January is officially International Creativity Month, which falls nicely in line with many resolutions made a few weeks ago to start a new hobby or make time for something that used to bring us so much joy.
Whether you identify more as a writer, musician, artist, painter, designer, dancer, cook or crafter, you’re probably already aware of the benefits that creative pastimes bring. For many, creativity is a form of emotional expression. It is a way of telling a story that evokes and stirs something from within. It takes its audience on a journey that is unique to them as we interpret the end result in our own way.
I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a highly creative household. My Dad was always singing and writing songs, playing his guitar, painting with watercolours and creating carpentry masterpieces – he once made me my very own dolls house! Later he went on to bake bread, crumbles and pies, as well as designing and creating iron gates and furniture. While my Mum was alive, in our early childhood she inspired our creativity with paper plates and old cardboard boxes. She poured her love into the food she cooked and she encouraged living room dance routines and made-up play performances. (A big thanks to my younger brother for going along with all of the dance routines and plays that his bossy big sister directed.)
It’s no surprise then that my brother and I found our way of self-expression via singing.
For as long as I can remember I have written songs. The first songbook I kept was proudly labelled: ‘By Erin, Age 9’. Some of my songs were short, some went on for 2 pages. The melody would appear in my mind from thin air and I thought everyone had this gift.
I wanted to be Britney Spears so badly that a lot of my songs were about boys and love. Looking back some years later I had to laugh at some of the lines that I clearly knew nothing about but that sounded like I was a pop star. Perhaps a phrase of two was borrowed from songs I’d innocently heard on the radio and assumed had equally innocent meanings. How naive. However, many of my songs growing up were an outpouring of my emotions about things that had happened at school as I navigated new friendships, romances and the loss of my mother.
I taught myself to play the piano to accompany the songs I’d written and begun singing in school concerts, charity events and even at my friend’s Mum’s wedding. Singing was my thing, my creative expression. But as I got older and self-doubt crept in, I slowly started replacing songwriting for writing poetry, articles and fiction. I realised that I could hide behind the words and didn’t have to be vulnerable on stage in case I hit the wrong note or forgot my words.
Eventually, I reached a point of having no reason to sing. I didn’t want to do open mic nights or join a band so I pushed it to one side and didn’t think about it until recently when I noticed that January was International Creativity Month.
Having done a lot of serious introspection work over the last 3-4 years, I realised this heartbreaking truth: My fear of failure stopped me from pursuing a gift with which I have been graced. I wanted to be a singer-songwriter so badly but I was afraid I would never measure up to do it justice, so I stopped before I received the criticism. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone else tearing apart my dream, so I stowed it away and ironically ended up killing it myself.
I’m sharing this story because I have declared 2019 as my year of being brave, feeling the fear and doing it anyway and being more vulnerable to open myself up to more opportunities. I have shared a snippet of me singing on my Instagram page in the hope of it inspiring someone to rediscover something that once brought them so much joy.
If I can encourage just one person to pick up a creative hobby or discover a positive outlet for your emotions, I promise it will be one of the best gifts you can give to yourself.
Whatever creative expression looks like to you, if you feel a connection with something, this is your gift. Do not take it for granted or waste it – share it with the world.