments. If it were, would we feel less guilty about the hours we spend in creative bliss?

My favorite quote about creativity comes from the Netflix series The Get Down: the young emcee Shaolin, who happens to also be a homeless orphan, is speaking to his friend Ezekiel, the “wordsmith” who pens the empowering lyrics for their new hip-hop group. Shaolin keeps a flock of pigeons as pets, and he shows his prized fleet to Ezekiel, sets them free to flock for awhile and says, “You know when you’re off being all smart and reading and writing… you’re flying. Like Flash–how he controls the crowd, how he moves the crowd, man–that’s gonna be my flying!” To be truly creative is to generate something from nothing–or rather, from the inexhaustible fire within. If that’s not freedom, what is?

Being real

Lastly, creativity is a bullshit-cutter. I’ve often thought that creative people are ones who have a low tolerance for bullshit or a heightened need to tell the truth. You can’t make art that is moving or really worth doing in the end without truly embracing what it is that you feel, think, or have seen. This doesn’t have to be tremendously deep–the sass of James Brown is equally as moving as the piercing insight of Leonard Cohen or the placid sweetness of Deva Premal. It just has to be real–it has to come from you.

I hope this has shown some of the potential that creativity holds for stirring the deep waters of the self. If you’re feeling creatively blocked, it’s my opinion that that is a totally natural part of the process of being human. True creativity is not for the faint of heart; like I said, it requires honesty and it requires you to show up and tell the truth of where you’re really at.

In times of life when we feel uncertain, that can be difficult, but perhaps those are the times when we need a creative practice the most. If you find yourself in that kind of a time, try adjusting your creative practice so that you intentionally play on the edges of honesty. Cultivate self-awareness and stoke the fires of inner freedom! You may be surprised at the gold that you find.


Andrea Bussinger, M.Ed. is a singer-songwriter and creativity coach. Having worked as a therapist for three years in the U.S., she came to Toronto in 2013, where she revived her own creative practice and developed a framework for helping others connect deeply with creativity. Andrea believes creativity is a tool for cultivating personal growth, clarity and awareness of our fullest potential. Check out her coaching website for more info: Ordinary Dreams

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