What is International Creativity Month and How in the World is it Giving Me Anxiety?
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Welcome to Aptly Anxious! I’m so happy to be embarking on this journey of mental health and spreading love with you. Before we get into this month’s focus, I wanted to reiterate the goal of this blog. I have been dealing with anxiety and depression for as long as I can remember, although I was only given an official diagnosis a couple of years ago. Being able to put a name to all of the noise that’s constantly bouncing off the walls of my brain was the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Once I figured out what was going on, I was able to focus on working on it. In my various attempts at treating the mental/emotional/physical symptoms of said anxiety and depression (only made worse by the endless shit storm that is our current society), I found that the more I gave back to people that need help, the better I was feeling. The better I felt, the more I wanted to do to help. That’s how Aptly Anxious was born. There is so much in the world that makes me anxious, and aptly so because the world is a f***ed up place. The words on this blog are my way of processing all of it, with real-life, easy-to-adopt ways to turn your anxiety into love fuel to make the world a little bit brighter place. Each month we will focus on a different topic. For the month of January, the focus is on International Creativity Month.
International Creativity Month was founded by former IBM Program Manager turned Motivational Speaker, Randall Munson, CSP. He has many accolades and has traveled the world speaking to businesses about various topics, including creativity and humor at an organizational level. In his paper entitled “Founding International Creativity Month” he says that “Rather than being satisfied with a temporary new year’s resolution, International Creativity Month provides a more powerful, long-lasting opportunity for positive change. It serves as a reminder to individuals and organizations around the globe to capitalize on the power of creativity and innovation.” From what I could find about the month, Randall focuses more heavily on the creativity of organizations – which makes sense given his profession. But many others have taken on a more individual focus. It’s the individual focus that gives me anxiety…
INTERNATIONAL CREATIVITY MONTH MAKES ME ANXIOUS BECAUSE…
Creative expression is the most beautiful thing about human beings. The wonderous, magical, terrifying, breathtaking things that come from human beings’ need to express is astounding and divine. Oftentimes, at least for me, when that creative expression doesn’t have anywhere to go, anxiety and depression feel the need to take over and bad things happen. So when thinking about what International Creativity Month means to me, I can’t help but think about all of the times that my creative expression, and that of so many others, has been stifled and judged. This happens in ways that we don’t even realize, on a minute by minute basis. Often by ourselves! Including right now! I’m typing these words and feel judged before I’ve even posted the damn thing. Not sure what I mean? Consider the following scenarios:
A man who doesn’t have a home and sleeps in a tent outside is dancing on the street without a care who is watching. People automatically assume that he is crazy.
A first grader shows you a drawing and you ask “What’s that?” You don’t see why that makes them upset.
A grown man walks down the street wearing lipstick and a dress. People cross to the other side of the street to make sure he’s not near their children.
That guy from your hometown is still rapping for a living and you joke about it with your friends.
Let me be the first to admit that I have actively done all this, as I’m sure many of us have. Although we don’t have malicious intent when partaking in actions like these, all these things act to pass judgment on another individual’s creativity and if done at the right (maybe wrong?) time, these small moments could have lasting effects on a person’s ability to express themselves creatively.
I call myself a musician, but I hardly play any of my instruments anymore. I studied classical violin in college, coming out with a Bachelor of Arts in Music. I worked my ass off for this degree, and while I’m proud of it and it makes for a good conversation starter at parties, if I could go back and study something different, I absolutely would. Studying music destroyed any security I had in my creative expression. Before entering music school, I was a constant outpouring of writing songs, learning new instruments, writing poems; pure expression. I wanted to study music because it was (still is) such a massive part of who I fundamentally know myself to be. But after four years of hearing about everything I was failing at and how the way that I chose to creatively express myself was wrong, that faded away. I thought going to music school meant I was signing up for four years of being surrounded by creativity and freedom and expression and the joy of music. What I found instead is cutthroat competition, cruel judging, perpetual questioning of yourself and the people around you, and the complete squandering of any kind of creative expression that didn’t fit inside the boxes that the music department had set aside for us to choose from.
I’ve had some time to recover and have begun finding my creative expression in hidden away places, but this was not without some of the worst self-doubt, anxiety, paranoia, malnutrition (yes, malnutrition), and massive loss of confidence that I have ever experienced. Let it be known that I’m on-fucking-fire right now, creatively speaking. I’m endlessly grateful that I went through that “dry” period because it led me to where I’m at now. But my work isn’t done. I may be in a better place creatively, but those lingering dark clouds still exist – taking many different shapes in my life. My ability to express myself creatively is my favorite part of who I am; I truly feel like the person I know myself to be when this door to expression is open and I can pass through easily. Creative expression helps me make sense of the world around me. It helps me sort out my own feelings and productively interact with the other parts of my life.
All of this is to say that I am devoutly passionate about helping others feel comfortable and secure in their own need to express. That is what International Creativity Month is to me. I invite you to join me in elevating the creative voices around us, no matter how big or small. If we all work together at encouraging the creativity of others, things might start feeling a little less dire. After all, I would prefer more art and expression in the world than violence and hate. Don’t you agree?
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
Man oh man, there are so many things that we can all do to help ourselves and the people around us to feel empowered to embrace creativity. Here’s just a couple of things that come to mind.
Share art that tickles your own creativity (especially your own!): When you see something online or out and about that gives you that sparkly feeling inside, share it with others! With the internet being what it is today this is easier than ever before. If you wrote something you find to be beautiful, don’t hide it from the world. Share even if it scares the crap out of you.
Give credit: This seems obvious, but if you see art on Instagram that inspires you, or you hear a song that hits ya in all the right ways, give credit where credit is due. Tag the artist, share with your friends, but keep the creator at the center of the conversation.
Check your reactions: When you see the man experiencing homelessness dancing in the street, don’t immediately assume he is crazy. After all, don’t you dance like a crazy person when you’re home alone? Well, the sidewalk is his home. Let him dance it out. Hell, why not join him?
Practice gratitude before judgment: This sort of goes hand in hand with the point above, but it’s important enough that I think it deserves its own bullet point. If you see a piece of art or hear a song that you don’t like right off the bat, before deciding it’s not “good,” first practice gratitude to the creator for putting more art into the world instead of hate. After that, any assessment made on its quality can (ideally) be done in a more level and understanding way.
Support local artists, especially those in marginalized populations: There are so many ways to do this, including: attending open mic nights and donating a few bucks to the musicians, going to gallery openings, attending community art events like poetry reads, dropping a buck or two in buskers’ instrument cases (especially if that person is experiencing homelessness and they are trying to fix it with their creative expression). In addition to these things, many cities are home to social service organizations who support artists in marginalized populations. In Seattle, Path with Art is one of those organizations. They frequently host free events that showcase the art of the students in their programs (mostly people experiencing homelessness, people who are coming out of homelessness, and/or people struggling with addiction).
It isn’t hard to encourage and empower other people, we just have to want to do it! The more that people feel comfortable sharing their feelings, their experiences, and their art, the world will get brighter little by little. We just need to be brave enough to create!