When you tap into the creativity within, you tap into the child you….and sometimes the fears and resistances which come along with them.
I was a guest on a podcast recently called “What’s your ‘and’?”. Everyone has an ‘and’, something they do or enjoy or create when they’re not working, and the podcast host, John Garrett, talks to people from all different walks of life about their ‘and’. He mentioned it’s been even more successful during 2020, a year in which we all began to take a lot more interest in the ‘ands’ of the people we know through a business context. It’s not enough to know people simply for what they do: we want to know who they really are.
John spotted a tweet I had shared about an email I got from one of the team at MAP, our PF accountants.
He messaged to ask if I’d like to be a guest on his podcast, and said we could talk Harry Potter or walking or whisky or any of my five personal pillars. We agreed on Harry Potter, and last week we recorded the podcast (which comes out in February).
We discussed my love for Harry Potter, and where it all started, and talked about my #potterjourney creative project, taking Harry Potter Lego figures round to the various film locations in Scotland, England, and worldwide, taking photos of them and sharing them on Instagram.
A friend and I started it simply because we were going on a road trip into the Scottish Highlands, and intended to visit a few famous film locations. Somehow we ended up on ebay looking at HP lego minifigures, and we bought a few of them (at the time HP lego wasn’t really a thing, so we spent the grand sum of 50 pence or a few quid at the most on each one). And whenever we were at different locations we pulled out the Lego figures and arranged them to fit the film scenes and took photos on my phone and laughed and had fun and got all creative with it.
During the podcast recording, I told John the story of the time I went to Alnwick Castle (the location used for some of the castle scenes in the first two Harry Potter films), and I found myself lying flat on my stomach on the path leading up to the castle, arranging Lego figures carefully so they were standing in just the right place to look like the film scene….and suddenly I became aware of people walking past me or towards me. Some glanced curiously at what I was doing. Some didn’t look or notice at all, and some averted their eyes, perhaps to spare me embarrassment. I’m in Britain, after all: “don’t make a fuss” and “try not to be noticed” are the rallying cries I tend to conform to now that I live here.
But I wasn’t conforming, this time. I was doing something strange and different and noticeable – and childlike.
There were a few adults who glanced my way, but the children always stopped. “Look, mum, it’s Hagrid!!” – “ohhhhh, can I see?”
And I remember thinking, “Oh, am I making an embarrassment out of myself?”
But then I thought of why I was doing it: for the sheer fun of doing it. No other reason. My friend and I did it for fun, for banter. I set up the Instagram account just to have somewhere to put the photos, somewhere to enjoy the whole story of them later. It hasn’t gone viral or been picked up by Lego or the Wizarding World or Hamley’s (yet!!!), but that doesn’t matter. This creative project isn’t to get likes or to make money or for any other reason but that it’s something fun to do with things I enjoy.
That’s true creativity: the kind you do because you want to do it.
- The drawing you sketch out on paper or your tablet which nobody sees.
- The game you make up with your kids when they’re bored.
- The notes you make on your phone which haven’t yet turned into a blog post or a video or a properly designed marketing image.
- The song lyrics you invent at Christmas for a laugh.
That’s the kind of creativity kids have, and that childlike voice is within all of us….but there’s another childlike voice, too.
It’s the one that says, “Everyone is looking at me”.
We’ve got both voices, both children, within us. The one who just does fun and hilarious things for the sheer joy of doing it: and the one who holds back and says, “someone will see! Someone will laugh! Someone will….?”
You often see it in the transition from child to teenager. I was on a beach with a 12 year old, and we were talking and laughing and splashing our feet in the water, and then one of us said a song lyric and I started singing. And she started singing too, with me….and then suddenly a little switch went off in her head and she looked around and said, “People will hear us!”
I looked around too, and the nearest person was 10 or 15 metres away at least, and the waves were crashing…so I started singing louder. Partly because I knew they couldn’t hear us anyway, but partly because I didn’t mind if they did. And partly because I knew exactly that fear which had kicked in for her, the “what if someone thinks we’re weird” fear, and I knew if we’re not careful, that fear will stick with us and remain with us and never leave.
That fear voice is the greatest hindrance to your creativity.
What if I do or create something, and….someone thinks it’s weird? What if they think it’s bad? What if I feel stupid? What if this thing, this created thing which has come from my head and my brain and my heart, is rejected by “everyone else”?
