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You don’t have to be an expert to be creative

You don't have to be an expert to be creative | Hello! Hooray!

In the world of the perfectly curated social media feed (we’re looking at you, Instagram!), I wanted to talk about something that I really feel strongly about in today’s post: you don’t have to be an expert to be creative. Now don’t get me wrong, we need experts in our lives and they are important for many reasons. For one thing, experts provide us with a high level of knowledge and can demonstrate great skill and technique. Without experts we wouldn’t necessarily aspire to achieving greatness in whatever it is that we’re trying to be great at. Another reason is that we might not look at things in the same way without experts. Experts can show us things that we didn’t realise are possible, and that is a good thing! But when it comes to creativity, I don’t think we should only focus on the experts. We need to consider all levels of ability, because we can learn from all levels of ability. It’s also important to allow yourself the space to make mistakes and learn from them, and I’m not sure that we do that enough.

Embroidered banner | Hello! Hooray!

Letting go of ideas of perfection

Perfectionism is something that I’ve dealt with all my life, as I’m sure many of you reading this have too. I had some CBT sessions back in 2018/2019 and it was something that came up then as something more significant than I’d previously realised. For me, perfectionism isn’t about being the best as in being better than everyone else – I’ve never been hugely competitive. In fact, it’s just about being the best for me. But the problem with this has been that over the years I have set the bar VERY high for myself 😂 I’ve actually set these expectations too high with things concerning my previous jobs and my music (which was my previous line of work and now also a previous passion – that’s another story). It has been unattainable – not because of the lack of determination or skill or hard work, but just because of the situations that I’ve found myself in. This has only ever been with myself though, and I’ve never placed such high expectations on anyone else.

Both during and after the CBT sessions, I have thought about the reasons for this a lot. What is it that made me put such high pressure on myself? In my previous jobs I have felt that I’d been pushed into things that I didn’t really want to do, and the change was often very last minute which meant that I didn’t have time to get my head around things. I can’t really deal with that. I’ve come to realise that time is something that is really important when it comes to letting go of ideas of perfection. It takes a long time to do this and feel comfortable with things being good enough for you. That’s a phrase that my counsellor used a lot: if it’s good enough for you, then it’s good enough. Believe me, it has taken a long long time to come around to this – three years and counting! And I don’t always manage it, but it is something I work on every day. As for the reason why, I’m still not 100% sure about that. But being aware of it helps because at least I know that I need to be a little bit kinder to myself. 

Another thing that I realised is that despite my perfectionism, I have always encouraged other people to just have a go at being creative without worrying about the results. The finished product (whether that’s music or a craft project) isn’t the main thing, it’s the creative process that’s important. That’s where we learn to let go. That’s where we give ourselves the freedom to just try things out and go for it. I knew this in terms of creating through embroidery, and it’s interesting to me that I seemed to allow myself to make mistakes with embroidery in a way that I didn’t allow this for myself in other areas. With my music in particular, I never felt like I was playing something quite right – or even that I would ever be able to on some occasions. I think that being a teacher allowed me to nurture this sense of giving things a go in other people, but along the way I forgot to give myself the same space and grace to do it in wider aspects of my life.  So when I realised this, it actually came to help me start to change the way I thought about getting everything perfect.

Creative Process embroidery hoop details | Hello! Hooray!

Embracing the creative process

When I began to understand that I needed to encourage myself to embrace all those imperfections, it meant that my approach to creativity that I had with embroidery kind of became more of a way of life. I have this creative process embroidery hanging on my wall, and it makes me laugh a lot because I do tend to get stuck on step 4 sometimes! But through consciously trying to view my mistakes or blips as an important part of the creative process, what I’m finding happens more often now is that I can skip from steps 3 to 5 and miss out step 4. Creativity is a huge part of who I am, and I try to focus on this (through things like my creative manifesto and our creative family manifesto) and so more and more things are becoming ‘good enough’ for me. The Happy Stitch Project has really helped me to put things out into the world even if I’m not 100% happy with them, or even if they aren’t quite finished. In turn, this has helped me more generally with normal everyday things too. It’s a slow process, and it’s something I’ll need to continue to work on. The words in the main photo for this post are from a lovely lady called Jo, who is joining in with The Happy Stitch Project, and I loved how she talked about letting go of imperfections. She kindly let me share her words on Instagram and I’m delighted that the process is helping her in this way too.

Colourful embroidery thread | Hello! Hooray!

You don’t have to be an expert to be creative

Don’t forget that we were all once beginners at EVERYTHING. I really believe that when it comes to creativity, the most important things is to just start! And then once you’ve started, allow yourself some space to grow. Remember that you don’t have to be an expert to be creative in the first place. You will make mistakes during the creative process, and that’s absolutely okay ❤️ Frustrating when it happens, but it’s okay! It’s just important to try to embrace these little blips, rather than beating yourself up about them. Here are a few top tips to consider:

  1. Just start! If you’ve wanted to have a go at something creative, then give it a go. You don’t have to spend a small fortune on materials and tools – just buy a few basics and give it a try.
  2. Be open to experimenting and making mistakes. Experiments are naturally risky because you are doing something that you don’t know if it will work, or if you’ll be able to do it. But here’s the thing: you mustn’t let that stop you experimenting. There is a lot of joy to be found in giving yourself the freedom to just create!
  3. See it as part of a learning curve. If you make a mistake, try to think about what you can learn from it. Is it a technique that you need to practice? Or maybe it was something you’d change in a design? Do you need to give yourself more time? Identifying these things can be really helpful in terms of seeing your progress. You can work out what you need to do next time, and then do it – and then you will hopefully be able to see your progress next time.
  4. Don’t be afraid to abandon something if it isn’t working for you. I’ve talked a little about works in progress (WIPs) in Colourful Fun Embroidery because we often feel negative feelings towards them. If you can come back to a WIP and then finish it, well that’s great! But there’s also nothing wrong in deciding to give up on it. Think about the process again – what didn’t you enjoy about it and why? What is it that’s made you decide to leave it for good? Can you change or avoid this in a future creative project?
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s not a bad thing – we learn lots from others and there might be someone who can help you out of the rut. Could a friend help? Could you ask for pointers on social media? Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone. You don’t have to be an expert to be creative, and you don’t have to do it alone either!
  6. Be kind to yourself! Letting go of ideas of perfectionism can be hard. Giving yourself the freedom to create can be hard. Sometimes you’ll get it right, and other times you’ll feel like it’s all wrong. That’s okay, it’s all part of the process.

What are your top tips for getting creative?

Let me know in the comments or on social media! I’m @hellohoorayblog on Instagram

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