Interest in traditional crafts and creative pursuits is at the height of fashion at the moment as people are looking for a contrast to our fast paced technological world. Some gifts that creativity brings to our lives are:
1. It Makes Time Fly By. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, researched happiness, creativity and discovered the concept of ‘flow’ after studying people who become so immersed in what they are doing that they lose all track of time. He found that if people do activities which are often creative, and are not too easy or too hard, we can have this optimal experience on a regular basis.
2. An increased sense of self. When we make something we get to connect with what it is that is unique about us. Choosing a design and materials reveals our personal taste or style which has been developed through our experiences of life. Sensing our individuality reminds us of our value.
3. Happiness.The happy chemical dopamine plays a very important role in the creative process as it is released when a reward or pleasure is anticipated, such as completing a project. Furthermore, if we are in a relaxed state, dopamine allows the brain to wonder and think up ideas. (A.W. Flaherty).
4. Problem-solving skills. When we are in a creative process, we invariably meet obstacles en route to completion and/or perhaps mistakes are made, for which solutions have to be found. We learn that there is always a solution; we just have to find it. As our confidence begins to grow, it helps us to have courage to find solutions for other challenges in our lives.
5. Character. We learn patience and perseverance. Making a project from beginning to end inherently requires these two qualities from the creator.
6. Intelligence and Knowledge. Following a pattern, or recipe, or other how-to instructions develops our ability to understand and execute a task, and our knowledge of a subject develops. As we ‘learn by doing’ we learn new skills and gain competence, which in turn, increases our self esteem.
7. A way to show love to others. Handmade cards, baking, crafts, sewing and so on are more heartfelt gifts because they have taken time, energy and thought to make. Craft groups all round the world also find joy in making clothing and bedding for those in need.
8. Community. Creativity gives us a way to connect with others. We can join a group of similar-minded people and share our ideas and inspirations and we get to spend time with equally enthusiastic people.
9. A legacy. When you are being creative, lots of people are watching. It could be your children or grandchildren or you may be teaching others your skill-set in person or via an Internet community. Creativity is contagious and inspires others. Author Marianne Williamson writes “We ask ourselves who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?” However, she then points out “as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
10. Purpose. It is a perfectly sensible goal to develop your creative skills and the talents that you have. The Bible encourages us to “fan into flame the gift within you.” American poet Oliver Wendell Holmes Snr lamented “A lot of people go to the grave with their song still inside of them.” We may end our lives with regret if we have not pursued the activity, that we have spent a lot of time dreaming about; which could also be an indicator of an innate, latent talent.
11. Relaxation and Stress Relief. New Zealand Rugby legend and mental health activist, John Kirwan, used the term “active relaxers” to describe people who use an activity as a means to relax such as cooking, gardening, sewing and so on. Such hobbies also provide a wonderful diversion or break from our daily responsibilities and cares.
12. Income and business skills. Whatever we make can be developed slowly over time into a side business and many artisans moonlight until their craft provides enough income to replace their day job.
13. A way to end boredom. Familiar daily routines can become monotonous. Creativity is about pushing limits and going in new directions. Picasso encouraged young artists to “Learn all the rules so you can break them.” You could even say that individuality and setting new trends is a legal way to be a rebellious!
14. It reduces waste. We can creatively use many items that we would typically throw out. Recycling, up-cycling and zero waste have been the subject of many books, blog entries and education classes in recent years in an attempt to try to break the cycle of excessive consumerism.
15. It makes the unobtainable, obtainable. The expensive dress, cake or bookcase that could be out of financial reach can be ours, if we learn to make it ourselves.
16. A Passion for Living. Victorian textile designer William Morris once said “The true secret of happiness is taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” The more areas of creativity you explore, the more you have to be excited about and the more joy-filled ‘aha’ moments you experience as a result of learning taking place.
17. Social Change. Throughout history creative forms have been used to provoke reaction and break down stubborn mindsets. For example, war poet Wilfried Owen described the horrors of World War One and Bob Dylan’s song *Blowin’ in the Wind* became a black civil rights anthem. A more modern creative revolutionary is Mallika Sarabhai who uses dance to express issues facing women in India.
18. Beauty. A beautiful garden, home, poem, film, painting, object and so on gives the world something beautiful that did not exist before, which is the most visible contribution of creativity.
Living a life of all ‘work, no play’ can lead to a joyless existence, burn out and disillusionment. If your life is out of balance, creativity can be a great antidote. It is one of the greatest gifts of living and brings innumerable benefits.