What it Means to Live a Creative Life

For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a creative person. Though I loved to explore the world and my mind with curiosity, follow inspiration, and make new and different things, it never felt like enough. Unless I had published a book or released a song or had art displayed in a gallery or poetry flowed freely from my fingertips, I wasn’t actually living a creative life, I was just piddling around, wasting time.

But it turns out, creativity is not some skill reserved for the elite class. It’s not validated by accomplishment and outward success. In fact, to rely on these markers misses the point of creativity completely.

Creativity is something we do simply because it fuels our soul. And it may make no sense to anyone else, it may never earn you a dime, but it’s richly valuable nonetheless.

The magic of living a creative life is that it doesn’t have to follow a practical path; the world is yours for the imagining. Nor does it have to look a certain way. It’s not just the professional writers or artists or musicians who have access to a creative life; it’s all of us.

Creativity is the touch of your hands on dough as you knead. Creativity is the flowers you clip from the yard and place gently on the mantle. Creativity is the needle you pierce through the fabric, weaving a thread. Creativity is the tile you lay in a new bathroom. Creativity is the trail you choose and the eyes that view nature with wonder. Creativity is the way you teach your children. Creativity is the dinner you cook or the clothes you wear or the route you choose to drive. Creativity is the stroke of the brush or the script of the pen or the strumming of the strings. Any combination of flavors, colors, textures, sounds, images, or words that are birthed from your mind and come to life in your unique hands counts as creativity.

And just like kneading bread, I think creativity is something each of us needs to fold into our everyday lives. It’s what makes us human and vibrant and alive. It’s how we share our stories with one another and our gifts with the world. It’s the deepest expression of the soul and a link to our common humanity.

But of course, for most of us, creativity cannot exist outside the demands of life. This is a fact I struggle with daily. And so, living a creative life also means choice. It means saying no to obligations to make space for imagination to bloom. But it also means saying no to other creative ideas to hone in on your creative focus for a season. It’s sifting and and sorting and putting bright shiny ideas on a shelf to revisit later, even as you know some of them will perish with the wait. It’s the dance of reality and dreams, trying to find a wobbly balance between the two; a constant tilting and recalibrating. As with all things in life, there will never be a perfect balance, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth pursuing.

For me, living a creative life means my mind flitting like a hummingbird to the sweet nectar of all the projects I want to bring into blossom. I wish to linger on each, giving it the undivided attention it deserves, but my wings grow weary and life calls me back down to Earth.

And so I choose and I sift and I shift. Letting the ideas fall away, brilliant leaves creating a pile at my feet. Slowly I rake through them, until I find the one that’s calling to me in this season, glowing in it’s auburn abundance, beckoning me to take a chance and see what could come.

In this season, that small hopefully leaf is calling me back towards writing of a different sort: the great wonderful wilderness of writing fiction. Too long neglected, my creativity is telling me its time to play. For the next month or so, as I embark on the exhilarating journey of NaNoWriMo and dive into the creation of a new manuscript, I’ll have to put the stories here on hold.

I look forward to sharing more from my creative ventures in the months to come. In the meantime, in this season of holidays and giving and gratitude, I hope you’ll give yourself the gift of carving out your own creative life.

(Photo above by my five-year-old, who’s already embracing her creative calling)

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