Creativity can be found in the strangest of places. It’s in Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketches for flying machines, and Einstein’s equations; but it’s also present when a child flushes a Superman action figure down the toilet in order to protect against the monsters with tentacles that reach up and grab people. 

Anna’s tips for discovering your creativity

  • Doodle while doing something else.
  • Write in your journal every day.
  • Look at art, read poetry, watch a film.
  • Ask what if?
  • Play with children.
  • Remember your dreams.
  • Take a walk by yourself without any particular destination.
  • Solve a problem.
  • Try something even when you don’t feel creative.

It’s not surprising that creativity is everywhere. Creativity, according to Wikipedia, is about generating new ideas and new associations between old ideas. So, wherever there are ideas, creativity may be lurking, waiting to happen.
Creativity has been linked to genius and mental illness. Everyone is familiar with the cliché association of great art with madness. Van Gogh is often cited as an example. It’s true that people who have experienced mania sometimes feel themselves to be extremely creative and productive during those times. But I admit that in my experience, acute mental illness is more likely to consume my creative powers than enhance them.  

When I am ill in hospital, I tend to do crafts as an act of desperation, as if to say I am still capable of producing something of value. The crafts I have chosen have been soothing in their repetitiveness, like embroidery or knitting. Over the years, my ability to draw has been eroded while I have managed to maintain an ability to use words with precision and clarity. Still, I associate my feeling imaginatively and creatively crippled with the effect of medication and my mental illness.

But I continue to create. My approach to creativity is different when I was young and when a fiery inspiration would sometimes drive me to draw or write. Now, I am less emotive, less inclined to brilliance and less driven. I am more project-oriented, methodical and actually, more productive. Creativity is more of a daily practice than an occasional spark.

I was recently part of a group of women who contributed to an art show about empowerment and disempowerment. One said that allowing her art to flow from her authentic self was empowering. I have found that mental illness and my medications have cut me off from that wellspring of inspiration.

Perhaps if I could tap into that source of creativity again, it would aid my healing. But even when the well seems dry, it is still possible to experience the freedom and the confidence that creative expression brings. Just as the doctors have told me when I’ve been depressed to do the things that used to give me pleasure, I continue to make poems and to find fulfillment in that practice.

My hope is that one day, by creating, I may find my way back to the place from which that creativity flows. It may be a backwards approach to creativity… or simply a creative one! But it’s a way I can keep making things I love and share them with the world, while continuing to search for that place at the core where all beauty comes from. 

About Anna Quon

Anna is an accomplished freelance/creative writer and writing workshop facilitator. She lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  She is passionate about many things, especially writing. It is through her writing, and her volunteer work with community organizations, that Anna honours the lives of people who, like her, are living with mental illness.

In 2008, Anna received the Inspiring Lives Award from the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Anna published her first novel titled Migration Songs which was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award.

Visit Anna's web site.