The practice of creativity

I work in a creative field in the “creative” department. By trade, I fit in an artistic box – which allows any eccentricity on my part to be completely socially accepted. But what I’ve always found strange is the thought that there are those who are creative and those who are not. That life is an awkward 7th grade school dance, where the artists sit on one side of the brain – and the analytical types sit on the other side, divided into neat little spaces by natural gifts and talents (each side enjoying their Fun Dip and Cherry Coke, of course). Sure, I believe we are each born with a specific set of God-given gifts – but creativity is so much more than a specific talent. It is the ability to create something original, unique, inspiring and powerful with your specific talents.

And the funny thing? As children, we are all naturally creative. We are all “artists.”

In this interesting talk by Sir Ken Robinson, he notes:

“[Kids] aren’t frightened of being wrong. Now I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative, but what we do know is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong… Picasso once said that we are all born artists. The problem is to remain an artist when we grow up. I believe this passionately: we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.”

His words echo my sentiment. Creativity is not something you’re born with – but more importantly, something you hold on to. It is courage, sillyness and the simple confidence of being OK if people think you’re weird. Nothing stifles creativity more than insecurity. Children are the most creative creatures alive because they don’t know to care about what other people think. Their lives revolve around imagination because nobody has told them otherwise.

This inhibition – this carefree whimsy – is what allows us to see foxes in the sky.

It’s what lets us create oceans out of bedsheets on our livingroom floor.

It is what allows us to build majestic cathedrals out of bricks… and graham crackers.

It is what inspires us to play and make-believe and daydream.

So often, we think that the most creative things are the ones we don’t “get.” As if being especially bizarre  to the point of becoming abstruse is what defines true creativity – a skill reserved only for the artistic elite.  And so, the “normal” folks – the laundry-doing moms and 9-5 dads and high school math geeks – leave the “creativity” to the true artists with colorful hair and body piercings. But the truth is, all of us are capable of profound creativity if we allow it.

We may not all be eloquent wordsmiths or master painters. We may not all be able to write beautiful symphonies or choreograph elaborate theater productions. But in our own way, woven deeply into our unique talents, we were all given the innate ability to create something profound – something that, small or big, could change the world.

When I was in 3rd grade, I could do incredible cartwheels. I would run with reckless abandon across the freshly watered grass in barefeet, launching myself through the air, and landing fearlessly onto my soft little palms. That loss of control between launching and landing was exhilarating. For not a second did I think about the possibility of falling. Or how awkward I may look. Or if I would sprain something. But now, I really stink at doing cartwheels. They are uncomfortable and cumbersome — and in the rare times that I’ve even tried to do them in my adult life, I’ve chickened out mid-launch. This is how I think many people feel about creativity. As a child, it came natural. But now, it just feels uncomfortable.

But unlike cartwheels, we were made to create. If only we can simply channel our 3rd grade selves…

The small people with big imaginations who run full-on across the fresh-watered grass, throw up their hands… and launch fearlessly into the sky.

Saturday mornings

It’s a rainy Saturday morning.

The house smells like drip-brewed coffee and hot-from-the-oven biscuits.

Little boy is wearing mismatched pajamas and little girl is nestled snug as a bug in her older brother’s blue bouncer.

The livingroom has been frantically attacked by armies of plastic, oversized Legos, wooden blocks and a needy 60 lb. dog curled up like a hot cinnamon roll on a semi-clear spot of carpet.

The dryer whirrls and clinks as one, lone hooded sweatshirt knocks it’s zipper against the metal in a rhythmic clink, clank, clink, clank.

The hubby cheers for the college basketball game on TV.

The coffee maker beeps with satisfaction at creating a fresh pot of java.

And I stand content amidst it all in “carefree timelessness” – a phrase used by Matthew Kelly in his book, Rhythm of Life (great book!), when referring to the childlike state of simply enjoying the moment without the ruling of a clock. Yes, it’s a good day.

