“I don’t know how to pick colors. I’m not creative.”
“Just look at my house — there’s nothing creative about it.”
“I have no idea where to even start. I’m just not creative.”
So ran the confessionals at my recent “Your Home, Your Way – Soul Style” workshop. Every single attendee copped to this belief about herself. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, because “lack of creativity” is the refrain of nearly every client I work with.
And yet I’m a little dumbfounded and heartbroken every time I hear this because I see and intuit the creative capacity in everyone. I also see why so many believe this. Somewhere along the way they’ve denied themselves permission to tap the gold mine within.
“I’m not creative” is a story we tell ourselves again and again when we get into the business of self-judgment, insecurity, fear, comparison, perfectionism and a whole host of very human, very normal, but very unproductive and soul-crushing conversations in our heads.
“I’m not creative” is sometimes simply code for (take your pick): I don’t trust my decisions. My husband will pitch a fit. I can’t afford it. People will judge me (and not nicely). What if I don’t get it right? I’m clueless. I don’t know how to. I’m afraid to. Fill in the blanks.
Tapping into our creativity, playing with it, trying it out … is chancing vulnerability. It’s the risk of showing up, expressing ourselves and being seen. Scary stuff!
It’s so much easier to say, “I’m not creative.”
But what if it simply isn’t true?
I’ll let you in on a secret. Creativity is a muscle and we all have it whether we choose to believe and use it or not. Like any muscle, the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Sometimes we’ve used it all along and didn’t even know. Creativity comes in all manner of guises: problem solving, human interaction, artistic expression, performance, intellectual endeavor and so much more. If you take a mental survey of the things you do well, you might just discover your creativity plays a part.
And yet in our own homes — our one precious, private spot on the planet — we become creatively paralyzed.
We see a neighbor’s straight-from-the-pages-of-you-name-it-catalog perfectly appointed home and want to close and lock our doors forever. We choose a color we end up not liking and throw in the design towel. We look into a room that seemingly has all the right elements but doesn’t feel right and assume we just don’t have what it takes.
But we do.
It took me a while to figure out that creativity at home is a game of confidence and willingness to take risks and, yes, sometimes fail miserably. (A certain pumpkin-colored wall comes to mind!) But failure is a great teacher and in time you learn how to dance with it.
(And, sure, there are guidelines and strategies and techniques to design a space. But when we get fixated on the rules rather than what the heart yearns for, we’re less likely to feel “at home” in our homes.)
So here’s the thing: nothing ventured, nothing gained. You learn by doing.
It wasn’t until I divorced in my early 30s, when I had time and space and mental room not affording someone else’s chiming in on my talent or lack thereof or what was proper and appropriate and mind-numbingly B-O-R-I-N-G that I began to play with creating home on my terms. I used the space of disappointment in my life to birth something new in myself. I began to see and utilize my home as an awesome creative playground.
Designing a home you love that loves you back has nothing to do with matching someone else’s standards or following the top 10 tips for a beautiful space or playing it safe. It’s simply discovering what pleases you, reflects you, and is authentically expressed into your space.
Your creativity, dear ones, is waiting.
P.S. Be on the lookout for Part II later this month with ideas to kick-start your creativity!
Susan McConnell is a writer and mentor, and founder of Soul Style Home. As a design and creativity coach, she guides re-imagining and reinventing home with "design from the inside out." Her clients say her "secret sauce" is helping them see, express and celebrate who they are. Learn more at www.soulstylehome.com.