Grabbing the Reins of Creativity

by | Sep 3, 2018 | Guest Blogger

I remember as a kid thinking creativity was this wild, carefree, easy-going emotion that you just got into, rather like finger-painting. But as I have started using the innovative side of my brain as an adult, I realise what a fragile, ethereal thing creativity really is. I see how strong and confident you need to be in order to truly let your creativity work its magic. For me, drawing on inventiveness does provide an element of magic. When I deeply tap into my creativity and get into a state of ‘flow’, I often finish and have no idea from where the inspiration came.

It also strikes me that, like magic, you need to have ‘belief’ to really get your creativity flowing. I know this from first-hand experience. I have always wanted to write since I worshipped at the feet of the children’s book goddess, Enid Blyton. But, at an early age, I lost my belief and, instead, fell into a rabbit warren of shame and doubt.

In the mid-70’s I was a very shy nine-year-old and a daydreamer. On one occasion I forgot to do my homework, which was to write an essay on “My Horse”. All the diligent, non-dreamers handed in their papers. I was given a day’s grace.

I sat down at home that afternoon and wrote an epic tale about my horse. At least I thought it was epic. He was a beautiful horse and was abducted by communists and locked away in a barn. He rubbed his hooves together on the hay, started a fire and kicked the barn door down to escape. He bolted down the road and left his captors in the dust. He hid on a boat and found his way back from Russia, just to be with me.

.

About Tanya

Tanya Southey is a people collector, tea drinker, dog lover, poetry junkie and recently published author. Her children’s adventure story Ollie and the Starchaser subtly explores grief and loss. In 2018 Tanya is working on a poetry challenge – #52words52weeks – where she is collaborating with London Street Photographer, Denise Smith, to create a poem a week.  Currently Tanya is pretending to have retired from her corporate career, but work keeps finding her.  Her mission, whether in writing or life, remains to help people reach their full potential.  

You can find out more on www.tanyasouthey.com 

My teacher wrote “What Rubbish” in big, bold, but incredibly neat, red handwriting.

She then read it out to the class as an example of what not to write. She said horses didn’t have communist adventures and I should have written about riding my horse in a paddock. Well, I didn’t have a horse. We lived in a small house in the suburbs of a tiny mining town in South Africa where no one had horses.

But I did have ears and eyes. I was an avid listener and observer, and my dad loved communists. He talked about them all the time. It made total sense to me that a beautiful horse would be abducted and sent to Russia. So there was something in her reading it out that not only shamed me, but also cast its shadow on my Italian dad. I saw how people looked at him when he went on about communism in his broken English.

After that, my writing went underground.

Forty-odd years later, I know the science of shame. It drives us into hiding. For years, if I wrote anything that was remotely creative, I winced when someone read it. I felt sick that it might not make the mark.

Last year I went to Boston to be trained in Immunity to Change, with Harvard alumni Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. The course teaches why we develop an ‘immunity’ or protection to certain situations. It explores why we have certain ambitions in our lives that become like New Year’s resolutions. We set the goals, and put all the behaviours in place to achieve them, and then we don’t succeed. I had to complete my own immunity map, and I chose getting a book published as my objective. I had all the right things in place – a compelling goal, time set aside and writing courses completed – but I had an unknown, hidden protection in place that I uncovered while completing the map. I had protected myself from putting anything out there because of a deep-seated belief that I was not good enough to publish a book.

Fortunately, the map required a ‘safe test’. I set mine to completing my children’s story. Well, my book is out there now and, surprise, surprise, I am still alive. More than that, I am grateful I took a chance on investing in myself and in my writing.

So now when I want to be creative, I gather up that shy nine-year-old; I give her a hug, I give her the pen and I let her go. Even when the clumsiest pieces turn up, I look her in the eye and say, “We’ve got this.”

And she looks back and asks, “Did I ever tell you about my horse?”

Without Self-Compassion, Why Should Anyone Trust Us?

Celebrity drag queen Ru Paul sings, ‘If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ Amen to this when it comes to the act of writing. All writing begins with self-compassion. To write, we have to own our voice and our right to write. I...

What Every Writer Needs on Her Shelf

Finding the right word may take more than just a click of a mouse... I inherited a Roget’s Thesaurus from my late grandfather. It has one of those hard-covers made from cloth. My grandfather’s signature is on the front page with the date 10-3-36. A few pages in is a...

Women’s Bodies Over the Twentieth Century

'Civilization is a circle squared . That’s why in civilized societies, women’s lot and Nature’s lot has been such a sorry one. It’s the duty of advanced women to teach men to love the circle again.’ - Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues If ever our bodies held...

How to Make Readers Part of Your Success When You Launch Your Book

How to Get Your Readers to Become Part of Your Success as You Launch Your Book   The purpose of launching you book is to get people to buy your book after all your hard work. To do this properly, you need to understand why people buy books. People buy books...

One Story in an Immeasurable Community

Some years back, when I had half the number of children I do now and half the ache in my heart, I found my first writing community. It was at the Centre for the Book, a historically solid structure in the middle of Cape Town, close to the austere buildings which...

Surviving Teenagers

I call my kids to come see this YouTube video of some father in the US who ends his rant against his teenage daughter’s ‘I-hate-my-parents’ Facebook post, by emptying the barrel of a gun into her laptop. I suppose I’m hoping it’ll dawn on them I’m not such a terrible...

3 Comments

  1. Debby Doig

    Tanya I love you horse!

    Reply
  2. Allison Aley

    What a triumphant story! I would like to send this wonderful blog to all teacher’s colleges as an example of the harm they should strive to avoid causing in their young students. I would also like to send it to the teacher of your 9 year old self, if she’s still alive. Her response to it would be interesting.

    Reply
  3. Pia

    Lovely Tanya!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *