Reflections on Creativity Part 1

Quick. Go light a candle. No, it’s fine. I’ll wait….

Seriously. Stop reading this post and go light a candle (maybe one that isn’t in a jar if possible).  It’ll be fine. You don’t even need to keep it with you when you come back to finish reading this. Just keep it away from the kids, pets, or blowing curtains.

Done? Good.

Now that it’s lit you’re probably wondering why you’ve done so.  Patience. We’ll get back to that before it burns down completely.

I’ve been working on a lot of different things lately.  What can I say, I like to keep busy.  Well, kinda.  To be honest some of it I want to do and some of it I have to do. The point of my statement isn’t to give myself a pat on the back for being busy but rather to address a subject that seems to get a lot of lip service but is either poorly understood, rarely reflected upon, or, as some would argue, is endangered in today’s world: creativity.

Back in 2010, Newsweek published an article “The Creativity Crisis” about the issue of falling interest in creative thought over the past 50 years in the United States.  It pointed out that creativity is essential to innovation and offered hope that new thoughts and trends in education will lead to a resurgence in creative ability.  In this post I’m not so interested in looking at the educational system, political, or business interests but at the personal.

From personal experience, discussions with friends and colleagues, and general observation I think there is quite a bit of creativity bubbling just beneath the surface of society.  The issue, in my opinion, is that society frequently encourages creativity but stymies it at the same time. Society is based on order and expectation; creativity is based on freedom and challenging expectations to reach new conclusions or outcomes.

But strictly on a personal scale, I think people are much more creative than they give themselves credit for.  Too often it seems that creative pursuits must give way to more “serious” tasks.  For example, sure I can clean my house (admittedly a necessary chore) but at the end of the day do I get a sense of personal fulfillment?  Does it help me to grow as a person or connect with others?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once noted: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

How often do we fill up our lives with tasks, structure, and worry and ignore the last part of this quote?  Are we truly present in our own lives? Indeed, it is difficult to engage our natural curiosity and creativity if we are not.  If we are always looking to merely fill time or be entertained so we don’t have to think, reflect, or listen to that inner voice.

How many times per week do you allow yourself to “play”?  As children we are encouraged to be imaginative, try new things, and share them with others as a means of learning about ourselves and the world.  Why must this get replaced merely with habit and routine? Think of artists (writers, painters, musicians, etc.) who you admire.  Are they superhuman or do they simply put more of their time and passion into play and creativity? Some times you have to work extra hard or make short term sacrifices to allow yourself the time or freedom to be creative.  I know I do.

Play is important. Creativity is essential. And recognizing your ability to be creative is especially vital to both you and by extension society.

Time to go check on that candle. Blow it out and look at the wax. What shape(s) has it taken. What do you see. Or better yet, keep it lit and watch those shifting shadows on the wall.  Let your imagination go.