When I was about eight years old, I remember listening to my mom play Beethoven’s haunting Für Elise on the piano. Mesmerized I thought, “I want to play like that some day.”
In that distinct moment the seed of creativity started to bud within me. I was lucky to have a mother who was always creating. Sewing, baking, crafting, making–her hands were a constant flurry of activity that left behind beautiful Sunday dresses and three-tiered cakes. I saw her and thought that’s what moms do, not realizing that I was witnessing a dancer in mid-waltz.
Creativity is in You
Think of the baby who stacks blocks to build a tower. Consider the child who colors pictures with no apprehension of whether her art is good or not. We were all born with candles of creativity that flicker inside of us.
Some of us fan their flames. We try new things to see what we are good at. Kids are great at this! They let us sign them up for hip hop and violin and pantomiming. They soak it in and don’t care what they look like doing it. A child’s creativity is the easiest to coax out.
But somewhere along the way adults have bought into a lie. That lie is that creative endeavors, for us, are a waste of time.
The Big “Waste of Time” Lie
Nothing could be more destructive to your inner creativity than telling it you have better things to do.
We are all creative beings to some degree. Every single one of us. Some of you create buildings from a sketch on paper. Others can fabricate songs from thin air. There are individuals out there creating poems and metal work and soufflés and stunning flower beds on the daily. Some of you create with your words and others with your craft.
There is not a single person on the face of this planet who is incapable of creating something. That is God’s gift to us. Making things brings us happiness, beauty, and satisfaction. The worst thing you can do for society is tell your creativity that it is a waste of time.
Like all good lessons, I had to learn this the hard way.
Throughout childhood, I let my creative candles flicker like a 90-year-old’s birthday cake. I was a Munchkin in the community Wizard of Oz play and gladly took piano lessons. At ten I joined a clogging class and stomped and grinned until I was blue in the face. When I was a teenager, I begged for a guitar and then taught myself to play it. In college, I wrote my own songs and had no fear performing them for my poetry class.
Then graduation happened and a real job and my candles started to get a little dimmer. I had less time for my creativity and it went into hibernation mode. Then kids came and four small humans later, I found myself neglecting my creativity entirely.
It was the day I handed creativity the biggest dis of all that it slapped me back in the face.
The Slap That Got Me Seeing Stars
I was cleaning out the closet upstairs because, let’s face it, I had sentenced my creativity to a bazillion hours of community service. There in the corner, hidden away and dusty was my old guitar. I reached to pull it out, my fingers yearning for a few good strums.
“No!” I told myself. “That would be a complete waste of my time today.”
That’s when creativity gave me a slap in the face that got me seeing stars. Dang, I had neglected my creativity so long she got downright feisty. And nobody puts Baby in a corner.
I dusted off my guitar, gave her a tune-up and fumbled my way through songs that were once flawless. Despite the initial awkwardness (good thing candles can be lit again), it felt so good to be back with a guitar on my lap.
5 Ways To Live a More Creative Life
You were born to create; we all were. Maybe you used to be creative but have let it slip away. Maybe kids and jobs and Netflix got in the way. But enough of that. It’s time to let creativity back in, before she gets huffy! It’s time to reap the rewards of beauty and self-satisfaction.
1. Chisel away the time. Put in the work.
I know you are busy; I am too. So incredibly busy that from sun up to sun down it’s hard enough to find a moment to brush my teeth, let alone do something magically creative. But I’ve decided that if I want to live a more creative life (which I do), then I’m going to have to chisel away the time just like Michelangelo did with the Statue of David.
Sometimes that means writing in the twilight hours when my kids are asleep or picking up the guitar for 15 minutes while the clothes finish drying. I can jump on the piano for ten minutes here and there and the important thing is that my kids are seeing me doing it.
2. Pick one thing you’ve “always wanted to do.”
When my sister (who is a creative goddess herself) sent me the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, I knew it was my bosom book. This entire book is one creative epiphany after another and anyone who likes to write/craft/DIY/sing/build/create should read it.
In the book, Gilbert talks about her middle aged friend who decided to throw caution to the wind and take up figure skating. At 40 years old, she didn’t care what she looked like doing it, she just loved the way it ignited her inner candles.
Want to live more creativity and feel a fire different from the everyday norm? Choose one thing you’ve always claimed you wanted to do and do it.
3. Create for creativity’s sake.
Every time I see a runner out pounding the pavement—no matter how goofy his stride looks—I always say, “Good for you!” At least you are out there running while the rest of us are sitting on our duffs.
Same goes with creativity. Not all sculptures are going to be the Statue of David and not all songs are going to be Für Elise. Sometimes we create for creativity’s sake and that is it. The process is what rattles our bones and stirs up new life.
So many people don’t create because their afraid the end product won’t be good enough. They don’t even try because the expectations for their creativity are so high, they know they will never live up to them. That thinking is baloney and has no place in your creative life. How will you ever find out what you can make unless you try?
4. Not all your creations will be good, and that’s okay.
A few years ago I dabbled in crafting. My mom was good at it, my sister was good at it, and therefore I must be genetically entitled to be good at it. Originally, I thought this would be a stellar idea but it didn’t turn out like I envisioned at all. But hey, I ventured down a creative road and realized that DIY flip flopping just wasn’t my thing. But maybe it’s your thing!
The point is that not everything you make will be brilliant, and that’s okay.
5. You want it? Go do it. It’s as simple as that.
An interesting person is one follows his own path of creativity, wherever that may lead. I recently met a woman whom I misjudged greatly. She attended the same formal even as me and showed up wearing what looked like a hand-sewn gunny sack. “What nerve!” I thought. But after chatting with her, I learned that this woman had been a professional tennis player (as in she played Lindsay Davenport), worked along side Martha Stewart, and had built her own handmade empire. This woman wanted a creative life so she went out there and got it and I respect that.
If you want to live more creatively, go do it. Rekindle old talents and cultivate new ones. Don’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying. Allow yourself a stink bomb or two and learn to laugh when it happens. Proceed to make new dance moves and killer beats. Build furniture and learn to play the ukulele.
Wherever your creative paths lead, trust and follow–you will learn marvelous things about yourself all along the way.