Shout out to my bullies — for helping make me creative

To all of my bullies throughout my life, I wanted to take a minute to thank you for helping make me into the creative person that I am today.

I recently listened to a Freakanomics podcast about creativity, featuring Ai Weiwei, Elvis Castello, among others. It outlined a few things that got me thinking (once again) about creativity.

I have always been told, “You’re the creative one, you do it.” or “We need your creative smarts on this one!” Which has always stroked my ego a little bit.

Until it dawned upon me that I want everyone to be creative. And I think we all are, we’re just conditioned out of it at some stage, or in my case, conditioned in to it. Yes…do read on…

My creative birth

I have always been creative. Call it having a fine oil painter as a mother or a devilishly daring entrepreneur as a father. Call it that as a family we spent our Sundays listening to The Talking Heads on the record player. Or that I spent my weeknights digging through hundreds of my parent’s records for the near-perfect condition Beastie Boys album. Or call it that I spent many a night in my mother’s art studio.

I was lucky, my parents were FUN, but so are a lot of parents.

So apart from the family conditioning, what made me so creative? Could I truly just be born with it? I think not. (Remember I believe everyone is creative, just conditioned in or out of it)

  • From an early age I was bullied.
  • Upon listening to this Freakanomics podcast, I realised this for me, is what was called a “Diversifying Experience”
  • Often this is an experience that develops a feeling where you feel ‘different’ from others. Especially in adolescence.
  • Diversifying experiences, such as bullying, often lead to higher creativity in individuals.
  • So in part, I want to thank my bullies for helping make me the creative person that I am today.

Dean Simonton (professor emeritus of psychology at UCD), discovered this from spending decades studying fine artists (and scientists) trying to understand where creativity comes from. Diversifying experiences can also come from parental deaths and disabilities, among other experiences.

I was bullied so badly (especially by other girls) that my mom had to read books on how to deal with it. This isn’t to say that I didn’t take part in (somewhat evil) childhood debauchery. (I have apologised as an adult for some of the things I did as a young girl.) But bullies stuck with antagonising me through high school and this followed me somewhat traumatically until today. I still openly admit that I have issues getting close to women, as someone who is devoutly loving and caring (I can’t help it, I’m a virgo), this surprises a lot of people when I tell them this. When a woman is mean to me, versus a man, I can quite easily crumble.

  • Alas, I would take crumbling any day, because I am so thankful for my diversifying experience allowing me to be the creative that I am.
  • But I also thank my parents, because (probably due to the way they raised me) I was different. And I am beyond thankful for that too.

Fostering my creativity

One of the hardest things about being a creative, is fostering the little creative beast inside of you that always wants to come out and play. You need to nourish, feed, and love that little monster, or else it will go crazy and therefore you will go crazy.

Creativity is a little part of you, that without water, food, exercise and a little discipline, will turn into something disastrous. Think about it like a puppy, it needs attention and a little dash of discipline to be the cute little puppy it is.

Of course I brought puppies into it. But seriously, your creativity is either a cute little puppy, or a devilish little monster having tantrums, biting and peeing on the carpet (but it’s definitely still cute). The best part is, these little creative monster puppies can always be trained, it will just be harder if you let it go too far before reigning it back it.

SO PUPPIES ASIDE, let’s talk about how to foster creativity.

Give yourself a break.

  • I think this is extremely important for you to trust the process.
  • Give it time, you might hate something you make right away but if you walk away from it, revisit it in a couple of hours/days you might find you love it.
  • Not everything is going to be a genius idea and not everything is going to work.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself, especially when you are a little stuck.
  • Accept yourself for being a little bit weird.
  • Actually, wear that weirdness on your sleeve. Life’s too short not to love yourself.

Eat your P’s

These next few points are derived from one of my other favourite parts of the podcast. This part spoke about MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten research program ran by Mitch Resnik.

I’m a big fan of the concept of lifelong learning. I actually think we should do much more learning and play inside/outside of work than we currently do. And apparently MIT does as well (I guess I’m smart like that) (kidding) (but how cool is MIT?)

So here they are, the four P’s:

Projects — humans love projects and need them in their personal and work lives. I’d even argue from the dawn of homo sapiens we’ve enjoyed projects.

