Lifelong creative Mim Shaikh reflects on his journey to a meaningful life and how words of encouragement can help us discover our true selves.
“Keep practicing and using that creative spirit for the betterment of your mental health and because that is your way to express your individuality”
When I was younger I would always be in awe of things that had been created, but not know the reason why I was so drawn to them. Whether it was the Dr Dre & Eminem – Forgot About Dre music video, where I would be asking myself, why is the lady in the street and her house on fire? Or an old-school classic Bollywood film like Raja Hindustani, where I would ask myself why Aamir Khan would want to play a taxi driver.
As I grew up and allowed myself to really express my creativity and flex that side of my brain, I came to understand that it’s really through creativity that a person can become truly individual. That’s not to say that if you don’t find yourself being labelled a creative type that you’re not an individual, or a sheep. But it’s rather that we all have the ability to be creative and it’s not an individual trait that is apparent in some people and not in others. It is more like a muscle that certain people work out more regularly, leading to far better results.
If we work out regularly, our body is in the best shape it can be. If we remain creative in some capacity, our brains can think of creative solutions more efficiently. I think this has been the major difference that has helped a lot of people get through the Covid-19 pandemic: for those who had to stay at home and not socialise in the office, a new way of thinking and working had to be deployed. For the self-employed, freelance workers used to travelling to different places for work, a new way of working had to be introduced.
Throughout lockdown, I really wanted to keep myself going and not allow this pandemic to bring doom and gloom into my energy sphere. Sometimes when you’re too empathetic you can take on the energy from the outer world and accept it as your own. This motivated me to really push through and think of creative solutions to some of the problems I faced during those months, such as financial insecurity and the lack of social and face-to-face communication.
I love helping people, I love being able to share knowledge, experience and wisdom with whoever might want to learn and take from it. I see myself reflected in the people who ask questions so inquisitively. The best thing I was able to do during lockdown was create a template for a talk I wanted to give to young media studies students. The title of the talk is the same as this article: How I Found Individuality Through Creativity.
I was able to share some of the things that allowed me to find my true self. The most authentic version of me. But this is not to say that I am completely there, as I think that it’s an ongoing process, a life-long commitment, especially if you are committed to your own growth. I was able to really look back and dissect the different ways my creativity had helped shape me and reflect on different sides of my personality.
From being a young boy, filled with energy, to becoming a bit more nuanced, deep-thinking and analytical in my approach I was able to understand myself more. I read so many scripts and pieces of dialogue through my acting work, so I have really come to understand character arcs, how individuals come to be the way they are, what shifted them along the way, what held them back, where were their regrets and how they got to that position.
I remember being really young and not thinking I could be creative at all. I really struggled when it came to thinking of creative solutions and ideas. However, now it’s the complete opposite. I have too many ideas: some make it, some don’t, others inspire, some get put on the shelf and opened later down the line.
The reason why I wanted to write this article is because I have been sharing in lectures and talks how important it was for me to really accept that I am a creative person, and how helpful it has been for me to utilise this creative ‘gift’. When I was in school I thrived in subjects that were communicative: English, history, media studies, RE. In my early 20s I thought too much about what I was going to be in life. Then I came to the realisation that a job title doesn’t really matter, it’s about the human being you become. I went from student, to intern, to radio producer, to DJ, to broadcaster, to actor, to poet, to documentary film-maker to writer. But none of these matter. At the end of day, it’s just your name and whatever it is that you want to do that matters.
I wanted to write this because I know how important the power of words can be for someone who might not have the people around them who encourage the attainment of their dreams. Long live words, long live people, long live your own individuality and creativity. If you’re an aspiring singer, photographer, actor, writer, fashion designer or dancer, just know that you need to keep going, keep practising and using that creative spirit in the best way possible for the betterment of your mental health and because that is your way to express your individuality.
You can find Mim here: