“I think, therefore I am,” said Descartes.
In response, Milan Kundera writes: "I feel, therefore I am, is a truth much more universally valid, and it applies to everything that's alive." But Kundera is quoted less frequently. Why? I suspect it’s because we live in a culture that values thinking over feeling - and this inhibits our creativity.
As we get older we learn to control and suppress our inner feelings. It's necessary that we don’t take our feelings out on those around us – but if we continue to deny our inner experiences, we become desensitized to them. This damages our creativity because creativity relies as much on feelings as it does on intellect.
The education expert Ken Robinson, in his book Out of Our Minds says that "the persistence of this apparent dichotomy between reason and emotions presents real problems for education and for the general development of creative abilities." If we want to continue to grow and to be creative, we need to stay open and responsive to what we feel.
Being responsive is hard work. "In workshops," says Eric Booth, author of an incredible book, The Everyday Work of Art: Awakening the Extraordinary in Your Daily Life, "I am always struck by how hard it is for participants, of all ages, in all fields, to notice they are indeed having experiences. They do the activities, do them well, and have fine insights, but they resist considering what happens inside them during the experience as if it were important, worth noticing. Many have an ingrained bias that dismisses those inner events as inconsequential because they are intangible."
But we can learn to notice our feelings again. "As workshop participants are prompted to start noticing their experience,” says Booth, “their awareness flashes in fragile and ephemeral glimpses. Slowly, participants get a sense that those inner events are full of important, surprising information and accomplishments."
And noticing begets more noticing. When my mother started watercolour painting she became someone who noticed cloud formations and colours in the sky - and pointed them out to the rest of us. As a result, we began noticing them, too.
My friend Dounia is a herbalist. On a walk she’ll point out tiny flowers growing in the hedgerow, or berries on a tree. The way that she touches the delicate fronds or runs her fingertips along the bough of a tree, makes me see these things with fresh eyes, and has given me a new appreciation of their complexity and beauty.
© Wester Ross
In the same way, when we become more attuned to how we feel inside we are better able to hear our intuition. We become alert to our hunches and can follow our bliss. In this way, we exercise our ability to 'feel' our way through our storylines - both in our writing and in our lives.
© Colin Bryant
Heather Dyer - children's author and Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow
- For enquiries about creative writing workshops for children or adults, or editorial services, go to www.heatherdyer.co.uk
- For enquiries about academic writing workshops, go to: http://rlfconsultants.com/consultants/heather-dyer/