A Highly Sensitive Person’s Guide to Creativity

Written by Rachel H.

March 4, 2024

I genuinely believe that we are all creative – or in other words, that we all have the potential to dream, imagine, play and make something new and uniquely ours. Tapping into our creativity connects us with our shared humanity. It gets us out of our analytical thinking brain and into our bodies, our dream space, beyond the confines of what the rational mind can conceptualize. 

Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) are particularly primed for creativity. Elaine Aron, who coined the term HSP says in her book The Highly Sensitive Person: “because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.” 

As HSP’s, we can often feel like we are overflowing with all that we absorb throughout the day. There is a need to put it somewhere, to contain it. Creative outlets such as writing, making music or art or cooking can offer the space we need to deeply process, make meaning and regulate an overstimulated nervous system.

So why then can it feel so hard to access our creative selves? What can block the flow or stymie the creative process for HSP’s?

As HSP’s we long for experiences that peel back the layers to speak to our deepest truths. We can put a lot of pressure on ourselves. Traits like perfectionism and an overactive cast of inner critics can derail the creative magic, as can the impacts of life experiences where our imaginative and dreaming selves were shamed or judged. 

If you’re feeling like you’re in a creative rut, don’t despair. You might imagine your inner creative world like a garden that needs tending. The soil needs tilling, nutrients, water and sunlight to create an optimal environment for growth. It also needs time and patience to allow for root systems to establish and expand.

Here are 5 ways to tap back into your creative power as an HSP:

Tend to your space – inside and out

Since HSP’s are so attuned to their physical environment, you might start with designating intentional spaces for creativity. This could look like sprucing up a corner of your room with pleasing pictures and knick knacks or adding a soft light that makes you feel warm and cozy. It also might look like finding a tree in your local park to sit under with a notebook or sketchbook.

Your inner space is just as important to tend to. Take a moment to check in by closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. What do you notice? Is there a sense of feeling scattered, distracted, overwhelmed? What sensations, images, words, movements need to be expressed? 

Some sensitive creatives find that free-writing in a journal or doing a short meditation can invite more internal spaciousness that allows creative inspiration and expression to flow through more easily. 

Invite in more rest

Our culture is generally rest-adverse, thanks to centuries of capitalism and other oppressive systems that value production and commodity over humanity and relationship. Often, messages that rest is equivalent to “laziness” get internalized, and we may come to measure our worth based on how much we can get done in a day.

In reality, we need downtime to integrate, recharge and create the needed space for new ideas and insights to come through, without voices of pressure and productivity driving the bus. Particularly for HSP’s, who need extra time to process information, time to “do nothing” is essential. 

And remember, rest doesn’t have to look like taking a nap (although I am very pro-nap!). Rest can look like a leisurely walk, doodling on a piece of paper, reading an absorbing novel or playing with a beloved pet. Finding activities that help you access a “flow” state, where you might lose track of time and the voices of self-criticism and fear recede to the background.

Seek out supportive community

There’s a time and a place for going over things with a fine tooth comb, but it’s generally best to not start with constructive criticism when you’re first putting your creative works out into the world. HSP’s can be particularly sensitive to criticism and perceived rejection, so do yourself a favor and find a creative community that will act more as a cheerleading committee rather than a review panel.

Particularly if you know you’re sensitive to criticism, share first within a space where the only goal is celebrating doing the thing. Whether this looks like a welcoming open mic or writing workshop, look to connect with others who share your passion. If you’re not big into group spaces, perhaps find a friend who can be an “accountability buddy” and schedule a time each week to check in with each other.

Befriend your inner critics

HSP’s are often extra-hard on themselves. Our inner critics, judges, perfectionists and pressured parts can get so loud sometimes that they block the flow of creativity. Ironically, when we try to banish them, they often come roaring back even louder. 

Keep in mind that your inner critics are often doing their best to protect more tender, younger parts of you that experienced humiliation or rejection in the past. When you can access more compassion and understanding for these fierce protectors, they often soften and relax.

Try bringing an attitude of curiosity to these parts that are fearful of making more space for playful, creative exploration. What are they afraid would happen if they didn’t step in to manage your creative process? What reassurance are they needing from the present-day version of you?

Welcome your inner artist child

There’s a reason why kids are often the most prolific artists. Less time restraints, absence of inner critics and an open, curious and playful attitude invite a nurturing space for ideas and unlikely connections to flow. 

As an HSP, you were likely a highly creative child with an active imagination (although being raised in a restrictive or abusive environment can certainly dampen this inherent trait). As those inner critics come online as we grow, and as we experience painful rejections, not to mention increasing demands of the mundane, everyday world, our inner artist child no longer has much, if any space to play in.

In her book The Artist’ Way, Julia Cameron encourages taking your inner artist child on regular “artist dates.” What lights you up with tingly joy and excitement? This might look like going to the dollar store and picking up some canvases and paint, or collecting fallen leaves from your backyard to make a collage. Think back to what you enjoyed as a kid and let your imagination run wild!

Interested in working with a therapist who specializes in helping HSP’s bust through creative blocks? Schedule a free consultation today.

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