I never really thought of myself as creative. In fact, I used to scratch my head while watching my son, a musician, homemade kombucha king and electronic DJ and daughter, who designs and sews totally unique Halloween and Burning Man costumes and truly memorable Christmas gifts for friends and family, wondering where the hell they got their creativity from.
Even though my collection of handmade pewter crosses was stolen from a display case during Back to School Night in high school, my poems, songs, and stories came easily and often and I could literally stand up in front of a roomful of people and give a talk with no slides, notes or teleprompter. I named my ex-husband's business, my current husband's start-up and rattled off taglines and elevator pitches in Facebook groups when people randomly ask for ideas. I guess you could say my particular flavor of creativity seemed so easy and effortless that I never took it seriously. In fact, I took it for granted, like it was no big deal and nothing special.
It wasn't until I started noticing how many people I see as creative were doing the same thing - discounting, devaluing and disregarding their gifts. I finally got it. And getting it has changed everything. It took me some time to figure out all the reasons why I denied and distanced myself from my creative gifts and abilities. When I look back to when my creativity stopped being expressed, I realized that it was when I went to college. All through elementary, middle and high school it was right there, peacefully co-existing with my A grades in academic subjects. I didn't think I had to pick a side, and so I didn't. I was interested in learning, achieving, excelling and equally interested in expressing myself through music, dance, drama, crafts, and poetry.
But something happened by the time I got to college, and I let my creative expression go completely. I went to UCLA, a very competitive university which was on the quarter system, so classes were ten weeks in length, instead of the 16 weeks that students in the more traditional semester system had to get the same amount of work done. I also had a part-time job, no less than 20 hours a week during school and 40 hours during Christmas and Easter break and summer "vacation."
And because I had waited until the last minute to look for housing when I transferred to UCLA, I ended up joining a sorority in order to have a place to live. Naturally, there were social obligations for sorority sisters, which added to my already full calendar. I barely noticed that my creative pursuits had been squeezed out of my schedule. After all, there was so much to do, it's not like I had any downtime in which to get bored and start doodling. And so, my creative self-expression simply slipped away, unnoticed and sadly, unmissed. I believed that only artists were creative and I was clearly not an artist. In my mind, an artist made something from nothing, while I could only make something from something. That can't be creativity, or so I thought.
But that's not the only reason. I have to admit that once I started noticing how much favor one can get for getting good grades in academic subjects and how dismissive most teachers are of the creative kids in high school were, I was very clear which side of the equation I was going to end up on. It embarrasses me now, but back then, I recall looking at the eccentric-looking kids who identified as artists and judging them in my mind. It seemed to me that they just didn't care about what really mattered, they were lazy and indulgent and self-absorbed, caught up in unnecessary emotional and relationship drama.
I didn't see the value and just couldn't relate. These were the kids that smoked had sex earlier than the norm and usually had family problems. While they tried to make their lives seem glamorous and full of mystery, I just saw them as misfits, many of whom just wanted attention. Needless to say, I wasn't giving off a vibe that would attract any of the artists to me, so the rejection was mutual.
I find it somewhat amusing that I now choose to work primarily with creative folks, screenwriters, graphic artists, website designers, animators, you name it. They are by far the most fascinating people in my world. And we have unique pieces of artwork in every room of our home, carefully chosen from around the world for the impact their presence has on everyone who visits us. I no longer believe that artists are the lazy ones, I believe they are the ones who show us what we are made of, by tapping into our collective unconscious and holding up a mirror for us to see ourselves in.
Some paint with acrylics, watercolors, and oils. I create pictures with words. The ability to express what needs to be said in the just right way is my greatest gift. Sometimes it is meant to humor and entertain, other times it's meant to provoke. I want to be noticed and to move people by sharing the contents of my mind. I never realized how precious my brilliant and original thoughts are because I always assumed there would be more of them. I didn't feel especially obligated to act on any of my imaginative darlings because I thought an even better one will surely come along, I'll just wait for that one. I now know that this is the epitome of arrogance. Creativity is a gift, not a right. How do we know how long a gift ignored will remain?