ICYMI, I wrote a book about narcissism and abuse.
It's published under a pseudonym because the content is very heavy and personal, and the original edition stirred up a bit of hard feelings in the very, very, very small town that I'm from. Therefore, I decided to protect myself and my family by retracting the original and republishing under a pen name. The OG is dead forever, but my story continues in its new, phoenix-like form.
At first I thought it was a wimp move, but when you broach the darkness, you have to get a little tactical.
And that's what my heart and mind tend to be.
My heart was a dark and haunted place. It had it all: cobwebs, a pentagram of salt on the floor, a broken window, and an out-of-tune piano that played by unseen hands. Ghosts lived there, while an active warzone was occupying my fragile mind.
During my time recovering from narcissistic abuse (I say that like it's over-- I'm still dealing with the trauma), I turned to my art.
I turned to macramé and weaving, and I turned to my good ole pal: writing.
That's what I wanted to talk about here. It's only a blog post, when I should be writing a whole book about it (and I might! *wink*) , but this is a start. It's a start I feel compelled by unseen forces to make.
Let's explore, in brief, healing our hinds and minds through craft.
What is "creativity?"
Creativity, as a word, has a billion definitions. According to Merriam-Webster, it is "the ability to create," where the word "create" is defined as "to make or bring into existence something new." One of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, defines it as "constantly choosing the path of curiosity over the path of fear." Her philosophy is that creativity is not a "thing" in our heads but rather its own sentient spiritual being that comes to us, knocks on our door, and gives us the opportunity to make it flesh. A beautiful definition, truly, but I think creativity is even more than that.
I think creativity is an inherent instinct that is critical to our survival.
Maybe not physical survival, but our emotional survival. What's the point of living if there is nothing to live for? What's the point of drinking water, eating food, and breathing, if not to create and share experiences with one another?
This makes me think of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. As a former advertising student and hopefully-soon-to-be clinical mental health student, I am very familiar with the bigger sociological and psychological theories and models out there, including this one:
Creativity and expression are an inherent need we will at some point insatiably need to satisfy and fulfill.
In my experience, that calling makes itself known in times hardship.
Creativity is a Way to Express
Humans have created for millennia for no biological reason except that they simply wanted to make something pretty or to tell a story. I like to believe that even just making something pretty has a deeper underlying meaning than just pleasant aesthetics. Someone carving intricate columns in ancient Greece wasn't just doing it because it was cool; they were leaving a lasting impression. They were telling the world, then and for the thousands of years to come, "hey, look at me, look what I did, look who I was. I existed and this is what I believed was beautiful."
That desire to tell a story, make an impression, build community, ignite conversation, and unburden yourself of though and feeling... those are all true, real reasons why people create.
It's also why you probably should be creating if you're not already.
It Doesn't Take "Talent"
Being creative is not about doing something because you're good at it. It's about utilizing a modality or medium that allows you to feel fully empty and satisfied when you're finished with the work. For me, it's writing prose, nonfiction, and poems. It's about making art with material. It's also about painting and playing music. I'm not a "talented" painter, but I have gotten a lot of energy out by painting. I also love music. My favorite writers and artists are all musicians. I can play guitar (well, not bar chords) and am saving up to buy a bass, which is when the real musical adventure will begin!
You don't have to be good at something to do it. You just have to like it.
Creativity for Healing
There's a reason why art therapy exists. According to the American Art Therapy Association, "The goal of art therapy is to utilize the creative process to help people explore self-expression and, in doing so, find new ways to gain personal insight and develop new coping skills."
By creating, you are engaging so much of your body. Your mind is active in several ways alone. Number one, it's mechanically directing you how to move your hands to guide the paint brush, guide your hands, or strum a chord. It's actively reading and thinking and processing all the factors relevant to the work. It also, like the above definition says, is consciously and subconsciously working through problems, uncovering truths, connecting the dots, and shoveling out epiphanies that it's shaping up. This is all happening while your brain is jumping through hoops, exercising old muscles, building new ones, and connecting in ways it usually doesn't.
That's why Albert Einstein, for example, would play his violin when he was stuck on a theory or problem. While his conscious mind was navigating the notes and melodies, his subconscious mind was working away at the problem.
And you can do the same.
This concept of using creativity to heal is a massive one. It needs more than a blog post. However, the beginning of a conversation, the planting of a seed, of an idea, only takes one blog post.
I encourage you to explore creativity and your own mental health journey further.