So…

  • Give yourself projects, set aside a weekend to invest time into it.
  • Ask friends if they want to work on projects together, book it in and actually do it.
  • Sign up for a community college class or a class at your community center
  • If you’re planning a party for a friend, that counts too! P.S. How creative of you to plan that beautiful flower arrangement!? I love it.
  • Work projects count too! But try to set aside side projects as well.

Passion — don’t get bored. When you have passion for something, you are willing to stay late. I’ve definitely found this in my life to be true. When I care, when am excited, when I am doing something creative, I will work hours on end.

  • If you’re bored, check yourself. Do some journaling, figure out why. The journey to self awareness will help you with your life satisfaction.
  • Without sounding obvious, passion is at the root of everything. If you’re bored, well, you’re not doing something right.

Read the quote below to see why that is 100% valid for 9–5 work as well. PASSION MAJORLY IMPACTS YOUR OUTPUT! (P.S. passion isn’t just for stereotypically creative things, you could be madly passionate about numbers and therefore love creative problem solving, but I will get to that in my manifesto.)

We’ve seen over and over that people are willing to work longer and harder and persist in the face of challenges when they’re working on things they really care about. They also make deeper connection to ideas when they’re working on projects that they really care about. — Resnick

Play — playing is how we learn, by constantly experimenting trying new things and taking risks. Think about it, children who had over protective parents who wouldn’t let them fall down and scrape their knees, often end up to be less outgoing. We need play to healthily develop and stay happy.

  • Make sure that you are giving yourself room to play, experiment, and investigate in your projects.
  • Always follow your curiosity, as it will lead you to what you truly enjoy doing.
  • Explore, go-outside, joke, read, learn, explore all of the things that interest you, for it will lead to your inspirations.
  • Be demanding with yourself and others to give yourself time for play.
  • Be disciplined with yourself. Go to those after work events, go to the weekend gallery showing, instead of beers with friends.
  • You MUST (this is speaking from experience) not let yourself get in the way of yourself.

Peers — The best learning happens during collaboration. I have always found this to be true. Riffing with friends or coworkers sparks the best ideas. So when one day after I started a certain job and was told that it was not a ‘collaborative role’, it was a HUGE Red flag for me. But I felt at the time (due to not being confident) that it was my fault, I shouldn’t have to rely on peers. Well that my friends, was wrong. As humans we need peers, to sense check, brainstorm, and most importantly learn. If we act in silos, we will only ever act based on our own realities and perceptions of the world (and look what that’s doing for the world around us).

  • Surround yourself with friends who uplift you, cull the ones who don’t help you learn, grow or manifest your ideas.
  • Find workplaces that have collaboration or ‘peers’ at the heart of their business (don’t trust ones that don’t) — sharing and openness are important qualities within human nature (and therefore better working environments)
  • Go out of your comfort zone if you don’t have a group of peers you can lean on inside or outside of work. Attend meet ups, ask people on coffee dates, not only is it great for your creative journey but it’s important to your health.

My creativity manifesto

This is dedicated to my bullies. Thank you for my creativity. But I wanted to let you know, you can be creative too.

Creativity isn’t just for artist, writers, poets and filmmakers. Creativity is for everyone, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Accountants, doctors, secretaries, data scientists…we’re all creative little beasts! Don’t you ever forget it.

Don’t let the words from your kindergarten art teacher dictate if you’re creative. Don’t let your parents, your friends, or your insecurities dictate if you are creative. You are creative, even if you don’t realise it.

Creativity is a muscle, you need to feed it and exercise it. Creativity needs to be trained. You need to practice and discipline yourself. Put the time aside, nourish and give it space to breath. Creativity is a living and breathing thing that needs to find ways to express itself. Allow it to do so.

If you don’t know where to start, follow your curiosities, you’ll find your passions there. Within your passions lies the door to your creativity. Open it.

Whether you work with numbers, or people. Paint or the patriarchy. Creativity is within all of us and we need it to answer the worlds problems. Through whichever medium we deem necessary.

I promise, whether you believe it or not, you are creative, just give it a try.

Pick up a pencil. Play a problem solving game. Write a poem. A haiku.

I promise, it’s really good for you.

Here’s some more things to inspire you