“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes. It turns into grief, rage, judgement, sorrow and shame ” Brene Brown
I am having an affair. I sneak away, under the cover of darkness to meet my lover while the rest of the world unknowingly sleeps. It is here, in the predawn hours, I connect with my old flame… creativity. I arrive sleepy but eager to conceive beautiful, genuine, and honest work. I flirt with prose, pursue errant thoughts, and entice inspiration to join me for a salacious fling. This blog is my daily nurturing of creativity. For too long, my life has left no room for art, replaced by “meaningful” action.
As a child, I wrote and made books without concern for who would read them or if their content was good enough. My sister Annie and I spent hours at our kitchen table, composing stories on recycled paper brought home from Mom’s secretary job. My first grade teacher kindled my creative flames. Stories of pigs, and dragons, even a tale about the Titanic still reside in a worn, spiral bound yellow notebook buried in a box of nostalgic treasures in my basement.
One summer, Annie and I created a family newspaper full of articles, interviews with neighbors, weather forecasts, comic strips and catchy headlines. We painted, built things from popsicle sticks, wrote, directed and acted out plays, and imagined a fantasy life beyond the walls of our 685 square foot home. We made art with abandon simply because we enjoyed the creative process.
I took piano lessons, sang in chorus, and played clarinet in junior high band. In high school, my English teacher Mrs. Gillespie, a bohemian, free spirit, had round collaboration tables instead of desks and oodles of bright markers and butcher paper. Here, we explored poignant novels like Lord of the Flies and The Things We Carried, while learning to cultivate our own creative voice. Sharing our writing, being graded, using proper form, this all made the creative process a bit heavier and restrictive. The stakes were higher and inspiration no longer flowed as freely as it once did.
In college, writing became nothing more than an exhaustive, required chore. Paper after paper, often on subjects of little interest to me, were due every few weeks. Analyzing, reporting, summarizing, and citing sources left little room for creativity. I didn’t even have a computer in my stuffy college apartment, one shared with four other girls. Writing was just another requirement on the path to the graduation milepost. Working 3 jobs to pay rent and my tuition did not afford much time for art either. In fact, the closest I came to leading a creative life in those years, was cocktail waitressing every Thursday at a local bar’s karaoke night.
The Death of Creativity
The creative life, once so effortless and joyful, marched towards its untimely death. As I dove head first into higher education, establishing my career, and settling into marriage, there was little room for art. Babies delivered creativity’s final blow. But it didn’t die. For years, my inner artist laid dormant beneath the weight of responsibility, struggling for oxygen in the suffocating void of absent self expression. It tempted me to tinker with developing a novel. I wrote freelance articles for pennies per word, dove headfirst into photography, bought adult coloring books and bright markers, decorated my home and reconnected with the piano. Creativity invited me to tango, but my dance card was already full.
Instead of listening to those internal nudges, paying attention to what had my attention, I focused instead on moving through the motions of life. Folding the laundry, cooking the meals, carting the kids, and all the #momlife work that consumes us from dawn ‘till dusk. There was no time or energy for creativity, simple pleasures, self discovery, or space to simply explore my interests.
We feel we must tend to the loudest, most pressing issues and therefore conclude there simply isn’t time for play. But momma, life is meant to be enjoyed, not endured. When we let the overwhelm of daily life take over, we lose all connection with who we are. We trade coloring books for day planners in the name of “growing up” and in the process, lose our wild imaginations, sense of creativity, and ability to dream.
And it’s a damn shame because over time, the creator within us withers and we begin to see the world as it is instead of through the lens of possibility, creativity, and imagination. We accept our reality. We believe it’s unmovable, out of our hands and instead of tapping into our creative powers to dream of what could be, we settle for what is. We forget that we are made to create, that we were born to shape the destiny of our lives through the power of our dreams.
Instead of going back, slowing down, remembering who we are and what we were made for, we push harder. We lose ourselves to the next right action never considering action is the last thing we actually need. More of the same only creates….more of the same. More motion, more shuffling around, more grinding, hustling, and busting our ass into exhaustion just brings more exhaustion.
Creativity Fosters Change
When I started showing up for ME, when I made dedicated time for creativity, imagination and exploration, when I slowed down enough to listen to the answers waiting patiently inside of me, my entire life began to change. Instead of letting the daily overwhelm steal all of my energy, I let creativity lead me.
Today, I follow the calls of my heart. I rest, I write, I take photographs, I sing in the shower (badly) and I know this time is not wasted, but rather an investment in creating my best life. Not only do I just plain enjoy it, but I know tapping into my creative energy allows me to innovate, find new solutions to old problems, and remember that I am made for so much more than just surviving.
I want you to understand that you were made for more too. You already have everything inside of you to create a life that is worthy of you, that is worthy of the creative child inside who has big, original, beautiful dreams. It begins when you slow down enough to remember the simple joys of creating for the sake of creating. It begins when you follow the strings of possibility that tug at your heart. It begins when you stop only doing “productive” things with tangible results and do what makes you happy.
You were made for joy.
You were made to dream.
You were made to create.
Elizabeth Gilbert says we are all walking repositories of buried treasure. Let’s make space for treasure hunting ladies. Let’s take time to time to connect with our inner creative, dig deep, and bring our unique riches forward. Creative thinking inspires ideas. Ideas inspire change.
Change is what we need right now. We need creative solutions to help pull us out of our overwhelm and towards the life we want to lead. We need to stop listening to everyone and everything else and get quiet in order to find the answers that lie within us.
How can you make time, right now, to introduce more play, creativity, and imagination into your busy days?