Exploring the Word "Creativity"

For a few days now, I've been turning the word "creativity" over and over in my thoughts. Noticing with some interest why writing about creativity isn't coming easily. I think there's some pressure I'm putting on myself to write something insightful and smart about it. Perfectionism hears the word "creativity" and it's like a dog-whistle to come running close!

So I am just coming here to not wait for a bolt of insight and inspiration.*

I had a coaching session on Monday with a writer in North Carolina, whose partner gave her an hour of coaching for Valentine's Day. Now that's a creative Valentine!

At one point, I was talking about skill-building, and I said something along the lines of developing and deepening our ability to apply the learning from one thing, one aspect of our lives, one long and perhaps challenging or revelatory experience, to another. In career counseling parlance, this is simply called "transferable skills." But I was thinking of it even more broadly. How so often when we are feeling stuck, a way to get a handhold or foothold on something, to take some small action, is to consider how we got unstuck some other time.

On my run yesterday, it occurred to me that this might be how creativity shows up for me when I'm not feeling a creative bone in my body. It's lifting it up out of a limited sphere of the thing itself -- the things we (I) associate with creativity like the arts, and realize that it's in everything. It's in a willingness to meet each experience without dragging all of the past associations and assumptions into it. It's in trusting my capacity to do life, in the deepest sense.

Life never goes how we think it's going to go. How could it? I want to say something here about taming -- how life cannot, will not, be tamed. What does that mean? It's bigger than us, and also we are big enough to meet it, because oh my lord I should probably just drink my second cup of coffee and come back to this when I'm more awake.

But no, I want to try to get this out. OK, here is the thing: Creativity is innate to existence. And what's occurring to me as I write is that it's inextricable from some other qualities: Flexibility, resilience.

Freedom within structure. Creativity requires a container. If life is chaotic or perilous, if your actual existence is being threatened, maybe you will have to get creative about how to survive. Maybe "creative pursuits" will be securing a place to sleep, not making a soul collage or freewriting. When we have a modicum of security and safety, everything can be a creative expression. How we dress, how we prepare food.

Maybe this is why I've found it difficult to write about. It's everywhere. It's everything.

We could spend an entire year exploring on this word alone, and it would be the foundation for meeting every aspect of our lives with greater awareness and awakeness.

One thing I feel pretty certain about: Creativity asks us to let go of perfection. The mountains, the rivers, the way our bodies are magnificent systems, bird migration patterns, statues of gold that stand 30 stories high -- creativity is vibrant, alive, ever-changing. Perfectionism, on the other hand, is stilted, stifling.

*The “here” here is the year-long group I’m leading, “Truth: An Exploration of Personal Values.” Creativity was our word for Week 11, and I noticed the group was quieter than usual. This post is the result of my own word spelunking and exploration of why that might be.