A couple of years ago, I did some personality testing that showed I was a creative type. At the time, this came as a surprise to me. I was so entrenched in the roles that I had to play – manager, mother, wife – that I had neglected my creative self. Even though, at its core, my work involved writing and design, I’d moved several steps away from the act of creating itself and, sadly instead, I spent big chunks of time staring at spreadsheets.
Now there are some people out there who love a good spreadsheet. Perhaps they have an analytical nature and a good macro gets their juices flowing. All kudos to you, my talented friends, but spreadsheets are not a creative tool for me.
The other thing that happened is that I built up a distorted picture of what a creative person is meant to be. This person was young. They worked in a converted warehouse in Richmond or Collingwood (or the inner suburbs of any city), and they drank soy lattes while eating gluten-free pumpkin bread and tending to their indoor plants.
Cynical, I know. And mean to hipsters, bless them. It’s just that I’m too old to be a hipster so now I loosely cast some aspersions in their direction, mixed in with some resentment for my years of lost creativity. And there’s some residue mixed in too from the 90s where my young mind clearly stated that, in order to be creative, one should be fashionable.
The reality is that anyone can be creative. It doesn’t matter how old we are, what we wear, what we drink or what medium we choose. Instead, it’s about how far we are willing to dig into the heart of ourselves and, ultimately, what we produce.
“None of you knows what creativity means. To paint a picture, to write a poem? No! To recast one’s whole age, to impose upon it the stamp of one’s will, to fill it with beauty, to overwhelm it, to overpower it with one’s spirit.” Or so says German author Christian Morgenstern in Zarathustra’s Children.
Some people think that living a creative life is a choice. Elizabeth Gilbert is one of them. In her famous book, Big Magic, she asks us to show up with courage and take the steps required to live a creative life – many of them involving overcoming fear. But others might say that a creative life is not a choice. It’s a calling. And it’s hard to shut that calling up. I reckon we either quickly, or eventually, succumb to it. But too many of us ignore our calling while we’re making other plans (see notes on spreadsheets, above).
Even George Orwell tried to deny his calling:
“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”
So here I am, starting afresh, embarking on a creative life. In my case, the opportunities for work in a converted warehouse are sparse. This may not be the case for you and, if that’s what creativity means in your world, please go for it. For me, I’ve discovered that there’s a place beyond fear where I have the capacity to dig deep into the realms of myself. The act of creating sits me down quietly with myself so that what I know to be true leaves my heart and becomes part of the world. It’s quite meditative. And I think that’s what I’m most excited about.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to introduce you to some amazing creatives living lives well beyond my stereotypes. They’re makers, designers, and artists who are playing with their time on the planet, making what they can and telling their own stories in very different ways. I look forward to sharing their lives and their work with you.