Where did Creativity go?
Anyone seen my creativity? No?
Damn. I lost it.
I’m 20. University student. Struggling along with stacks of course books, anxious heart. My nights long, my days tired. Barely grappling this new world. I’m searching, not quite sure for what.
I was trying to grow up and in the process I’d left creativity behind.
In 2009, I thought it was what I was supposed to do.
In 2011 I changed my mind, but I thought I’d lost creativity forever.
Oh boy was I wrong.
It’s there, I promise
Most of us have memories of our creativity from childhood. But somewhere along the way, life has a tendency to distract us and before we know it, the creativity that used to play with us every day is nowhere to be seen. Creativity becomes our long lost friend, the one that got away.
Please believe me when I say that you have not lost it. It’s there. It’s in all of us, in our blood and bones. It’s waiting for you do find it again.
In fact, if you are longing for it, I’m betting it’s screaming for you.
Can you hear it scream?
Do you look at art and think I wish I could do that?
Do you wonder how your life could be different if you found creativity?
Do you toy with ideas and dreams, let yourself get swept up for a moment?
That’s creativity, trying to get your attention.
It’s tugging at your shirt, making you turn, sending a burst of inspiration through you.
Are you one step ahead of me? Have you already figured out what I’m trying to say?
It’s not creativity that is hiding, it’s you.
Your creativity wants to play with you. It’s always wanted to play with you. But since it’s invisible, you or someone else in your life, decided at some point that you were old for imaginary friends. You had to grow up. Creativity got pushed aside.
It’s there. It’s lonely. It’s calling for you.
Find your inner child
Creativity is playful. It doesn’t like rules or constraints. When you put on your corporate costume, it hides deep inside of you.
It’s pure and honest. When you put on a mask for the world, pretend to be someone else, creativity disapproves. It’s not interested in those kind of games.
When you want to connect with creativity again, try to find your inner child. The kid that didn’t care as much what everyone else thought, didn’t know about bills, career opportunities and saving for retirement. I’m not telling to quit your job to find creativity, I’m telling you to put all of those thoughts in a box, stuff it high up on a shelf and leave it there while you play.
A sure way of scaring creativity away is saying
I only want to play with you if you will make my rich in the process.
Doesn’t sound like a fun game, right? It sounds like work. While creativity and work can get along well, you don’t want to start there. That’s not what creativity is about.
Instead, follow your curiosity.
Anything that awakens your attention, makes you want to know a little bit more. Follow that. Be the big eyed child, pointing and gasping.
Beginning can be hard, you may feel like an elephant trying to dance or a stone wanting to be a cloud. Unnatural. Impossible.
So start small.
Don’t try to write a novel or make a three hour long movie.
Instead, take pictures with your phone. Buy a notebook and write your thoughts. Doodle. Just start moving.
Then, go a little bit further.
Write a few pages on a certain thought. Take 100 photos of your cat.
In time, look back on what you’ve done. Not to question or judge, but with the same curiosity you made them in the first place. What do I like the most? Is there anything specific with it? Can I dive deeper into it?
If you find yourself bored or stuck, remember movement. Switch to something else for a while. Go back and forth. Explore ideas popping up.
When I started writing down whatever came to me, the first pages I wrote exploded into the novel I’m still working on. The words and context have changed a lot over the past years, but at it’s core, it’s still the same. I didn’t intend to write a novel, I had no idea that was going to happen. But creativity had other plans. It was so damn happy I was finally there to play, it poured everything into me while it had it’s chance.
Maybe your experience won’t be as extreme, but I’m betting that if you start playing around you’ll at some point suddenly find yourself wanting to go bigger. Whether it’s designing pillows, selling your paintings on Etsy or writing that epic novel, don’t hold back just because your dreams are starting to sound scary.
Let it grow
Sometimes, starting can be easy but going further is the hard part. When we sense it’s time to get just a liiiittle bit serious, we freak out and scare away creativity again. Or rather - we flee from it. Suddenly there are stakes and expectations. It’s growing into something bigger than playing and it freaks us out. Now, it has the potential to actually change our lives.
That’s when you need sit tight. Keep your curiosity close. Hold on to your playfulness. Just let it grow. Let yourself evolve and transform. If you don’t, you keep creativity in constraints and it doesn’t like that. It wants to stretch and develop. Holding back out of fear will only hold back yourself. That’s when you need to learn to create with self-doubt.
Nurture your friendship
Like any friendship, if you don’t pick up when creativity is calling, it’s going to get hurt. It will keep calling, but less and less often. That’s what happened in the first place and just because you’re friends again doesn’t mean you can't unintentionally drift away from it.
To keep creativity close, invest in your relationship. Make time for it. Invite it for Sunday tea. Take a trip together. Get up early before work to have breakfast with it. Make it a part of your everyday life. Just because it will always want to play with you doesn’t mean your friendship can't turn stale and formal. So keep it close.
Finally facing the fear that is holding me back from fully embracing it, creativity is already blowing my mind. Together, we have made more than I thought was possible in the last two months. Instead of having to force myself to make time for playing with creativity, I now have to force myself to stop. That's a giant shift. I’m exploring creative outlets I didn’t think I had in me. New worlds are opening. All of this, because I’ve taken the time to befriending creativity and shooing off fear.
That’s how you do it. Slowly, step by step, you get closer and closer to creativity. If you follow that path, you’ll one day find yourself in a big, sparkling hug.
And you and creativity will be best friends again.