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The Truth About Creative Expression

When we are present and open, there is nothing that is not a creative act.

Key points

  • Creativity is an imperative for a well-lived life.
  • Certain entrenched notions of creativity can lead some to judge their own creative efforts.
  • True creativity means attending to all life with wonder and curiosity.

I was recently interviewed on John Henry Sheridan’s podcast about creative expression, including whether I thought it was imperative for a well-lived life.

I do.

But I don’t necessarily think of it in the usual way. I’d venture that what comes to mind for most of us involves "doing something creative" like singing, dancing, or painting. And that other people are missing out.

Even some professional singers and artists I work with say they feel that they are on the outside looking in on "true" creativity… that somehow, others have more of it, or are better at it.

That’s not the way I see it.

To understand how we’ve arrived at what I perceive as a problematic notion of creative expression, we have to start by looking at the words we use to talk about it. For language, while of course a gift to humanity, can also present challenges.

Our notions of creativity leave some out of the loop

In the singing realm, for example, the words "high" and "low" often set into motion physical tensions—lifting and compressing—that prevent us from reaching the vocal heights and depths we’re striving for.

Similarly, in day-to-day living, linguistic daggers like "bad," "worthless," and "ugly" attack and linger in a way that nasty looks and energy simply do not. They may not pierce our skin, but they can leave us crippled all the same.

While creativity and creative expression may seem like innocuous terms, our culture’s definitions and views of them often leave people out of the loop of the opportunities inherent in their true meaning, including ideas about who is entitled to—or "talented" enough, another problematic word—to participate.

We are all creators and creatives

To get around these entrenched notions of creative expression, imagine for a moment what life was like for thousands of years before the development of our brains enabled the possibility of language. Before the word "creative" existed. Back when people—without language to describe, judge, and enable notions of future and past—were simply present.

When living itself, therefore, was a creative act.

We have come a long way since then, but in this arena, it is our perception, rather than our reality that has changed. Everything is still generative and creative for human beings. Including walking and breathing. Observing and imagining. Living and loving.

We are all, still, artists constructing our lives.

We are all, still, creators and creatives.

True creativity

For many people, this idea may seem far too simple. For them, the concept of creative expression is a weighty and important one that is all about what we do, rather than merely how we view, live, and walk through the world.

I disagree.

Creativity, true creativity, is about the attitude we bring to life; a function of how we value, attend to, and experience whatever it is that we are doing. Indeed, mathematics can be a graceful ecstasy and singing an intellectual chore, all depending on the hands and heart of the person holding them.

When we are present, when we attend to life—all of life—with wonder, awe, curiosity, and humility, there is nothing that is not a creative act.

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