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Living creatively

It might be a matter of creative labelling

Just over a week ago, I attended a creativity workshop not really being sure what to expect and only knowing that I was feeling frustrated at the lack of creativity in my life, at my lack of ideas, not knowing where to start and where to go with them when I'd finished. I wasn't finding time to be creative and I wasn't making time to invest in what Julia Cameron calls "Artist Dates" and what I call 'foraging' – that physical playing hooky from life and not seeking inspiration, but inviting it in if it feels like showing up. I was beginning to feel resentful that I hadn't written any fiction in months, and not shared any in years. I felt I'd lost my way and needed direction.

Or so I thought.

It turned out that what I really needed was a shift of perspective, a change in perception.

I got the shunts that provoked both very early in the day.

Jay spoke about her experience of the pre-work by stating that she'd started from a premise of "define creativity". Then in the next exercise, after a seven minute conversation, Elle spoke about my energy and passion as a 'physical force' "you can feel it, it hits you" she said – and others said she was clearly channelling it and reflecting it back out. (Wow!)

When we came to spend time immersed in our own forms of creating, I sat with those two thoughts: what do we mean by creativity? And what is it that I talk about with such passion and enthusiasm that it not only lights me up, but also the person I'm talking to?

When we think about being creative we bind it up in ribbon, we make it a special thing. We think about paintings, sculpture, literature, poetry, music. We think it is something only the gifted few have the talent for, and only the lucky few have the time to devote to developing their art and finding their inspiration.

Wrong on both counts.

The 'lucky few' will tell you how hard it is. They will tell you that you won't find the time; you won't make the time. If being creative matters to you, just as with whatever else really truly matters to you, you will beg borrow and steal the time, because not doing so is not an option.

There is nothing innately special about being creative. We are born creative. When we think about "being creative" we don't think about play, or work. We especially don't think about work if we work in some kind of corporate environment, and we especially don't think about being playful at work, no matter what environment we work in.

This isn't about playing pranks or engaging in dangerous behaviour. It is about having a childlike curiosity about how the job works, why it doesn't, what if…what if…what if…

We don't do this. We're not encouraged to do this. In the worst organisations we're not allowed to do this.

What's even worse is that in the best organisations and/or in the freelance lives we've created for ourselves, we don't recognise just how creative we are already being. It is no wonder we feel stifled, deprived of creative endeavour. We're not recognising it when it is right there. We're searching for something that isn't even missing.

I have been bemoaning a lack of time and energy to write, because of the time I am "having" to devote to other things. Only…I'd missed the point.

In the first place: I don't "have to" do any of those things. You don't must as my late partner would say. I am choosing to.

In the second place: those other things are creative endeavours in their own right. I had simply attached the wrong labels to them. I'd called them "work" and "chores" when really they were writing and (re)creating a home.

We should give more care as to how we label things…because the labels we give things don't just describe them, they define them.

To explain this, let's step back from creativity for a moment. A friend said to me "We've got a problem". It isn't a problem; it's just context. It results directly from the parameters within which we have to work. That doesn't make it any less challenging, but it changes the response.

If we call something a problem, then we're assuming it has a solution. If we call it a problem, we believe it can be solved and we devote time and energy to finding that solution. It is something we need to fix...because, by our definition, it can be fixed.

Whereas if we accept that it is an annoyance, a frustration, or a disappointment then we immediately remove the need to find that 'fix' and can work on just doing the best we can in the new set of circumstances. If the plane is delayed and you're not going to make your meeting, you can rage all you like: it won't get the plane off the ground any quicker. Finding a quite space and an internet connection might be more helpful. If the time we'd planned to spend just having daft fun together is curtailed because you have new work commitments, I can rage all I like, it won't make the commitments go away. Using that time on my own endeavours, or cooking a meal for us to share afterwards, might be more helpful.

Re-label a problem as context and the response changes.

So back at my quest to figure out how to kick-start my creativity…I thought what if I just changed the labels.

All of this corporate work I'm doing is actually creative. It involves writing, explaining, constructing images and stories. What is that, if it is not creative?

All of this clearance of 'stuff' is the groundwork for evolving a new place to live: what is that if it is not creative?

Which led me on to all the other things I had discounted as not being worthy of this 'worthy' label…poet-cards that I send to a friend, meals that I cook, poems and pictures, twittery thoughts that are gone in an instant…what is any of that if it is not creative?

I realised, I was searching for something I already had. My life is full of creativity, if I would be honour it. Don't search for something which isn't missing.

Then there was this second shunt…the excitement, the passion. I had to reflect on what it was I was getting so passionate about. I was shocked to discover it was what most people would call "work". I'd thought I'd left the professional world largely behind because I wanted space to "be creative"…I discovered that isn't quite the case. I'd moved into a different way of relating to that world because I wanted to use my creativity more within it.

I don't want to stop work at all. I just want to work differently. I want to use the knowledge and the skill and the insight in a way I couldn't do in the environment I was in. But the passion and the commitment and the want to do some kind of good in the sector…that doesn't change.


Surprised me.

The passion is all about the purpose. It is about trying to do a little good in a world that needs us all to try to do at least a little good.


1 The workshop was "Tap into your Creativity Superpowers: Turn Your Ideas into Reality", run by NOW Live Events in conjunction with "Psychologies" magazine & hosted / facilitated by Jackee Holder.

2 Julia Cameron reference is from, "the Artist's Way"

3 All names changed.

4 The photo is of street art in Old Street, London (July 2018)

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