By Laura M.
If you’ve read any of our blog posts here at untapped, you know that Ellen and I are both firm believers in the value of creativity. Almost every post has some element of us lobbying for readers to take on a creative endeavor. And there are many folks who hear that call and resist it, maintaining that they aren’t creative.
I’m not so naïve as to say that every person has the same level of creativity. Some people are kept up at night, composing music in their head that leads to this:
I mean, James literally can’t go to sleep sometimes because “When I close my eyes, that’s all I see. I see music. I visualize it. I’m building something.”
Other artists are able to sleep but have dreams about the subject of their paintings. Meet Lancelot:
Painter Elizabeth Wingfield says “I spent uncountable hours at my easel painting this wolf portrait. .. I dreamed I heard the mournful howl of his uncertain destiny! I had to meditate to stay relaxed and to feel the spirit of the wolf guiding me … to find the energy to keep painting all that fur.”
For these people, their creativity is central to their being. To NOT create is detrimental to their health.
But if you’re not like that, that doesn’t mean you’re not creative. If you hold yourself in comparison with people with that high level of creativity, it’s no wonder you feel a part of the ‘have not’ group. Remember: comparison is the thief of joy. You can be creative in your own right, even if it doesn’t cause sleepless nights or involve wolf dreams.
My journey in creativity has been more external. Meaning I sign up for classes and put myself in situations so that I will create. It could be as simple as saying, “I’m going to dance in my living room for 30 minutes one day of the week” or “I’m going to ad lib a meal based solely on the ingredients in my pantry and fridge – no recipe.” All this to say, I don’t think of myself as being naturally inspired as the above-mentioned people are.
And then there are folks like my friend Charlotte. She will tell you that she’s not an artist. Yet look at this beautiful painting she made!
Char Char makes her argument about not being an artist by saying that her instructor told her what colors to use and how to hold the brush, etc. But just because it’s taught to you with someone giving you step-by-step instructions doesn’t mean that the process or result isn’t creative. The act of holding your hand above the canvas and going through the motions makes it all your own. Look at any group of paintings that are the result of a Sips N Strokes class – they all look different. Because everyone holds the brush just a little bit differently, and moves it a bit slower or faster or mixes the colors a tad differently.
So there is a wide-ranging spectrum for creativity. And it’s not static. It can change throughout your lifespan.
I used to be the kind of person who claimed to not be creative. I really thought that people were either born with the creativity gene or weren’t. And I decidedly was not. But I have gone from a mindset of “I’m not creative” to “I’m a creative being.” This evolution took place over a period of years. I sought out creating art as a distraction during a difficult time in my life. And what I found was there’s something about being able to point to something tangible and say “I made that” that is immensely gratifying. Even if no one else sees it. Even if it hangs on a wall in a room that no one but you goes in.
I liked that feeling so much so that I signed up for class after class, trying different art forms. Which ultimately led to this blog.
My friend Denise, a talented writer with her own blog, has had the opposite experience:
“I feel my years of legal writing have changed what I care to write, and they have slowed my ease in doing so. Legal writing is largely formulaic, and not just the contracts. Even substantial motions tend to follow the same pattern: state the facts, state the law, apply the latter to the former, lather, rinse, repeat. This routine way of working has done a number on me. Early on, I struggled to learn the craft of legal writing, as I was trained to be a journalist, and journalistic writing has its own rules, ones very different from those involving court documents. But once I learned to do legal writing, I had trouble not doing it. A few years ago, as I sat down to attempt to tackle a huge creative writing project – a memoir about a life-long friendship – I found myself almost unable not to write in that tight structure. I struggled to find adjectives and adverbs – we lawyers don’t use those too much in our briefs and motions (as much as we’d love to). Eventually, I found a new rhythm and can now jump back and forth between the two, but not without pause. I’ll admit it: it wasn’t easy to get from there to here. Forging ahead with the memoir was the first step. I refused to quit. And, sure enough, with practice, the creative side of my brain again stirred to life. So I kept going. I began working with one of my favorite memoir writers, Wade Rouse, and at my second writing workshop, I met a woman who invited me to join her blogging group. The creativity flowed that much more freely. And that connection led to yet another: an invitation to review books for Chick Lit Central, a website run by one of my co-bloggers.”
Similarly, bestie Darla Williamson always had a creative side to her and dabbled in creative projects (everything from handmade lotions to luggage tags). A few years ago she was able to go full-tilt creative when she quit her job in corporate banking to become an art instructor and potter.
So, creativity can wax and wane and meet different heights. If you are at the lower end of the creativity spectrum, know that it’s not permanent. It’s a dynamic state and it’s a skill, like any other. There’s room for all of us.