There’s a side of me that loves to be creative. Let’s call her Ms. Creative. She’s passionate about writing, poetry, and music. A passion that dips, slips, and feels into the smallest canary-lined tunnels seeking creative air to breathe.
On the other hand, there’s a side of me that’s extremely practical. Let’s call her the obvious. Ms. Practical.
She has a clipboard (old school) with a schedule and lists. There’s a list for work, home, groceries and even a writing list of ideas that she somehow starts, then stops, and pushes those ideas aside.
When Ms. Creative and Ms. Practical meet up, it’s not always pretty. Ms. Creative is flowy. However, Ms. Practical must have order. The only flow, for Ms. Practical, is in her Excel charts.
“Pies are not for eating but for graphing!”
Ms. Practical is also demanding.
“Ms. Creativity, what is your end point?”
Ms. Practical taps a long ruler against an ancient blackboard. Ravens flap their wings in the corners of the dark room waiting for my answer.
“Write that piece again!” Ms. Practical roars.
“And this time get it right!”
Then there’s Ms. Creative. The complete opposite. Leaving sticky notes like cookie crumbs and producing thoughts as if blowing bubbles.
On a good day, Ms. Creative will sing in the shower a show tune, ‘I’m gonna wash that man right outta my hair.’
Or pretend she’s crooning the blues at some ritzy New York City bar.
I can see her now.
Long black fitted dress. Hair with a slight mischievous flip. Eyelashes so long one could dine on them. Fingernails painted scarlet. Four-inch Italian stilettos in the finest patent leather. Eyes closed singing from her heart and the microphone French kissing her soul.
Phew! Fun stuff to zip into my creative characters!
And that’s my point.
As creative people, we must slip into our imaginative spheres because it is our soul’s calling.
The other night I was reading a fascinating book, Practical Jung: Nuts and Bolts of Jungian Psychotherapy by Harry A. Wilmer, M.D., Ph.D. who is a psychiatrist and a Jungian Analyst. He writes:
“The artist’s creativity is an innate instinct which takes hold of them and monopolizes all of their energy. There isn’t much left over for life. Conscious personality (aka, Ms. Practical) is dominated by the unconscious (Ms. Creative) and splits the artist into a duality, so that they are at odds with themselves; their passion for creation and their longing for ordinary rewards of life are irreconcilable.”
What happens when creative people suppress their creativeness?
I know for me, I become sullen. I also become grumpy, dismayed, and downright depressed.
Oddly, I need my depressions. They slow me down and lead me to deeper places I would never have discovered unless I was depressed. By the way, I’m not romanticizing depression. It is hell.
Nevertheless, if Ms. Creativity focuses solely on societies end game, the profit, and the hope for fame, plus getting stuck in Ms. Practical’s monochromatic views, then she will lose something exceptionally important.
And that is her creativity.
Creativity needs both light and dark to create. Silence too. But also, freedom and adventure. Long walks. Music. Nothingness and spaciousness. The kindness of real connections from other creative souls. Creativity needs depth and warmth.
When Ms. Practical takes over too much, my inner tree roots feel trapped. It is as if I’ve been planted in concrete. I don’t want to get up in the morning. Restless am I, all night long too. Flip flopping like some wee critter out of my element.
And I am out of my element when I don’t nourish the part of me who needs to be creative.
I am such a sensitive creature.
What are we supposed to do?
#1. Start by understanding there are at least two sides to your creative being. Once you can acknowledge both sides, you can begin the process to integrate. Our dualistic nature needs to respect our creative impulses as well as our noncreative side. Chastising either will only hurt you.
As Dr. Wilmer states, “Every creative artist is a duality or a synthesis of contradictory qualities and is also a collective personality.”
#2. Find friends who you can talk to and share your creativity with.
For instances, there are certain people I don’t express my creative ideas to because they would most certainly reply with “that’s nice” and continue with, “did you know socks are on sale at Target?”
This is defeating. My eye blinks become exclamation marks at their insensitivity!
Save your deeper creative thoughts for those rare inner circle friends with whom you can share such intimate reflections such as: “I’ve been watching this same bush throughout the seasons and it feels like it is mirroring the transformation of my soul.”
They nod and tear up. After a juicy felt pause, they reply: “I know what you mean. I was thinking along similar lines when I saw the morning sky turn robin’s egg blue.”
#3. Supplement your creative side with extra support and consider reading or rereading, The Artists Way by Julia Cameron.
Over this past year, I found myself devouring Julia Cameron’s supportive words. I revisited my morning pages and had extensive conversations with my creative voice.
In my morning pages, I’d ask myself, what inspires me? Who inspires me? And most importantly what are the signs that I’m not feeding my creativity?
One seemingly simple activity, recommended by Julia Cameron, is take our inner artist out for a date. I still struggle with it but when I do, I come back to my laptop refreshed with more creativity.
Remember, the most important thing about being creative is to be true to your artistic self. Carve out space to feed your creativeness. Understand your dualistic nature is also a part of you.
For me, Ms. Practical and Ms. Creativity are learning to become better friends. Each side is teaching me a little bit more about myself.
Original published on Age of Empathy, via Medium: What Happens When Creative People Suppress Their Creativity?
Carolyn Riker is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) in private practice. She is also an author of three books. Her most recent book is "My Dear, Love Hasn't Forgotten You."