Monday, May 12, 2014

What's Stopping You?

By Bethany Dunfee Pierce
Graduate Student
International Center for Studies in Creativity

Each of us has a creative potential we were created to fulfill. Do you know what yours is? Do you know how to get there? Have you found your path? Are you on your journey toward greater personal and inspired fulfillment now?

One of my greatest quests in life is to help people explore, discover and reach their own creative potential. It does not matter what subject or category this creative potential is labeled under whether it be a painter, sculptor, athlete, actor, musician, engineer, chef, communicator, dancer, mathematician, economist, educator, politician, scientist, or scholar of human nature. Each of us has the capacity to shine in some area or another. Yet, sometimes there are things in our worlds that cause us pause and make us unable to release the light that is inside us. Sometimes those hindrances can grow to cause that pause to become an outright, all-encompassing halt. Sometimes those things are external, sometimes internal. Whichever, they are very real and oftentimes limit us from experiencing the incredible joy, happiness and abundance that is possible in a life lived in realization of actualizing our purpose.

My Master’s project looks at some of those blocks on a very personal level. In order to support others I found I needed to first put myself back on track to fulfilling my own creative potential. To do this, after many years of being an art teacher I embarked on the journey of becoming a practicing artist by doing this project, specifically focusing on using painting and drawing for emotional healing. By further developing my painting and drawing skills and specific affective skills related to creativity such as mindfulness and being aware of emotions, I was able to explore how the creative process of art making combined with Creative Problem Solving can bring about emotional healing. The empowering nature of exploring and using the creative process also brings about a confidence that further enables us to risk living the life we are meant to live. I was able to experience this confidence, apply it to my own life and to share the process with others.

My outcomes for this project are varied. I discovered that my personal creative process often begins with writing. Organizing my thoughts and emotions on the page, finding words to label them and categorize them are processes that I associate with operational functions of the left hemisphere of the brain. Traditionally the right side of the brain is associated with more creative endeavors, so using more analytical functions in my creative process was an unanticipated discovery. To honor this, I used a journal/sketchbook to monitor my progress and created an online blog to share my progress with others. Additional outcomes of this project include a small series of acrylic paintings, which chronicle my use of a simple mantra to get over a significant creative block.

Some of my key learnings reinforce what has been taught through the literature and current trends on creativity. For instance, I mindfully became aware how even the idea that someone might be judging my work could stop the flow of creativity completely within me. Removing judgment, both one’s own and other people, can allow the fledgling sparks of ideas to catch hold and ignite a greater fire of creative currents. In my project I describe how I was able to do this.

I studied the work of Shaun McNiff (1998 and 2004), Dr. Brene Brown (2010) and others and directly applied and experienced the transformative power art making has on the human psyche. Through strong, constant mindful practice and mindful behavior I was able to honor and acknowledge the emotions I was feeling around events that happened in my daily life throughout the course of approximately five months. Creating artwork in response to those emotions enabled those emotions to be released from me whereupon true honest healing could and did take place. Some of these experiences and the artwork that resulted are described in my paper.

Using Creative Problem Solving during my creative process of art making I discovered parallels among the stages of CPS and the art making process. I realized that many of the artworks I created were made out of employing many of the affective skills of the CPS process. In turn, my CPS process skills were developed more clearly and comprehensively. Still, greater discoveries, which may warrant more study, include the fact that the varied purposes of making art can be tapped to achieve greater clarity to solve open ended problems harkening toward recognizing, visualizing and reflecting upon immediately experienced emotional states.

This project chronicles a very personal journey. But it is from the experience of that journey that perhaps others can gain inspiration or guidance or even just reassurance that it is possible to risk walking the path of creative fulfillment. I invite you to dream, to seek, to explore, to creatively solve whatever barrier or problem is in your way of living that life you imagine. Your path awaits. Start…. Now.

To view works for this project on Bethany's blog please visit:

To read Bethany's full Master’s Project you can download it from Digital Commons at:

Bethany's website:


Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, Minn: Hazelden.
McNiff, S. (1998). Trust the process: An artist's guide to letting go. Boston: Shambhala.
McNiff, S. (2004). Art heals: How creativity cures the soul. Boston: Shambhala.

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