Creativity and freedom

You know, I was looking at the referral letter I have for a specialist because I am losing my hearing in interesting circumstances, and right at the end of the list of ailments that I remembered was “2006 – DEPRESSION’. I wish that was the only time. And it prompted me to think about all the times I’ve had bouts of depression and they all revolved around identity: adolescence, getting married, two lots of post-natal, the struggle to assert my academic identity, and the absolute spin dive, finding out my partner had bipolar (manic depression) and that I was trying to be mother, father, carer, professional full time, and that I no longer knew how to be me. And under the gentle yet insistent prodding of my therapist, quite unsure what ‘me’ really meant.

I realised after some months of painful reflection, anger, sadness, indifference, passion, determination and hurt that I needed to do what I understood about myself. I couldn’t simply say, ‘I am an academic in my bones and any other kind of work is not good for my soul or my health’, I had to be an academic. I’m nearly there; working in an academic position outside of my field. I’m applying for positions in my field and doing the publishing thing and hoping that it’ll all come good soon.

I realised that I couldn’t satisfy whatever creativity was inside me by making very nice utilitarian clothes for myself or my children. I had to think about why I wanted to do these things and then follow that through. So now I still make clothes for me and the kids but it’s about customisation, bringing out each personality for self-expression, making choices about fibre and colour for the joy of texture, hue and value.

I realised that while I might not be really good at drawing, I did some okay stuff at school when I had the time to observe and practice and the freedom to explore. Slowly, I’m coming to that again, giving myself the time and space to make marks on a page and think about what I could do with them. I think that will be the most difficult one because it’s about what I see in my head and how I see things and being sure about what I see and mark. But a start is better than being frozen.

There’s a bit of a conversation going on over at innercitygarden about creativity and motherhood. And I listened to a conversation between Alan Brough and a philosopher, Damon Young, about a type of freedom that is gained by avoiding distraction. Making our choices about who and what we are and how that gives us a personal freedom that cannot be legislated for or voted against. But it can be trampled by what we expect of ourselves and others, by believing that our creative and passionate selves should always be subordinate to social norms. In short, by being distracted from what is true of ourselves.

There have been ups and downs since 2006 but being sure of myself is a good foundation.



  1. kate said,

    June 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Years ago a friend of mine explained that in the breaks from working on her Honours thesis she’d been drawing. My circle of friends being what it was we all said things like “Oh, I didn’t know you were an artist too”, she said, with an enormous grin “I’m not, I’m really hopeless at it, it’s fabulous.” Having spent years of her life focussed on the things she was particularly talented at, she was revelling in doing something purely because it was fun, even though it wasn’t leading to anything. It wasn’t earning her any points towards her degree, she wasn’t getting a round of applause, or earning money from it, and it wasn’t going to appear on her CV, and yet it was totally worth doing. She’d bought herself some cheap textas and she was just making a mess, the way preschool kids do before they figure out you’re only supposed to draw if you’re good at it. It was a freeing moment for all of us, and I started thinking again about how I could draw just because I like it, and let go of the idea that I wasn’t good enough to do it professionally.

  2. froginthepond said,

    June 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    I read your post yesterday morning, finished my coffee and then spent an hour in the freezing cold ‘studio’ with charcoal in hand. And I just drew stuff, lines, shades and it was fun. I had to push myself past ‘what is this for’ and just make lines on the paper. By the time I was finishing up, I was figuring out how to make a really big clipboard for the easel because I wanted to draw big lines.

    I think I shall do this more often.

  3. mary said,

    June 3, 2009 at 10:48 am

    One of the things that has kept me going – one of the main things (besides medication for anxiety!!!) is photography. And I think it is because I use it as a time to walk quietly, think mindlessly and observe….

    In fact you may have just inspired a blog post…

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