Marianne Musgrove

Creativity versus Shame

Welcome to my new blog!

As a creative writer, I thought it only fitting to devote my first ever post to creativity. With that in mind, here’s a picture of me (fourth from the left) having a cup of tea in the sea.

Marianne at Surrealist tea party standing in the sea dressed in suit, bowler hate and tie with several other similarly dressed people.

“But I’m just not creative.”

For some, creativity comes easily, for others, not so much. In an effort to conquer his writer’s block, one famous author went into his study, gave his butler his clothes and told him not to return them until he’d written three chapters. I myself even tried hypnosis!

So why go to such lengths to overcome our blocks? The way I see it, we’re born without a map. Creating stuff is how we chart the country of ourselves.

Shape of a girl walking. Her body silhouette is a map.

Marianne: inner cartographer.

Shame: mortal enemy of creativity

Shame researcher, Brené Brown, argues that creativity only comes when we’re courageous enough to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, being vulnerable tends to prompt shame to rear its ugly head. Shame makes us:

  • numb our feelings (“It doesn’t matter if I get published. It’s not as if my stuff is that important.”)
  • hide (“I won’t show my photographs to anyone and then they can’t say they’re stupid or accuse me of being up myself.”)
  • attack (“I can’t believe those talentless fools got published when I didn’t!”).

I’ve done all of these – still do!

Combatting shame

  • The first step is to recognise a shame reaction for what it is: an attempt to protect yourself from rejection. It’s message of “Hide!” feels legitimate, but it’s not.
  • If you find yourself holding back until your creation is perfect, that’s shame up to its old tricks. Perfection is a myth.
  • Shame fears rejection so it puts the opinions of others front and centre. Keep an eye out for thoughts beginning “People will think …”

For further tips on shame resilience, see Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

Getting surreal

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a surrealist tea party. Local artist, Andrew Baines, invited members of the public to come down to the beach dressed in a black suit, bowler hat and tie. It looked like fun, but after my initial enthusiasm, I thought: people will think I’ve lost my mind! There it was: “People will think…” Luckily, I recognised my reaction and decided to take part anyway.

Marianne dressed in suit, bowler hat and tie holding a tea cup and saucer at a surrealist tea party at Henley Beach.

130 of us stood in the sea and drank tea while the artist took photos.

Surrealist Tea Party with wave

The outcome? Creativity: 1  Shame: 0. All in all, it was a very good day!

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