Creating A Practice
Over the course of this last year, Jodi has painted amazing murals on our back fence, created a book of collages depicting how we were all faring in the pandemic, and sewn a series of quilts of several sizes, using everything from cotton scraps to old T-shirts from Hawaii. As she lets herself brainstorm, sketch out, and carefully execute each project, I feel less and less creative. Sitting at a desk, going to meetings, and managing paperwork are not activities we think of as imaginative or artistic. I’ve been trying to give myself credit for the minimal writing I do every week, and the quick meals I prepare in the evening, but I’m alternatively in awe of her imagination and jealous of the freedom of spirit that spurs her on to try new things.
One day recently, when I was waiting for another Zoom meeting to begin, I realized that, although I don’t have anything tangible to show for my creativity during the last year, I’ve had to be innovative on a daily basis. We all have. Whether it’s offering a creative solution to someone who is struggling, or thinking of a different way to approach a problem we’ve been grappling with for months, we all work regularly to see things in a new way. Even getting ourselves up and out for a walk or run in the morning before work usually requires a high level of resourcefulness. But in thinking about my struggles with ingenuity, I’ve learned something about myself. When I'm down in the dumps and drowning in my own monotony, that feeling usually feeds on itself and I’m unlikely to try anything new. But, when I'm giving myself credit for my inventiveness, regardless of the form, I’m much more open and hopeful. It’s almost like having a new view of the world around me.
When I am acknowledging my own inventiveness, I’m much more open and hopeful.
By instinct, we’re probably all creative. We’re continually faced with problems to solve, decisions to make, various directions to turn, difficult emotional dilemmas to navigate, and simple routines to enliven when we’re bored. But we’re not accustomed to thinking of those behaviors as creative, instead just reducing them to part of everyday life. In turn, I expect most people are like me. Because we aren’t painting pictures, writing poetry, or re-decorating a room, we think of ourselves as unimaginative. Then, self-fulfilling prophecy takes hold, and we feel stuck in our humdrum lives. And that state of mind is not very inspiring. We feel bored and boring, and sometimes we can clutch that like a badge of honor.
All of this is helping me discover that, if I want to feel and be more creative, the key is to see myself as a creative person who is continually practicing being innovative. I don’t really believe that creativity is tied only to artistic endeavors. I think it’s how we live our lives, how we interact with others, how we solve problems, and how we see ourselves. It is an antidote to the humdrum, as I’ve seen in Jodi during the pandemic. Try something different. It's as easy at that.
I also want to start noticing all of the ways that I’m demonstrating creativity every day. Even if it means writing it down in a notebook, I’m going to pay attention to the many times in a day when I come up with a new idea. My prediction is that this is an experiment that will pay off. I always feel better when I’m being creative, and I feel more productive when I use my imagination in countless ways. As with most people, the pandemic has put me in a low-level, year-long funk. When we’re finally free to be out in the world again, I don’t want to feel that I’ve entirely abdicated my power to be inspired and inspirational. Waking up, starting now.