If you are alive, you are creative.
I just led a ‘Creativity and Courage’ playshop at the well-attended Washington Behavioral Healthcare conference. The audience was a mix of people, like me, who have lived experience of mental illness and others, who work in the field.
It was a session to experience and jump start…you guessed it…creativity and courage. This I know for sure: The more we access those two things the more powerful our lives will be.
It doesn’t matter how much you feel you're starting with – a teeny bit or a big bit. Interestingly, we frequently have a lot of courage in some domains of our lives and hardly any in another. I have lots of courage and creativity when it comes to presenting and performing on stage. I love it actually. But in my private life, I can be mousy and too accommodating. To be assertive in my most valued relationships I need to muster an enormous amount of bravery.
We aren't born brave. We practice bravery. One small courageous act at a time.
I started with some questions:
Over the next 75 minutes or so I led them through improv games, timed writings and creativity exercises where they experienced being brave and creative.
First however, we redefined what it means to be creative. Usually creativity is associated with ‘Art’. Art, you know, with a capital ‘A’. Then we get stuck in these boxes of what we think is “true” creativity. You know the usual suspects: dancing, painting, singing, music making. Now those ARE forms of creative expression, but they’re not the only ones.
What I’m referring to is what I like to call ‘everyday creativity’. Side note: I thought I was the first one to coin the term. But it was first defined and assessed back in 1988 by Ruth Richards and Dennis Kinney1. She succinctly describes it as the ‘originality of everyday life…that it is not only universal, but necessary to our very survival as individuals and as a species.”2 Our creativity can involve baking cookies to finding a heat source when the power goes out.
Creativity comes from the Latin: creatus, past participle of creare "to make, bring forth, produce, to cause to come into being.” Creativity is simply expressing yourself – your thoughts, your ideas, your feelings.
Everyday creativity can include doodling on a notepad to what you pin on Pinterest; from setting the table in a different way or setting the table period! It isn’t about talent, training, skill, quality or quantity. It’s the process of expression.
In her post ‘Curiosity, Courage and Creativity’ Patti Clark says “Yes, some of us are more artistic than others or more talented in certain areas. But all of us are creative.”
Tara Mohr, author of ‘Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create and Lead’ echoes that “everyday creativity is thinking about new ideas over the course of the day. It is expressing yourself in an original way.”
What I noticed and find particularly important about what Tara Mohr writes, is a phrase she added to her definition that I didn’t have in mine. She writes everyday creativity is not only expressing ourselves, but doing so “in an original way”.
It’s not just making your go-to tuna casserole, it’s about adding a twist – something new to it. Though, to be fair, if you’ve never made one at all, then cooking a tuna casserole IS creative! Everything’s relative.
I was thrilled to read in her post the science she cites. It backs up what I’ve suspected all along about the power of creativity. A study she mentions found “doing simple acts of creativity led to (the research participants) being more energized, and…having an increased sense of meaning and connectedness.”
Anyone, who like me, experiences serious anxiety and depression (as opposed to the funny kind), knows how important it is to have a tool that can help unearth a sense of purpose, belonging and vitality. When I am fighting the black dog or battling the pinpricks of anxiety, I don’t need to feel happy, I need to feel connected.
Creativity and courage help shift limited self-perceptions. They help you become a more effective listener, a better communicator, more confident. Each has the power to re-energize and inspire.
For some of you, creativity and courage are second nature. For others, you may feel both these are only whispers in your life. Either way, moving slightly out of your courage comfort zone and exercising your ‘everyday creativity’ muscle will help give you an expanded perception, experience and deeper knowing of what you’re capable of and what’s possible for you.
What are some examples? Wearing your hair differently (if you have hair); walking your dog (or cat – some really do go for walks) along a different route; adding a love note to your partner's lunch. It can even be drying your dishes by hand instead of in the dishwasher.
It’s the everyday activities. Remember the definition: ‘to cause to come into being’. To express your feelings, thoughts and ideas in a new way.
If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Tara's fun '50 Simple Ways to Be Creative'.
So, I have an invitation for you. It’s simple. Don’t do anything. Differently that is. Just observe, over the next few days, how often you already are creative in your life. Use the definition we’ve just talked about. Notice when you cause something to come into being in an original way. Noticing, as Ruth Richards describes it, the ‘originality of everyday life”.
Then I challenge you to use your everyday creativity more often. Be more purposeful of your creative expression. Choose one everyday creative activity and try it on for size. See how it makes you feel after a week.
Do you feel more invested in your activities? Was your day more meaningful? And report back.
Use the hashtag #everydaycreativity #mysmallbraveact and tweet me. Friend me on Facebook and post about what you discovered. Or connect with me on LinkedIn. I’ll be doing it with you – sharing my ‘everyday creative activities’. I’d love some creative co-conspirators!
Connect with me here:
1. Richards, R., Kinney, D. K., Benet, M., Merzel, A. P. C. (1988) Assessing everyday creativity: Characteristics of the Lifetime Creativity Scales and validation with three large samples. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 54, 476-485.
2. J. C. Kaufman & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, (pp. 189 – 215). New York, United States of America: Cambridge University Press.