does resilience produce creativity or is it the other way around?

I haven’t blogged for a while and reflecting on why has helped me to face up to how I approach writing and all forms of creativity. It’s too much effort sometimes. I’m not sure why. Actually, I know why. I don’t often just let loose, write and then edit later. It must be right the first time around and so what do I mostly end up writing? NOTHING.

As I write, my daughter is doing her own “writing”, not limited by rules of grammar and spelling – she doesn’t know them yet, you see. It’s not even bound by basic letter formation – she doesn’t know that either.


Her doodles look like hieroglyphics and I found myself having excitable thoughts; it’s as if she’s creating her own language!

What an idea! And why couldn’t she be? Our creative potential is far greater than we perceive or portray, at times. She could be the next Tolkien… Getting carried away now.

I was invited to join a couple of friends to do some watercolour painting a couple of weeks ago. We sat in the garden, sketched leaves and then painted. I had never used watercolours properly before. It was a pleasurable time sitting in the garden, painting and chatting about life. Therapeutic in and of itself and one of my friends said:

“Art is therapy because you make lots of mistakes and have to deal with them.”

I agreed. To me, creativity mainly involves two things:

Imagination and problem-solving

This little painting soirée was rather lovely. Until I finished my leaf and looked over at my friend’s. Ok, she’s an actual artist so it’s not even fair to compare. So I move swiftly on to my other friend, who is a primary school teacher… her leaves were bloody amazing! The colour blending was stunning and they just looked… leafier. I looked down at my first ever watercolour painting and thought, “well, that’s a bit poo.” Naturally, it was. But, was that important?

Now, I have a theory. I have read a scholarly article (oo-er) about the impact of a recently emerging positive psychological construct called psychological capital and how it can predict creative performance. PsyCap has four components: efficacy, hope, optimism, and resilience. The research suggested that when you are highly functioning in the four components of PsyCap your creative performance will be consistently higher.

That makes sense to me and I am not surprised by their somewhat proven theory. However, I want to suggest that creativity is not only enhanced by resilience, but produces it.


  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness

Oxford Dictionaries

I think I make a fair assumption when I say that most people who have a mental health problem want resilience by the bucket load. The trouble with creativity is it is often painfully challenging. Creating something isn’t what we can imagine it to be. I can imagine sitting down at an easel, painting what’s in front of me and loving every moment as I produce a masterpiece. Simples.

But no. It is constant problem solving and requires perseverance, effort and vulnerability.

creativity quote brene ny

In order to create one has to work hard to push through unpleasant barriers. Here are some barriers that put me off creativity:



Fear of failure

Undervaluing creativity

Creativity failure quote.png

Over the years, I have misunderstood the value of creativity. I knit and crochet and sew and once upon a time I tried to make a business out of this. What happened? I didn’t really want to do it as a job, I was just trying to make a ‘use’ out of something that in and of itself was useful. I was also trying to get some sort of approval (payment for one of my creations).

After my first major bereavement I wrote a blog. Once the initial weight of grief passed and my trip to Cambodia was over I stopped writing. Why? Well, my life was no longer interesting, or so I thought. It wasn’t about writing because I wanted to write, it was about what I produced.

Creativity integration quote.pngCreativity does way more than we realise.

Creativity for the sake of creativity; that’s where the magic really happens.

When do you give yourself time to have complete creative freedom? What would/do you do?


Add Yours
  1. belindastephenson

    Great post Jeni! I’ve never found painting a relaxing activity. I’ve always battled and struggled through the creative process ( I like to vent my frustrations onto my paintings too!) Reading your post has made me realise that in that wrestling I did indeed find a resilience. My motivation has long been to reach deadlines which can kill creativity but I think you have made me realise there’s a better motivation. Thank you for your insights.


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