Last weekend, I was asked to give a speech on what creativity and the use my hands mean to me. Inspired, I wrote this essay. And didn’t do too badly with my first public speaking engagement in I don’t know how long.

Although my artistic talents may be obvious to some, it’s taken most of my adulthood to call myself an artist and a writer and to put these gifts into practice. The most painful parts of my past were when I denied my creative expression and resisted making the time to create. This was like an imprisonment with no chance for a furlough. I had no permission or right to be myself. Hard work has now brought me to a better place where I can value my self-expression and this journey is one of many stories I tell on my blog.

My creative process truly begins when I make room and time for intentional play. This allows for the next step, known as flow, to happen. I discovered this concept in a fabulous book called Creating Your Best Life written by Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, and Dr. Michael B. Frisch. The flow was conceived of by a Hungarian-born American researcher named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (CHEEK-sent-me-hi-ee), who described flow as a lost expanse of time during which a person enters a trance-like state of mental productivity and completely engages in accomplishing a goal or task without emotion, anxiety, or self-consciousness. Being in a state of flow is to lose ourselves to our task.

On the couch on

True flow is different from “junk flow”, that feeling of lost time as we watch TV or eat unconsciously. Whereas junk flow depletes us, real flow expands our soul and worth through an unconscious and productive immersion in an activity. Artists, athletes, and maybe even accountants can experience this concentrated creative feeling of flow.

Happiness is the biggest benefit of creative expression. As hands and mind connect with the world during self-discovery, our emotional selves benefit as we clarify our individuality. There’s a soundness in feeling we’re using of the best creative part of our being to birth our ideas and gift them back into the larger world.

Playing the piano on

When children are allowed to play, they become thoughtful happy contributors to society. Conversely, conformity thwarts flow and kills creativity. If we drive the pragmatism bus over our inner children at play, they can’t imagine and hope and create.

I crave this feeling of delicious unending introverted play-time. There’s purposeful direction as I’m writing or creating a collage. And at some point, I’m no longer conscious. I’m just grabbing at whims and running, not fully aware of my thoughts.

Fiona playing with solo cups on

Inside this process, a beautiful colorful wind comes from behind me and flows over my shoulder and while I pay no attention, the wind becomes what I’m working on. As if a kind generous stranger has left a gift at my door and I need only to look away from the stoop to receive it.

Only when I tell the judge to have a seat, does the creative play and flow happen. As I immerse myself in this process, my joy is what I perceive as my oneness with a divine spirit. When I emerge, my inner little girl wants to proudly show you my creation and then she wants to give it away. My creative expression equals my happiness, my purpose, and my self-esteem Through it I’m gifted with a greater gratitude for my existence and it expands my soul.

If I play and create and add beauty to the world, I’m rewarded with a life happily lived. All I needed to do was lose myself to find myself.

If you have any thoughts, please drop a word below in the comments. Or

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    1. I was one of three people speaking in a service on creating with your hands for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, Maryland. If you are unfamiliar with the all inclusive congregational community, the UUFE website is here. We’re all about diverse and not all of America is.

  1. Beautiful Shalagh. And so true. This subject of creativity, flow and conformity has been such a prevalent discussion in our community. I feel like every day by seeing and reading yours and our fellow creatives posts, pictures, stories…I am constantly reminded to just keep creating.

    1. Thanks Mary. My eyes have been slowly opening to the fact that I was even in need of a joining a creative community. That I was creative too. I am so grateful to know that happiness is simply continuing to create and follow my whims. Thanks so much for your comment here. I love to know what I write inspires others.

  2. I love that thought, Shalagh…I need to lose myself to find myself. This is a great, reflective piece. Congrats on a successful presentation, too!

    1. Thanks Amy. If it feels just a tiny bit scary than it’s the one thing you should be doing. Your blog changeover, my speech. You’ve given me so many thoughtful pieces, I’m glad to give you back one.
      Love Ya’,

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