What Lies Have You Been Told That Keep Your Creativity Cowering In A Cage?

The Day The Birds Found Flight
image: Alia

Katie-Rose grew up in a family where both parents were very encouraging of her curious nature.

She was never short of books to read, or crayons to colour with, and received a camera at seven years old to take her own pictures so she didn’t have to borrow her mother’s all the time.

As she got older, it was just second nature for her to always be writing, drawing, taking pictures, and concocting amazing stories in her head.

A couple of Katie-Rose’s school teachers were particularly supportive and always praised her creativity and imagination, so she always felt it was strange when she talked to other kids and realised they didn’t read, write, photograph and daydream anywhere near as much as she did.

When she reached her early twenties, Katie-Rose met a wonderful, loving partner who was also very artistic, and they nurtured each others creativity, both in their individual pursuits, and in some collaborative projects together.

If Katie-Rose’s creativity was a bird, it would be a chirpy, inquisitive little bird.

A happy bird that hopped freely from branch to branch amongst the trees, and flew wherever the breeze carried it, for as far and wide as it wanted.

Elisha had a somewhat different upbringing.

Her parents never did much that was creative, and whenever Elisha showed any signs of daydreaming or making up stories and characters she was swiftly chastised and told to concentrate on something more important. She wasn’t given any pens, or books, and the thought of even using a camera never crossed her mind as being possible.

As Elisha got older, she gradually lost that young enthusiastic curiosity, and began to try to be a good girl like her parents told her, getting on with her studies so she could get a well paid job and a develop a good sensible career.

At school, Elisha’s teachers were all very academic and only interested in her getting the right answer in her papers and assignments. There was one girl she would see sitting in the grass with a sketchpad or a book, always reading, drawing or writing, and Elisha wondered why this girl seemed one of the happiest kids in the school. She was trying to be good, and do the right thing, so why couldn’t she be that happy?

When Elisha was 24 she got involved with someone who was very reliable, straight forward and career minded. They soon settled and began their ascent up the twin ladders of career and property ownership.

If Elisha’s creativity was a bird it would be timid, cowering, and locked in a cage.

By the time anyone realised she even had this bird it would probably be close to dead anyway.

Which of these two tales do you relate most to? Katie-Rose’s or Elisha’s?

What kind of encouragement did you receive as you were growing up? What were you told about artists, about using your imagination, about being creative?

Were they positive, inspiring ideas and beliefs that made you want to explore your own creativity?

Or were they lies designed to keep your creativity cowering in a cage, by people who were either jealous or afraid of just what you could create if you were set free?

We’re all influenced by our surroundings, by the people around us, by the world at large. We can easily absorb beliefs that we think are true, then carry them around for years, maybe decades, without ever questioning that there may be another way, even if they leave us miserable and unfulfilled.

But what if those beliefs you’d been told weren’t true?

What if daydreaming was the best way to come up with the most amazing ideas possible? Ideas that would change peoples lives?

What if there were artists that weren’t starving and living in a hovel, and who had a growing loyal audience that loved and invested in their work?

What if by nurturing your creativity and creating everyday it could bring you the kind of happiness you hardly dared dream of, a kind of deep contentment that nothing else in your life had brought before?

What if you’ve been carrying around a pack of lies told by people who wanted to keep you down, hold you back and pen you in because they were scared of what you might achieve, because they were jealous of your obvious creative talents?

Start seriously asking yourself a few of these “What if?” questions.

Get to the truth – the reality of what is, not the beliefs you’ve been fed as the safe, obedient, conformist option.

I suspect that when you do, you might find not only that your creativity is far from a scared and half dead bird, in fact it’s ready to spread its wings, take off and soar.

All you’ve got to do is turn the key and open the cage door…

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10 thoughts on “What Lies Have You Been Told That Keep Your Creativity Cowering In A Cage?”

  1. I think I had the same parents as Elisha! I started out as a biology major in college and came back after one year wanting to be an art major. I was told by my dad that he didn’t want any “starving artists” in the family and that I should finish what I started! So I struggled through college knowing that I wanted something sooo different.

    For too many years, I became a “starving artist” anyway – in the sense that my artist side was not fed at all!

    The story has a happy ending, though. I finally gave myself permission to be an artist (realizing that an art “degree” wasn’t required in the real world to be a real artist!). I know how necessary my creative side is and how much joy I get from making art. I also consciously made the decision to be a different parent to my daughters, and I have become more like Katie Rose’s parents!!

