I recently discovered a treasure when I was sorting through some of my old school assignments that my mum had unearthed from her cupboards. It was a graphics design assignment called “Compass Design” that I had done back in Year 8 of high school. I got a bit of shock when to my surprise I discovered that I’d made my first mandala at age 13.
I can’t actually remember creating this design. And I am not sure what the brief was for this assignment – my only assumption is that we had to use a compass. However, I can’t imagine that my ‘no nonsense’ graphics teacher would have asked us to create a design based on a mandala. In any case, I never even knew what a mandala was until a few years ago. So that’s why finding this little gem amongst my old school documents was such a lovely find.
This mandala is part of my creative back story – my creative legacy.
While this assignment wasn’t a direct springboard into my current love of creating mandalas, it’s still nice to see that there was some continuity and a link into my past.
I liken this mandala to a breadcrumb that we drop as a clue for our future selves. Over time these ‘breadcrumbs’ form a path of clues to our true creative self, like in the old fairytale about Hansel and Gretel.
Sometimes these clues are created inadvertently. My 13-year-old self would never have believed that in the future I would have developed a love of drawing mandalas, let alone running a business that included teaching others how to create them.
These ‘breadcrumbs’ are there for us to see when we look for them. But they can be hard to spot and are subject to the elements around them. I was lucky that my mum didn’t do a big purge of my old school documents without sharing them with me.
These clues do not need to be in the form of physical evidence or momentos. Our memories can also help us to uncover and rediscover how we can be creative today. It’s just a matter of remembering the times when we are feeling joyful and totally engaged in what we were doing. Because these are the times when we are most likely to be creative.
For many of us, it’s a lot easier to think back on our childhood to remember what it is that we loved doing. As children, when left to our own devices, we were able to follow our own intuition and interests. There were less hidden agendas. There were no ‘to do’ lists or lots of ‘shoulds’ going through our heads. In our free time, we could follow whatever passion or interest we liked. It didn’t have to make us money, or be good for the CV. If it made us feel good then that was enough, and a reward in itself. We didn’t have to worry about becoming an expert, or losing credibility if we experimented and tried something new. If we weren’t interested in something any more then we could drop it without worrying about all of the time and effort we had ‘wasted’ on this activity. And even if there were times of structure and imposed activities, we can probably remember the elements that we may or may not have liked about them.
So as a child, which activities:
- made you most happiest and feel joyful?
- did you spend a lot of your free time doing?
- did you do without prompting from others?
Now don’t despair if you can’t remember your childhood or prefer not to go there. You can still use your past to uncover the clues to your creativity. Just think back to what you did last week, last month, a few years or even longer back to a younger version of yourself, and ask the same questions.
For me, finding this graphics design folder reminds me of the fork in the road that I took back in high school. I really enjoyed graphics design and my graphics teacher was keen for me to continue this subject into my senior years. But I decided to drop it because I had committed to a full schedule of maths and science, and I falsely associated graphic design with getting into advertising (which really didn’t appeal to me). So many many years later… who would have guessed that I can once again indulge my love of design and express my creativity when I create images for my blog and materials for my classes? Yet another breadcrumb in the path of my creative past :-).
So what have you enjoyed doing in the past that you can see in what you love doing today? What forms part of your creative back story? Where can you trace your current creative pursuits back to?
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