A few years ago, my husband was talking with someone who has long been a mentor to him not just in his work, but also as a family man and a man of God. Ryan asked this person, “What advice do you have for me in my life right now?” His answer was one I wasn’t anticipating. He said, “Always make time to be creative.”
Though the advice wasn’t directed toward me, I’ve thought about it many times since he said it. We make lists of things to prioritize -time with God, with family, professional priorities, health priorities, etc. But I think we often forget to be creative. You may be thinking, “You’re a writer. Of course you’re going to say that.” In fact, you may not think of yourself as creative. If that’s true, maybe you’re thinking of creativity in the wrong way.
We Were Made to Be Creative
If you open the Bible to the very beginning, you see a God who is mighty and powerful, but first, he’s creative. He created things out of nothing. And when he made us, he made us in his image. That means we reflect his attributes. Since we see in beginning that God is creative, shouldn’t we also be creative?
Creativity isn’t reserved for professional artists. We all have the ability to be creative if we try. Did you ever read “The Secret Garden?” If not, I’m about to spoil something. It’s a really old book, so if you haven’t read it by now, maybe it’s ok that I tell you this one detail. There’s a character named Colin who is dying. He spends all his time in bed and he cannot walk. But as Mary begins to uncover all the secrets of the house, she doubts that Colin is even sick. He’s been made to believe he’s sick but actually, there’s nothing wrong with him. However, he still can’t walk because of the atrophy in his leg muscles. Mary pushes Colin to strengthen those muscles and…well I’ll let you discover the rest of the story.
So, what’s my point in all this? Maybe it’s not that you’re not creative, but that you just haven’t used those muscles in a while. When I was teaching theatre, I would find that my younger students were often much more believable onstage than those approaching adulthood. My theory is that they weren’t as far removed from being little kids and playing make believe. Their creative muscles were in better shape. (They also didn’t care as much about what people thought of them) I think that can affect our creativity as well.
Benefits of Creativity
Being creative energizes us. It connects us with other people. It releases stress. If you experience even one of those side effects, it’s worth it to work a little creativity into your life.
When I was a teacher, I had a lot of opportunities to be creative. I loved to plan lessons and even make bulletin boards. I was also a theatre director which was an outlet for my creativity as I made scenes come to life onstage. And though I was happy to make the transition from teacher to stay-at-home mom, something was missing from my life. I didn't feel whole in my role at home. It took me months to realize, I wasn't using my creativity. And that was causing me to feel depressed. I guess you could say that's when I began this writing journey.
If Already You See Yourself as Creative
I know many of you are already creative. Maybe you’re one of my writer friends. Maybe you’re a teacher or engineer. Maybe you love to garden or you knit. Maybe you doodle when you’re supposed to be paying attention on a conference call. Maybe you make your toast talk to the butter. Who knows? But, if you’re already a creative person, that’s awesome. My advice is to practice creativity regularly. Don’t allow stressful times to swallow up the time you need to be creative. You’ll feel more like yourself when you defend that time. Be proactive, because it won’t happen on accident.
If You Don't See Yourself as Creative
If you’re in the second camp and you really don’t see yourself as creative, well you’re in for a treat. It’s time to examine your life for times when you feel creative or to brainstorm ways you can tap into the creativity that’s already in you (it’s just been hiding for too long).
Start by allowing some quiet into your life. Trust me when I say, I’m writing this to myself more than I’m writing it to you. I’m constantly distracted by the noise around me. And when there’s no noise, I choose to be distracted rather than enjoying the silence. Take a walk and listen to nothing but the sounds of nature. Take a drive without the radio playing. Sit on the couch without reaching for the remote. Just be quiet. In a spiritual sense, this is where we can hear from God, but we can also hear our own thoughts when we allow some quiet in our day.
Ask yourself what you long for when you’re overwhelmed. Maybe it’s something creative. I personally love to make cards. I also like to knit. I like to paint. I like to sew. I obviously like writing stories. I like reorganizing. All of these things are creative. And you know what? I’m not good at some of these things. I know how to do a total of two stitches when I knit. I have no idea how to read a pattern, so that limits my sewing a little. I never took an art class after 6th grade, so I’m no visual artist. But my lack of talent does’t take away the fact that I still really enjoy doing these things. Don’t allow yourself to think you can’t be creative if you aren’t the best. Just give yourself permission to enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it. Not to make and Etsy shop selling things or even to impress your friends. Create for the sake of creating.
If you don’t know where to start, here’s an article with ideas to spark your creativity. Or maybe visit a craft store, or hardware store, or look around your house for things you already own that you’ve never used. Maybe dust off an old hobby. Figure out what new things have been invented since you last did it. Learning how to do things used to be so much harder than it is today. I learned to knit from Youtube. There are how to videos on pretty much anything you’d ever want to do. And if you try something and it’s not for you, don’t give up. I used to tell my students, your best idea isn’t usually your first idea. So, keep trying things until you find some way of being creative that brings you joy.
Then, share it. I said I like making cards, but my favorite thing about making cards is my monthly club where I make cards with friends. It’s the connection I love the most. Sure, it feels good to be creative, but it also feels good to use my creativity as a way of connecting with my others.
If we are created in the image of a creative God, it stands to reason we aren’t our best when we aren’t exercising those creative muscles. There are a lot of reasons we may have forgotten to be creative, but don’t worry so much about them. Just make a change. Take the time it takes to be creative and I think you’ll find a new spring in your step. It’ll change your mood and maybe even your outlook. And in a dreary month like January, we could all use those things. So, stop what you’re doing and go do something creative!