On Being Creative

It is always interesting when I have a thought brewing around in my mind, something I’m wondering about or something that I have been concerned about, that I end up having multiple conversations about it the following few days.

I recently had a conversation with one of my BFF’s about “creativity”, which turned to another conversation with my husband about it. We all had very interesting takes on “What is a creative person”? “How original are original thoughts“?

Then, as it usually happens, one of my clients ends up struggling with the very same topic and we end up having a discussion which I am much more prepared for and it again fuels my thoughts and then ultimately helps solidify a few more of my own perspectives (but are they original??? That is the question!!).

My client, who suffered from a life changing car accident, is struggling with “finding meaning in her daily activities”. This is something that all clients struggle with, so I am very used to trying to help my clients find “meaningful activities”. Some of them are “easy” – they already had a full life prior to their accident, and can simply return to a modified version of what they were doing. However, many struggled prior to their injury, or many can not return to their “meaningful activities” so we need to explore and find new meaning.

On a side note, a big challenge for me is setting aside my own personal perspective and beliefs and helping them explore their own lives without my “bias” (which I’m not sure is really possible – but at least I try to remain more neutral!).

However, I am a person of great faith and try to live my life according to my faith. Often, when I am encountered with challenges in my own life, I have additional “things” I do which help me and provide me with some great sources of comfort and wisdom (e.g. prayer, personal study of scripture or other good books, attending church, listening to conference talks about pretty much every topic I can think of (twice each year our church has a semi annual conference where you can hear the most uplifting, motivating, powerful speakers – these talks are then printed in a magazine or on the internet so you can view/read them at any time), talk to my friends and family for their solid advice, or consult, speak, share, and listen to my extremely wise, humble and in tune husband. Finally, trying to keep an eternal perspective throughout it all, and keep my eye always on my end goal. Note that I try to turn to these things. It isn’t easy.

However, I can’t exactly say to my client, “Have you prayed about it”? Although sometimes I do wish I could just refer them to a conference talk on that particular subject to get some more food for thought.

But there are lots of things I can say to help them – things that are on my “go to list” (read, write/journal, exercise, sleep, meditate, take a class, do a new activity, talk to people etc).

I also can’t tell them what I do when I take off my rose coloured glasses: cry, yell, feel sorry for myself, cry, eat (I ate a ton of Frootloops when I went through my divorce – can’t stand them now!), complain, cry, obsess and repeat the same negative thoughts in my head, talk incessantly about my problem with whoever will listen and then cry some more. They usually have mastered these techniques anyways.

Back to my original post:

In this particular case, I went to my “go to list” and suggested some exploring of various actitivies as well as some reading.

I referred my client to a book I am reading called “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin. It is an excellent book about a women who makes a plan to try to “find happiness” in one year. Each month she focuses on a different aspect of happiness and sets little goals for herself. I have been reading it month by month, so am only on September, so I’m not sure if she “finds happiness”. However, it is pretty clear along the way, her life has become more deliberate and meaningful, which I personally think has something to do with the secret to a “happy” life.

I suggested to my client that we start to read this together. It is an easy book to read very short chunks of – which is one of the reading strategies we work on anyways. We quickly reviewed the book. She quickly became overwhelmed with all the info (again, pretty typical for someone following a head injury).

What she was getting stuck on was interesting: How did this woman come up with all those ideas? Why don’t I get ideas like that? If I just do some of her ideas, I am not being creative! It’s not “original”! What about the “original thought”? Would I not just be a copy cat? How is reading a book like this going to help me create “meaning” in my life? I need to think of something on my own! I need to get creative and come up with some ideas!

Funny you should say that. I have just spent a week talking and thinking about those very questions.

I happen to have a few fresh throught circling my brain (right or wrong – they are just my thoughts):

– Sometimes I think the people who wait for the “most original” thoughts or ideas end up doing nothing but waiting.

– Creativity fuels creativity. If you want to be more creative, surround yourself with what you think is creative: read about it, watch it, experience it, immerse yourself in it.

– Re define how you view creativity:

(I stole this example from my husband): The Wright Brother’s created the plane – but did not create wings! The combustion engine had already been created too. They just combined these ideas.

Writers don’t create words, they just use them in different ways (idea stolen from my husband too!). Are writers not then creative?

Artists often paint nature: but they did not create nature. Are they then cheating? They usually use material that already exists. Are they only artists if they create a brand new material?

I would dare you to find a musician who was not heavily influenced by a variety of music and other artists. Does that detract from a musician’s creative abilities and masterpieces?

People who give good advice are often just people who are well read, have lived life, talked to a lot of people, perhaps are spiritually intune and insightful into their own shortcomings. They don’t just create “brand new ideas”. They often have role models that they look to and learn from them. They recycle, reuse, relearn. How many times do you hear people say “Yeah, I read about something similar and then just put my own twist on things”. That is still creativity in my opinion!

People may be born with talents and gifts, but it is only through hard work and “trying something new” that they find and develop their talents and gifts. You have to actively seek out what you are good at.

Why do we feel we have to reinvent things, or have an “original” thought to be creative? Lots of stuff is already out there. It’s what we do with it and how we use it that is the creative part.

Not to take away from the things that truly are uniquely created…but these things are often later combined with other things or reused to make something else – also creative!

Why do we feel that we “either have it or we don’t”? How do we even know if we “have it” if we never are exposed to it?

So as the client and I looked at the “Happiness Project Book”, I tried to help her see that this kind of book is not a “checklist” of what she needs to do. But it can be a source of inspiration. Here’s what someone else did. Maybe something will trigger an idea for you. Often ideas we “brainstorm” are not the ideas that get fulfilled – but they lead us to other ideas.

We take something, combine it with something else, add a little twist and make it our own. We are creative. We try out a new thing, and like it and do it over and over again until it becomes “ours”. We wear it differently, we read it differently, we say it differently. And it can be very creative.

Along the way of trying to be creative or find creativity, we try new things. Stepping into the unknown or being inspired to do things beyond our own imagination helps us find our true passions, our desires, our niches, and ultimately, our meaning. When we find some meaning, we may just find a piece of ourselves too.


On Being Creative — 1 Comment

  1. Wow! You did such an awesome job on this post. What a good read 🙂

    I consider myself a creative person but my inspiration is most definitely taken from things already created. For photography to painting, even yoga and meditation, I have mentors and gurus, artists I am heavily influenced by, etc.

    I have a quote hanging on my wall that I think really sums up this post:

    ‘Nothing is original, steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, you work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Goddard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to” – Jim Jarmusch

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