What does it mean to be creative?
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary describes creativity as:
The power to create by bringing something into existence; to produce through imaginative skill; to make or bring into existence something new.Young children are perhaps the best examples of this. The first years of their small lives are composed of one creative expression after another. They are natural innovators – everything is new and unexplored.
As a little girl, I had a deep desire to be creative. I was bursting with creative energy and excitement and wanted to share my ideas with the world. I wrote short stories at the back of my Hilroy notebook during math class; I’d break into improvisational dance during choir practice; I filled several notebooks with my fashion designs; I drew vivid pictures that required loud, dramatic pencil strokes – which got me kicked out of class; and for many years, I wrote a daily journal – which I imagined would be read by my grandchildren after I died.
But through junior high and high school, there was no way for me to foster or nurture my gifts and I became acutely aware of my limitations and insecure about what I had to offer. On the inside, my desire was still the same, but I lost the ability to express it. The spontaneous, free-spirited side of me was replaced with self-criticism and fear. I was afraid of doing something wrong, looking stupid, being humiliated, and of being rejected. I began to hide the things I once loved.
Years later, I’m learning to open up that side of myself once again. It first started a few years back, during a difficult time getting out of an unhealthy relationship. When I couldn’t find my way through it, I returned to an old friend – my writing. Everyday, I picked up my pen and wrote down all of my sadness, anger and frustration. I wrote down the truth that I was too afraid to say out loud – that I didn’t love him. A few months later, I was able to muster the courage to leave the relationship. Although the whole experience was painful and isolating, the writing process – which has continued since then – helped me find my way back to myself. Ultimately, what it took for me to return to writing was trust in myself.
In an article in today’s Globe and Mail, entitled: Neuroscientists try to unlock the origins of creativity, the author describes recent research findings that affirm my own experience:
Researchers…have debunked the myth that creativity is seated in the right side of the brain and begun to explore the intriguing possibility that it is related to the ability to silence our inner critic.What all of this means for me is that living a creative life is about allowing myself to lose control, open up to my true gifts, trust that what I have to say has value, and to be okay with putting my fears, vulnerabilities and dreams out there, no matter what others think of me. Through this process, I’m also noticing a deeper connection to my own spirituality.
In a powerful and inspiring TED Talk, Elizabeth Gilbert describes that in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, creativity was thought to be the result of a “divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.” She explains that this “magical divine entity” lived outside the artist, and would assist the artist in their endeavors. Art and creativity were considered to be the result of an interaction between an individual and the divine, and that art came through that individual, not from that individual.
To me, this means that I don’t have to be a professional “artist” to experience and live creativity. It also means that creativity and art are available to all of us, if and when we are open to them.