"The...creative...is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. Add to this..., the overpowering necessity to create, create, and create--something of meaning. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency, she is not really alive unless she is creating."
From Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind
I've always had loads of ideas. A big sense of possibility. And a lot of energy for making things happen to make the world a better place.
I've also always been someone who notices what's wrong, what's unjust, how we're destroying the planet, and how we're treating one another badly.
But it's always felt lonely and a bit isolating being so sensitive and creative. I've wondered why others aren't noticing these things or feeling compelled to act. And I've met repeated resistance to my desire for for innovation, new possibility, and bringing things to life. People and systems are most comfortable staying the way they've always been. Despite this reality, something about the impossible nature of the challenge to change things for the better, despite all odds, kept me busy efforting and trying to improve things for a LONG time before I actually started taking my desire for creative expression seriously.
What does it mean to take our creativity seriously and why does it matter? For me, taking my creativity seriously has meant the following:
- Committing to some creative project that doesn't require me to wait around for the world to change or be ready
for something new. Instead of trying to find small spaces here and there for my creativity in my existing work at the university, taking my creativity seriously meant carving out my own time and space and using it in ways that made me curious even if I had no idea where this creativity was leading or whether I'd be any good at it. I chose to do this by writing a memoir, which I had no idea how to do, where to begin, or even why I wanted to do it. I just felt curious and compelled to try to write a memoir.
- Separating my desire for creativity from my work or desire to serve and make a difference.
While it's true that I have a business, which is a fabulous way to use my creativity to make a difference and serve, it's also the case that limiting my creative expression to a space where being creative depends on others' buying into what I'm creating isn't always the best idea. Often our most powerful creative impulses aren't ready to be shared with the world right away (or sometimes ever). Or we don't know how they'll serve others. With my memoir, I initially wanted to write bits and pieces of my story to help others change systems for the better. But, as I opened myself to the creative process, I actually became curious about my story (which was pretty much the last thing I'd ever wanted to write about or know about). If a need to serve and make a difference had been driving me, I couldn't have followed the impulse to let my story unfold even if it made a difference for no one. The fulfillment and joy I've experienced in following where the process has led me is much more than it would have been if I'd stuck to my external motivator of making a difference for others. Plus, I have way more degrees of freedom than if I'd stuck with my original desire to serve. (I also love combining my desire for creativity with my work and desire to serve. There's a time and place for everything.)
- Creating consistently instead of haphazardly or when the inspiration strikes.
Of course, the world gives us every reason to believe we have no time and space to create. Or that creating simply doesn't matter in the big scheme of things. At the same time, my rebellious, unruly nature was often very able to convince me that I didn't want to create consistently because that would just feel like more work or more "to do." But in my experience, creating consistently changed a LOT in my life. It meant I had something I was committed to making space for every day (which helped me stop filling my day with solving everyone else's problems or trying to create within tiny openings that never went very deep or felt very fulfilling). Plus, it meant I began to build trust that I would and could show up for myself even when I didn't feel like it (instead of live my life doing everything else on time and in a way that impressed others but not doing the same for myself). Basically, creating consistently was how I built trust that I could make space to express what felt true inside no matter what.
So, why does expressing ourselves creatively even matter? Especially as sensitive folks in the world? I think it really does. But you probably couldn't have convinced me of this until I'd written consistently for a period of time. Here's why:
The more I create, the more I realize that giving myself an outlet for expression and creativity is HOW I respect and work with my sensitivity. One way to think of sensitivity is like a little child, or all of those parts inside of us that we shushed and set aside because they weren't really needed in the world. But of course, those little child parts are still there. And they show up regularly in my life, often in ways I don't want. Judgments, intense feelings, loads of ideas, a love for imagination, opinionated observations of what's wrong and right in life, silly impulses, pain in my body, etc. The trouble is, without an outlet to create, there's not much room for all of me. But with a creative outlet like writing my memoir, all of these parts can show up on the page in ways I never would have planned. They can have voice. And space. And a place. And attitude. And emotion. And whatever else those little child like, stuffed away parts need to express.
Basically, with creativity in my life, I make space to experience my sensitivity as a gift, not something to endlessly self-improve or change by trying to be more _____________ (You fill in the blank. Some of my favorites are: disciplined, easy to deal with...) or less _____________ (You fill in the blank. Some of my favorites are: reactive, sensitive, anxious, scared/vulnerable). As I write, I need the full range of my expression and all of the intense ways I experience the world through my senses, which can sometimes feel like way too much. But on the page, somehow it comes to life, makes me laugh, allows me to cry, and wakes me and others up from going through life's motions.
Now, just to be clear. It's not like I just sat down on my own one day and decided I'm going to take my creativity seriously. I needed much more encouragement and community wrapped around what I was doing than that. Which is why I joined a memoir writing class, had someone else encourage me to write consistently and provide structure that kept me going, and created alongside a small group of others who were moving in the same direction. And day by day, word by word, I started to feel how much better I felt in my day when I made space to create. And how much more anxious, irritated, and grumpy I felt when I didn't. I began to learn how to motivate myself when the resistance tried every trick in the book to keep me from sitting down. I began to learn what time of day worked best for me to write. And I began to learn how to hold space for myself and what I wanted when the world demanded I make more time to complete what it wanted.
If you feel curiosity about what might open up in your life with space for consistent creative expression--whether imagining a business, exploring new work possibilities for yourself, making space to create and do writing or art, exploring new activities that energize and fill you up in life, or anything else that feels exploratory or creative, I'm excited (and quite a bit terrified) to share with you my new Women Create program. It begins February 26 with an in-person retreat where you'll get clear on what you'll work on throughout the program and get to know the other women on this shared journey. Together, we'll create consistently, build trust in how to work with our own creative process and creative personality, and have all the encouragement, structure and support needed to follow through and finish what you start. For more details, check out my website and schedule a free discovery call to explore whether this experience is right for you.