I spent the majority of my life–both as a child and an adult–thinking that I wasn’t “creative.” Sounds like a pretty strange thing coming from a fiction writer, doesn’t it? I agree, but it’s the truth. I’m not sure when or how or why I decided that I didn’t have the mysterious “creative gene,” but I held onto the belief for a very long time. I decided I was all things logical, organized, structured. I was a great writer–a great technical writer, and so when I finished my degree in English I went immediately into the world’s dullest, driest graduate program and spent the next ten years thrashing around in government and consulting firms trying really hard to be something that I simply wasn’t. Only I didn’t realize it yet.
Fortunately, one thing I did get right was having babies, so I left the jobs that I sucked at, and started the one I’m pretty damn good at–parenting. And all that went great until the day I realized that children grow up, and in a few blinks of the eye I was going to be left with nothing to do with my cranky self all day. And that’s when I finally discovered that guess what? I’m actually creative.
And so are you. And so is your brother, and your daughter, and your best friend from the seventh grade. We’re all creative, we all create in different ways. Just because you’re not “crafty” or “artistic” doesn’t mean you’re not creative. I’ve come to realize, looking back at my life that the creative engines were always firing, but in ways I simply didn’t recognize. As a teen and college student I longed to be one of those reporters who went undercover in all sorts of places to learn the true story of gangs, or high schools, or wars. I thrived in drama classes and performed on big stages and in national festivals. I was empathetic to the point that I would cry at commercials on television, imagining myself in the character’s shoes. And when I was mad, or sad, or confused, I would write. I would write letters, I would write explanations, I would write questions. I would write.
How the hell I ever determined that I wasn’t creative is beyond me, but I did, and it stayed with me for forty-some-odd years. I realize now that, as an adult, I put all my creative energy into raising my kids, and that’s great, because they’ve turned out to be really exceptional people, but I wonder about all the things I could have achieved if I’d only been willing to let myself. I also know that I would have been much happier.
So if you’re an engineer, or a secretary, or a fire fighter, and you think you’re not creative–think again. We all create in different ways. You love charades or Pictionary? Creative. You collect vintage vinyl or pottery that’s all blue? Creative. You spend all weekend categorizing your magazines and finding the perfect storage containers for them? Also creative. We’re all creative, and more importantly, we all need creative outlets to be happy. Creative energy with no place to go is a very bad thing, my friends, trust me on that.
If you’re not already planning to do something creative this weekend, fix that! Figure out what gives you joy (Mr L likes to paint–not pictures, houses!), and go do it. Your mind and your spirit will thank you for it, and the world will too!