As children, we instinctively gravitated towards creative play. Our eyes were drawn to bright, vivid colors and our ears were tuned in to melodious sounds. Everything around us was curious and stimulating. We repurposed shoe boxes as building blocks. Pots and pans became musical instruments. We told stories and tall tales to anyone who would listen. Blending reality with imagination in our drawings was second nature. We acted out scenarios pretending to be pirates, astronauts and doctors. Why? Because it was fun, and because we were all born with the ability to create.
No one needed to teach us to be creative. We already knew how to do that. Creativity is in our DNA. Some folks proclaim they don’t have a creative bone in their body. Those folks might be limited in their definition of creativity. One does not need to be Picasso, Shakespeare or Beethoven to be considered creative. The act of creation is putting something new into the world, whether it is an idea, a business, or a remodeled kitchen.
Have you ever done any of the following?
Decorated a cake
Solved a problem at work
Designed a room in your home
Established ambiance as host of a dinner party
Mixed ingredients into a recipe
Initiated opportunities for colleagues
Wrote entertaining emails or social media posts
Put together a stylish outfit
Decorated your house for the holidays
Built a cabinet or put up a shelf
Organized a garden or arranged flowers
Documented your family using a camera and edited the footage
If so, then you are indeed creative. But when most people hear the word creative, they tend to only connect the process to the realms of music, dance, theater, literary or visual arts. To those who don’t consider themselves creative, they may appreciate the arts, but have a strong resistance to participating with them as more than just an observer.
I’ve heard lots of adults say, “I’m not going to bother to learn an instrument or buy some paints because if I can’t be a successful musician/artist, then I don’t want to waste my time even getting started on that path.” Self doubt, insecurity, fear of failure, memories of adults telling us we weren’t good at drawing/singing/dancing/playing piano/writing – these are blocks to awakening the creativity that came to us so naturally as children. Kids don’t have a fear of failure when they pick up a crayon or begin play acting in their yard on a makeshift stage. They simply draw and act. They don’t bring all that emotional baggage and fear of rejection or failure to their creativity, until someone actually criticizes them. That’s when the walls go up, and they may unconsciously choose to block their natural gifts as they enter adulthood.
When I was younger I was told, “Stop singing, you sound off key.” So I began to sing only in private, even though my spirit wanted to sing from the rooftops. I always loved dancing and wished to pursue it as an adult for sheer pleasure, but when I moved to Spain to study flamenco dance at the age of twenty-eight, I was denied classes by teachers unwilling to teach me. They informed me, “You did not begin studying dance at the age of two, so therefore you are a lost cause.” I also loved drawing and writing. I drew pictures and wrote every day after school. It brought me such pleasure. But when my elementary school teachers refused to look at my extracurricular efforts, I put away my pencils.
Luckily, my spirit did not give up. Our souls crave creativity. I couldn’t deny myself this extraordinary pleasure, even if it wasn’t going to bring me global fame or a fat bank account. As an adult, I started taking swing dancing classes, then oil painting classes, and then writing classes, just because they were so darn fun. I met new people in the process and felt stimulated creatively. I was reintroduced to that kid that still wanted to play for the sake of playing.
Painting class makes me especially happy. It is the only activity that really helps me focus and silence the constant noise in my head. Yoga doesn’t always do that for me. I can’t seem to quiet my mind on the mat. But when I am mixing colors, manipulating tools, and choosing where my brush strokes will land on the canvas, I am in the zone. I become so focused, I’m not even aware of time. It is a spiritual experience being in that creative flow. I can’t think of anything else while I paint. I’m not distracted by thoughts, memories, or worries; only how to create what is in front of me at that moment. It’s very much like meditation. Painting also helps me look at the world in a different way because now when I see a sunset, I wonder how I would recreate it on a canvas. I’ve become more aware in my daily activities observing the way light shines on an object because I’m trying to decide how to capture those angles and shades.
In addition to dabbling with the arts, going outside to experience nature also awakens our creativity. Everything in nature is in the middle of a creative process of growing, transforming, and procreating, all before our eyes. The orchards and fields create a harvest. The gardens create gorgeous arrangements of blossoms. The birds and bees create symphonies of soundscapes. Seeing the multitude of colors, textures, patterns and light, it feels necessary to capture it and recreate it somehow.
If you wish to become inspired again, begin by scheduling an artist’s date with yourself at least once a week. Attend a painting class, sign up for a dance workshop, visit a museum, walk in the woods, listen to live music, or journal in a notebook. Even daydreaming is a lost art that children excel at, imagining their future or alternate realities. That’s when those big ideas come to us which may lead to a new project at work or at home.
Creativity is a spiritual process. To bring something into the world, to create something, we are like gods or goddesses engaging with the universal flow of energy and inspiration. When we ignite our creative abilities, we are re-birthing ourselves and imagining new realities. We are focusing on the moment, aware of our surroundings, meditating on method and discovering bliss. When we deny our natural creativity, we are limiting our potential, preventing opportunity for growth, and diminishing our bliss. Recreate yourself by connecting with that inner child, the one who gravitated towards the jam jar filled with colored pencils. What will you create? You may surprise yourself.