Permission for the Dismissed Creative

by Angela Yeh
published in Reading

Yes. The answer is yes. I give you permission to be creative. If you’re looking for a sign, this is it. 

I grew up a few hours’ drive from cozy PEI, the crags and cliffs of Newfoundland, and the bustle and hustle of Halifax, Nova Scotia. People from this part of the world pride themselves on their practicality, their resourcefulness, and their ability to endure harsh weather extremes. And for good reason. Grappling with freezing temperatures and snow storms are not for the faint of heart. The highest compliment you could get from my neck of the woods is to be called practical. You didn’t want to be labeled ‘creative.’ With the label ‘creative’ came the associations of ‘flighty,’ ‘careless,’ ‘wishy-washy,’ and, of course, ‘poor as dirt.’

There are ancient and modern reasons for this attitude – and I won’t rabbit-hole you down those reasons. Suffice to say – being practical could save your life, and being forgetful or unfocused could spell danger if not mortal disaster. You can’t forget to fill the car with gas or to buy a winter jacket when frostbite can steal your nose and your toes.

Unlearning Being Practical


In order to fully embrace my own creative side, I have spent the second half of my life unlearning biases and unsticking the digging fingers of criticism and logic that have formed my very soul. It is hard work. It’s a lot of ‘I made so much progress!’ and then realizing I am still dampening my art with the diminishing lens of ‘what profit will this net me?’  Or, ‘What is the practical end of this creative thing I am doing?’

I tried making pottery a couple of weeks ago and a funny thing happened. I imagined what the clay might tell me, what shape it wanted to be, if it could talk to me. And I didn’t even chide myself for being ridiculous and insane for imagining it. Progress! The theme of this last part of 2023 is bringing all different types of creativity into my life, not just the written word. Opening myself to aspects of creativity I don’t normally think of. 

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a course (Infinite Imagination) with artist and poet Holly Spaulding that is bringing more art into my life. “Art wrapped up into life,” she would say, or, “catalyzing unexpected outcomes.” Doesn’t that give your little heart a thrill? I want more catalyzed unexpected outcomes!

Meander. Explore. Be flighty.

If you’re a word witch like me, throwing some paint on a canvas, molding a bowl of clay, or sewing a patch of yarn with bright colors, it can crack you open and it only feeds into your other creative endeavors. It’s an opportunity to do something badly. To meander, to wander, to try new mediums and to fail to execute my vision, and to flit off to a different medium. I understand there are loads of people shouting ‘how to focus’ from the rafters. Screaming at us to narrow our goals and execute. Be productive. Be profitable. Be useful. Respectfully, screw that. Screw them. Don’t throttle your creativity with demands.

Listening to Holly talk about growing up in a house of artists, with her mother painting and her father working with wood and making mountains for her with his own paint, my heart contracted with longing. The image of little Ange surrounded by written and visual art. Maybe a row of misshapen pottery bowls on a sunny window sill. An open, loose childhood that could have nurtured my creativity. And then, how can I give that to myself (and my own children) now? In between working and dentist appointments, making healthy dinners and doing the mundane tasks that need to be done, how can I pull in more magic? I want more of the beauty and flow and frustration and glee and freedom that comes with giving myself permission to be creative, somehow, every day. I want permission to be impractically creative. Just creating for the sake of creating.

The question I want you to ask yourself is, how can I bring more art into my life? Can I take a walk in the woods and sketch the falling light? Take a photo of a bright red raspberry in a field of yellowing vines? How do I carve out time to sit still and make art for the purpose of thrilling my own soul?

I want you to ask yourself, how can I intertwine art into life? Are you already doing this well? Please tell us all about it!

Angela Yeh is an East Coast Canadian native who grew up a stone’s throw from Stephen King’s Maine. She now lives in Texas and sees Chuck Norris on the always. Angela is a short tall-story-teller who loves to garden, write about magic, and eat cake. If you’d like to check out her first published novel, A Phoenix Rises, she will send you cookies. She lives with her husband, two human children, and three fur babies. You can follow her antics on Twitter and Instagram or on her website.

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