 

Finding my Roots in Cowboy Boots

I grew up traveling the world. As the toe-headed daughter of an Air Force officer, I learned my first English words in Japan. I sailed into puberty in Hawaii. I woke up to flaky, chocolate croissants in Paris on my 13th birthday — and attended Oktoberfest long before I could enjoy the heavy steins of rich, frothy beer. But no country, culture or people have inspired me like my birthplace — Texas.

As a northern friend once joked, Texas is the only state that actually “lives up to its parody.” Big hats, big boots and, most importantly, big pride. Because I’ve spent much of my life relocating (and reinventing), I found great comfort in the sense of belonging that came with being a local—a Texan—when I finally settled down here.

To walk the walk, I finally bought the right shoes—my first pair of cowboy boots. (Or are they cowgirl boots?) Either way, they’ve already molded to my feet. Funny enough, I love wearing them to the office. I prop them up on my desk and admire the juxtaposition of durable cowhide sewn together with tiny, delicate threads. The warm, caramel leather hugs my ankles as swirls of gold and peach designs wind up my calf.

At first, I wanted a pair of boots for novelty, something to wear for a night on the town or maybe to a country music concert. But what I’ve discovered is much more profound. With these boots, it’s not just about where I walk. It’s about following in the footsteps—and clinging to the no-nonsense horse sense–of past generations.

In my little corner of corporate America, it’s easy to get lost in the minutia of marketing plans and conference calls. My boots help me wade through all of that — and when needed, step over it. They give me a genuine Texas swagger, a boldness, and a soft-spoken rebellion. And at night, when I take them off and set them by the door, they remind me that I’ve gotten the job done yet another day. Even if they aren’t covered with dust from riding the range, they’re still, as my grandma called them, my work boots.

Many boot aficionados have the same pair their entire lives. And like a wrinkled, elderly face with a lifetime of laugh lines, old boots come with a story. Their nicks, scuffs, dings, and cuts add personality and charm. They just seem to get better with age. They fit better. Look better. Feel better. And I like that.

In several decades, my boots will tell a story of their own – the story of a Texan. They’ll remind me of family portraits taken in fields of Bluebonnets. Of tramping through piles of hay on my grandma’s East Texas farm. And of the time when — long, long ago — I was a young career woman with her first pair of cowboy boots.

Transitions

Maternity leave is a strange time of life.

It’s not really a vacation – where you come back to work rested and tan with sand still at the bottom of your purse. In fact, the only similar thing about maternity leave and vacation is that you come back from both looking to drop a few pounds.

And it’s not really stay-at-home-mom-land, because any schedules or regular activities and routines that begin will soon fall to the wayside once you’re back in the working world. So it’s hard to settle in fully as if it were a permanent state.

On top of that, there’s less time to sleep – but strangely more time to think about life and the direction you’re headed. What kind of mom do I want to be? What do I want for my children? How long is it socially acceptable to keep wearing my maternity jeans?

It’s one of those transitions in life that causes us to pause, reflect, and rebuild. But like many transitions, we’re often too distracted to really make the most of it. Too busy reflecting on the past, the pregnancy, the birth – and too focused on the future and what comes next.

And in the meantime, life passes. These precious moments – this “free time” of sorts – fall through our hands like grains of sand as we look to the next milestone. I use this term “we” very loosely, as it’s obvious I’m talking about me here.

I think it is the mom’s greatest challenge to just be present with her kids. To not think about the messy house, the grocery list, the laundry pile, and on… and on. But to truly just be. No cell phones. No computers. No mental to-do lists. Just right now.

After all, now is all we really have.

“The future is not in our hands. We have no power over it. We can act only today. We have a sentence in our Constitution that says: ‘We will allow the good God to make plans for the future – for yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make Him known, loved and served.’ So we do not worry about the future.” – Mother Teresa

In this moment

In this moment, I have a sleeping baby on my chest. Her little butterfly eyelashes dip and curl over fat cheeks in that edible baby way that photographers love to capture. Her airy baby hair whisps and waves into a perfect perch atop her head – a soft mohawk to add a little punk rock to her perfection. Her lips, slightly parted, breathe out the sweet scent of baby and I watch her tiny body rise and fall to the rhythm of her tranquil nap. She is… peace. And it’s times like this that I want nothing more than to soak up this moment, and remember it forever.