    Hooray!
    Jean 🙂

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    1. Jean how brilliant to read about how you’re living a creative life!

      Permission is such a huge thing, and whatever influence anyone else is, ultimately it’s only you who can make the choices you need to make and give yourself permission to explore being the artist you need to be.

      Absolutely love this line – “I know how necessary my creative side is and how much joy I get from making art.” SO many people forget this because they haven’t created regularly for so long and wonder why they feel so empty and miserable. Creating is not a luxury optional extra on a car like those windscreen wipers that come on automatically when it rains. Creativity is the engine, it’s the wheels…

      Thanks for sharing your comments.

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  2. My parents were a mix. They encouraged my creativity, at one point they got so involved in my creative process they overdid it to the point that I shut down because they were pushing me too hard. They didn’t allow me the privacy a teenager needs to explore their own thoughts and beliefs and grow creatively.

    My parents grew irritated at my resistance to have them intimately involved in my writing process, and stopped supporting me so much. They decided I wasn’t “serious” just a hobby writer and encouraged me to find a sensible back-up plan throughout college.

    I didn’t. But I didn’t write either. I just floundered in pointless data entry job because at least it feels like writing, lol. I hope I am finally clawing myself out of this trap though.

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    1. I know that feeling of resisting if people push too hard. We all need encouragement, but yes too much pressure – however well intended – and it can all go the opposite way.

      Great to read your finding your way back to your art Chase. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. @Jean – that is wonderful that you are now living according to your own desires and creating your art, and major kudos to you for making a conscious decision to raise your children differently! It can be sooo hard to go against the grain of how you were raised yourself. If I am ever blessed with children, I hope I have the strength and courage to do the same. Good luck to you!

    @Dan – this post really spoke to me. I was encouraged creatively only up to a certain age, but then it was all business and studying and earning those high marks we are all judged for in school. For a painfully long time I have stuffed my creative urges. I do create more than I used to, but even still I will occasionally sabotage myself because I feel guilty for doing something that is so much fun to me, but doesn’t appear to benefit anyone else. Sounds crazy, but I know I’m not alone. Thanks for a really terrific post!

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    1. Renee, thanks for your comments.

      I think the crazy thing is that the schooling system seems to stifle people’s natural talents and creativity so much, not giving the opportunities for people to explore what they enjoy.

      About the guilt, this feeling of selfishness or even self indulgence is common. What I suggest you bear in mind is how creating (and not creating) affects you in your wider life. If you’re feeling stifled, frustrated and uncreative, how happy and fun and supportive are you likely to be to those close to you? If you’re creating what you love, you’re naturally going to feel so much happier and more positive, and that energy can’t help but spread to those around you. A happier more creative you means happier more creative people around you, it attracts and it spreads, and it builds.

      If everyone in the world was creating what they loved, just how incredible would the energy levels be!

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  4. This is a beautiful post, Dan.

    I had Elisha’s parents, but I was able to see their “facts” as just thoughts that were stated over and over and had no truth to them. I believe in possibility, which is why I’ve had three books published. I’m believing in it now too, as I bounce back from some severe life challenges. I think we need to test and retest our beliefs daily. Why not choose the ones that serve us?

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  5. My parents were definitely like Elisha’s. My mom was actually very artsy and crafty, so it wasn’t that creativity was discouraged, but every time I brought up anything about writing for a living, I was swiftly discouraged and told to focus on getting a “real job”. I was 26 when I started pursuing my writing with the seriousness of those “real jobs”. I’ve got a ways to go, but in another 4 or 5 years, I expect to be able to quit my evil day jobs and THEN tell my parents “by the way I’m making more at my writing than I did doing the crappy, boring, sensible stuff you told me to do”.

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    1. Brilliant Kait! Can’t wait for that day to come. In the meantime you can be proud that, unlike SO many people, you actually are exploring and pursuing your creativity because you know how important it is… Thanks for your comments and well done! 😀

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  6. I’m truly grateful to both my parents for providing the opportunity to pursue my creativity. We always had art and craft supplies around the house. I pursued an art degree and career. I’m joyfully married to a photographer. My two daughters are involved in music and the arts. One word of advice for those traveling the creative career — invest in learning the business side of managing your creative business. This includes accounting, legal, sales and marketing.

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