Let's Discuss: Creativity

There are so many lessons I've learned since I first started blogging in 2010. One of the biggest lessons for me though has been making peace with creativity. If you are a left-brain person like me, creativity may scare you death. And even if you are more right-brain, the pressure of a creative job or even a creative blog can be crushing. Thankfully, early in my blogging journey I found this 20-minute TED Talks video by Elizabeth Gilbert, and it literally changed my life. She talks about visualizing creativity as not something that comes from within, but something that is given to you. (Gilbert has many names for the source of someone's "genius," but I personally believe mine comes from God.) I've always been familiar with the idea of "giving God the glory" for your work, but this video says that it's not even your work to begin with. So how did this change things for me?

Well, for starters, I've always been afraid to pursue a creative career. I'm much more comfortable with math equations that have definite answers, than open-ended questions with infinite possibilities. But what I discovered by starting my blog is that I don't even like math equations that much, and further so, it's not what I'm necessarily good at. I excel at creative tasks, but my level of discomfort for them has been keeping me from pursuing a creative life for years. No longer. Here's why:

Image from Squidoo
1. I'm no longer fearful that the ideas will just stop coming. My ideas don't come from within – they are given to me by the Creator of the universe, and I'm pretty sure His ideas won't be drying up anytime soon. I can confidently say almost two years later that there is never a shortage of ideas, just a challenge of picking which ones I have time to develop!

2. My perfectionism no longer impedes my creativity. I thought creativity depended on my own thoughts and ideas, which was way too much pressure for a perfectionist like me, and so I often wouldn't try. Now I know all I need to do, as Gilbert says, is "show up." Do my part and show up and the rest will be given to me. Massive weight on shoulders = now lifted. (Along the same lines, I've come to learn that "fashion mistakes are half the fun." See that previous post here.)

3. I feel the freedom to like my own work. I'm often surprised at the things I come up with, but at the same time felt a level of discomfort for liking it (isn't that, like, the essence of vanity?) or accepting compliments. Now I know that I'm admiring an idea that was given to me, and at the experience of being given this idea, not at my own abilities. Permission to admire, granted.

4. My work is not self-centric. If I hear day after day how great my work is (such as positive comments I receive on my blog), the whole thing becomes about me. If I have a long successful career and people are always telling me how great my work is, and I internalize that, just imagine what kind of person I could possibly become. But I constantly remind myself not take the praise as a personal compliment, but instead as praise to source of the creativity and the process itself. Yes, I absolutely played a part in the process. And maybe I deserve some credit for showing up (see #2). But I'm not the creative source after all, I'm just the conduit.

What are your thoughts on creativity? Do you struggle with being creative or excel at it? What lessons about creativity have you learned throughout the years?