There was a time when my life was overflowing with creativity. Not simply my own, but everyone around me. Writers, artists, actors, musicians, songwriters, designers … I couldn’t throw a paper airplane without hitting someone whose talent filled the space. My spare time was filled with art shows, community theatre in all its forms, or performances of local musicians.
At the time, I didn’t realize how unusual my life was, or how fortunate I was to be surrounded by so many incredibly talented people. I didn’t realize that most people’s reality was so much more … mundane. I know that may sound judgmental, and I truly don’t mean for it to, but it’s like seeing the Wizard of Oz and going from technicolor back to Kansas in plain old black and white.
Sure, I worked, but it was secondary to everything else. My job didn’t interfere.
Until it did. And I went back to Kansas and the colors faded in my memory as time passed and I grew older and more responsible. Work began to take more and more of my time and creative exploits became a thing that I talked about on the phone in the car when driving to or from work. Then I just listened to other people talk about the projects they were working on. And finally, I just stopped. Work became all consuming. It wasn’t my intention and I certainly didn’t enjoy it, but it crept up, slowly taking more and more of my energy and focus until I didn’t have any more to give to anything else.
I describe that job as soul-destroying. It might sound melodramatic, but it’s an honest assessment. The nature of the job combined with the hours that I worked sucked so much energy that I didn’t have the ability to participate in the creative outlets that had always provided me with stress relief. The company frowned on individuality and stifled creativity. For a free-spirited theatre loving soul like myself, it was one of my personal circles of hell.
During those years, creativity was not on my agenda. Sometimes dinner was too overwhelming and took too much time and effort, so how was I supposed to be creative?
You see, the problem with creative people is we think too big. When we get grounded in a world of work and life and problems, we set our creativity aside because it’s “too much work.” It takes too much time to get involved. Its too much effort to paint a picture and then clean the brushes and … and …. and …. We are so creative in our ways to avoid being creative that it should be a form of creativity in itself. We forget that creativity can come in small packages. 15 minutes with a sketchpad and a pencil. 20 minutes with a blank word document, keyboard and an imagination. 15 minutes telling bedtime stories. 30 minutes trying a new spin on a recipe for the family dinner.
But believe it or not, creativity doesn’t just go away. It doesn’t wither and die if you don’t use it. It just gets rusty. It might give you a headache. It will definitely give you a heartache. Mine did.
At first, I told stories. To friends, to co-workers, to the teller at the bank and the cashier at the grocery store. I told stories to anyone who would listen. Telling stories could be like performing. I had an audience and a script and away I went. But performances are for the audience, not the performer and it didn’t quite fill the void.
You know the void that I’m talking about. The void that leaves your heart a little empty and your eyes a little wet and your head bursting with so many things that you can’t put words to. The void that tells you when you’re missing a piece of yourself that’s so vital to who you are.
I needed something personal. Something for me. A way to express my creativity. So I started a blog. I don’t have a huge following. I don’t care.
I don’t write for them. I write for me. I write because when I don’t, I begin to function on auto-pilot and I fall into a routine and eventually, I stop seeing in color. For me, creative writing is something I can do anytime, as little or as much as I want. It doesn’t require a rehearsal schedule or an accompanist. I don’t need anything beyond a pen and piece of paper. Or just my cell phone (there’s an app for that!)
It started out as a way to de-stress from work. I would write out an encounter from my day. Sometimes they were funny and sometimes they weren’t. Some of them were worth sharing and some of them weren’t worth the digital page they were typed on. All of them were important to me. They were pieces of me. They were and are reminders to me that even in a world of black and white, I can still open the door to a world of technicolor.
I need reminders that creativity, like happiness, is a choice to be made each day. It’s always there if I’m willing to take the time to actively see it, to let it flow. It’s easy to get swept along in the fast pace of life. Slowing down for ten minutes to rejuvenate the inner creative streak can be hard to justify.
Most of you who are reading this probably understand the importance of self-care. I hope that you believe in the necessity of taking time each day and each week to care for yourselves. I challenged myself to add 15 minutes to my self-care ritual once a week (that’s only an hour a month) to sit down and write. Sometimes I find that I have more time during the week and I write more frequently, but I know, and I look forward to those 15 minutes each week when my schedule is cleared for my imagination to fly.
Surely you can make the choice to find 15 minutes in your week to do something so good for yourself? After all, remember the magic of opening the door to Oz for the first time? Your life doesn’t have to be black and white all the time. Not even close.