A few months ago, my husband bought me a book called Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley, heads of Stanford’s Design School, or d.school as it’s called. Despite the fact that I promptly lost it (creatively placed it), the 15 pages I read made an impression on me. After all, creativity is the buzz word du jour, it’s how America – nay, the world! – will be saved! A buzzword that immediately makes me panicky (Am I creative? How can I be more creative? Are my children creative? Is their creativity being crushed? Am I crushing their creativity by not taking them to Michael’s Craft Hell?).
You see, the premise of the book is that we are all creative. Every last one of us – the plumber, the painter, the person mindlessly shoveling Partridge Farm Sausalito cookies in her mouth while watching Game of Thrones (that would be me) can tap into our innate creativity and bring our passion or profession to the next level.
And when I read that failure was the key – THE KEY! – to fostering creativity, I heaved a great sigh of relief. I could do failure! Or could I? As it turns out, failure does not equal inertia (son of biscuit!). Failure involves doing something, moving in a direction – and I don’t think that means the direction of the diaper genie. Therein lies the crux. I bring great (would you settle for moderate?) creativity to my role as a mother (please see: innovative ways to avoid laundry, how to make dinner with coffee grounds, the ten unknown uses of a bandaid), but have been avoiding creativity in my creative work.
Is that even possible? Unfortunately, yes.
Creative work – poetry, dancing, creating sculptures out of macaroni – can be just as rote as a mindless desk job. In fact, creative work can become the mindless desk job, especially if you’re a writer and actually sit at a desk. Or kitchen counter, same thing. You gotta spice it up. Throw some Sriracha on that white rice, think outside the juice box, and – this is important – do not heed the “fear of being judged by other people.” (Except if those other people are your editors, agents or publishers.)
A while back, I took a class called “Fearless Creating” with a wonderful woman named Diane Conway. We spoke aloud our dreams and goals and fears. We cheered for each other and comforted each other and nodded knowingly. We did writing exercises and drew mandalas, originally symbols used in Hinduism and Buddhism that represent the Universe, but are also teaching tools that establish a sacred space. A space uncluttered by Legos! I left feeling invigorated and powerful. I quickly found, however, that fearless creating is difficult in the face of demands from children-husband-schedules. It is painful eking out creativity in minutes (and yet…here I am doing just that, 20 more minutes until preschool pickup!). It is even more painful to not eke it out at all.
I got an invitation in the mail to “The Creativity Forum,” a special luncheon with a presentation about creativity and children from the Stanford d.school dudes. The tagline was “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Innovators!” I couldn’t attend seeing as how I’m currently a student at the d(iaper) school, but the more I thought about that line, the more I applied it to myself. I feel like a kid. A kid at the beginning of her creative journey.
If creativity is a muscle that must be exercised, I could say that mine feels old and tired, but it doesn’t. It feels young and weak and ready to be worked.
I mean eked.