Working with accountants, I see this fear rise up whenever we talk about any new kind of marketing effort. Posting more on social media. Writing blog posts. Sharing ideas. Recording video, especially.
What if they think….?
As accountants, there’s an element of this based in professional care. You want to do good work, be the expert and be seen for that. You want your prospective clients to be confident in you and your skills – not laughing at you or suspicious of you or doubting you.
Of course, you already are the expert. Your clients love you and appreciate you and are grateful for you. You know more about accounting and tax regulations (and now loans and furlough and grants and business recovery funding) than they will ever know, and you’re the one they come to.
But anything creative goes deeper than facts or figures, and it touches the heart. The humanity.
Sharing your creative ideas and efforts with the world means sharing a deeper part of you than you’ve been sharing before.
And that can be scary.
But it’s also the very best thing you can do, because people don’t want “just an accountant” anymore. They can find one of those anywhere. They want YOU, the real you (and your team). The one who they can have a coffee or a beer with, chat to about family life and hurts and pains and fears and losses and wins.
And the more you share of THAT you, the faster they will make the connection and decide you are the accountant for them.
That “what will people think” fear is almost always unfounded: not because there won’t be anyone who thinks it’s weird. There might be a few. But what actually happens is that the people who follow you, care about you, like what you like, value your opinion and expertise….those people will be open to whatever you want to share. Even if it’s different or at first sort of strange. Because they like YOU.
And because you’re not a celebrity and your posts and videos and social media haven’t gone viral, the ENTIRE WORLD is not looking at what you’re sharing and saying horrible things or laughing or turning you into a meme. The entire world isn’t even aware of you, and that helps you to share whatever you want to share, maybe go just a tiny bit more creative. The people who like you already will like it. The people who don’t will just ignore it.
A good 5 or 6 years ago I had been interviewed for an article, and when it came out, one of my comments was taken out of context. The resulting statement was quite a drastic one related to marketing. It wasn’t accurate, but it also tapped into many accountants’ fears about bad marketing, and I got a lot of very cruel comments on the post. Some of them were quite personal, taking digs at me and my experience and employment history, and almost all of them were completely dismissive of me knowing anything at all. It was the first time I’d ever had that happen, and for a few minutes I was really crushed. Felt really stupid. Felt embarrassed that “all these people” thought I was a fraud.
And then I realised, first, the statement wasn’t even something i HAD said. So people weren’t responding to something I actually believed or thought. And secondly, the kind of people who would say those kinds of things are definitely not the kind of people I ever want to work with.
I told the team about it, and one of them said, “Karen, you’ve arrived now! You’ve got haters!”
We laughed a lot about that, and I realised he was quite right. You don’t really get haters when you’re not known, when you don’t say anything dramatic, when you’re not creative. And if you ever get to the point where there are some, by then you have a big enough following of those who think well of you that you will be defended and supported by your fans. And you genuinely won’t care.
I still pay very close attention to what I say about marketing, about accountants and to accountants. I want to, as far as it depends on me, live at peace and have a level of respect allocated to me.
But part of me personally and my creativity includes things like Harry Potter. Or my Christian faith. Or my sketching and sketchnoting. Not everyone likes those. Not everyone might even think those are “professional” or matter or ought to be talked about (especially on places like LinkedIn!).
I remember thinking that at one point when I shared something on the socials about Harry Potter, and I had a moment like the 12 year old on the beach. “What if they think it’s silly and childlike? What if they refuse to work with me or PF because of it?”
But fortunately, I remembered the same counsel I give to our accountants when they’re worrying about what others will think. I tell them “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter, don’t mind”.
Because if I hold back on those things, I’m holding back on all of me: and my two core values are Freedom, and Honesty. The freedom to say and share who I actually, authentically am. Those matter to me immensely, and those who would disagree or not want to be associated with someone who is a little childlike sometimes….well, that’s okay. Because I’m not for everyone, and that’s why we have an entire world of people and agencies and companies and families and communities to be part of. So we can choose the ones we fit in, and enjoy them.
Actually the opposite of many of my fears has happened: my clients and team regularly send me links to Harry Potter memorabilia and crafts to make and locations to visit. They’ll send pictures of their child’s Harry Potter cake, or a video of them reading from one of the books or curled up watching one of the films. They’ll try a sketch themselves, because I’m always sharing sketches. They’ll do something fun, something creative….something childlike.
And they know I’ll appreciate it, because of what I’ve shared with them.
What creative thing would you do, or share, if you weren’t worried about what people would think?