The Elegance of Creativity

My husband has rekindled his hobby of making stained glass art. It has been a joy to watch him set up his work space, assemble his supplies, tinker for hours with his designs, and hang the finished products in the window for sunshine to bring them to life. Mike’s creativity had been lying dormant like a seed just below the surface, ready to emerge when the time was right. 

His inspiration was refueled a few weeks ago when we visited a friend’s garage art studio. As Mindy showed us her work area filled with her collection of beautiful handmade jewelry and pottery, my husband’s blue eyes lit up like fire in a kiln. The tipping point was our friend’s casual comment, “I make art as a creative release, and it makes me happy.” And just like that, my husband was an artist again. 

In his book The Courage to Create, Rollo May wrote, “We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel to being.” May believed creativity is an essential component of a successful and fulfilling life. We were created to create. 

Our desire to create is seen in the popularity of television programs featuring ordinary people being creative. Watching other people bake cakes, plant gardens, and build tree houses makes for good television, but it doesn’t garner the same positive benefits as rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves. Maybe that explains the success of stores like Hobby Lobby.

There’s something innately elegant about being thoroughly engrossed in making something. When we’re creating, our personal problems melt away along with the cares of the world. We fall into a rhythm psychologists refer to as flow, defined as a mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and utter enjoyment.

Minutes flow into happy hours as Mike grinds pieces of glass, as Mindy shapes clay, as my mother-in-law stitches a quilt, as my neighbor decorates sugar cookies. Mihaly Csikszentmihali, a psychologist who died this week at 87, said during intense creativity, “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” 

Even if you haven’t made anything since that diorama for your seventh grade English class, you are creative. Boldly answer your call to create. Paint. Dance. Weave. Sing. Bake. Carve. Invent. Cook. Design. Sculpt. Fix. Plant. Film. Decorate, Sew. Draw. Write. Act. Quilt. Build. 

So what stops us from exploring our creativity? Here are my top excuses and what I tell myself in response.

  1. I don’t know how. You’re smart; you’ll figure it out. Take advantage of resources at the library, bookstore, and the Internet. Remember, we learn by doing.  
  2. What if I’m not good at it. At first, you probably won’t be. Create for creativity’s sake. If it turns out great, that’s just a bonus. 
  3. I’m not inspired. Go outside. Nature holds all of the inspiration we ever need. Hang out with other creatives. Become a patron of the arts.  
  4. I’m feeling lazy. Life is short. Get up and carpe the heck out of the diem!

Research shows being creative can improve happiness, stress, confidence, focus, problem-solving, authenticity, anxiety, self-expression, sense of freedom, resilience, open-mindedness, risk-taking, decision-making, and clarity. How wonderfully elegant. §

“The creator made us creative. Our creativity is our gift from God. Our use of it is our gift to God.”
~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

Answering the Call to Create

On a cold January day, I trudged into our patch of woods holding a hand saw. At this time of year, I could trace the delicate shape of the saplings rising from the ground. I was looking for one about twelve feet tall with an inch-round trunk and several pretty limbs branching out from its center.

When I found it, I cut it down and dragged it through the woods to our house, through the front door and into our home. The tree was taller than it seemed outdoors, so I cut off another foot and firmly planted it behind our bed frame.

I spent the afternoon making little origami birds to hang from the branches, while my husband, who is almost always amused by my quirky ideas, safely secured the tree to the wall.

I realize my natural, minimalist aesthetic isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. When asked her opinion, my daughter said it reminded her of the Blair Witch Project, demonstrating that beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. In my mind, I’d brought the whimsy of nature indoors. I felt a surge of accomplishment, joy and creativity.

In his book The Courage to Create, Rollo May wrote, “We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel to being.”

We were created to create.

Our desire for creativity is seen in the popularity of television programs featuring ordinary people being creative. Watching other people bake cakes, plant gardens, and build tree houses may make good television, but it doesn’t garner the same positive benefits as doing it ourselves.

So what stops us from exploring our creativity? Here are my top excuses and what I tell myself in response.

  1. I don’t know how. You learn by doing. You’ll figure it out.
  2. I’m not good at it. You create for your own enjoyment. If it turns out great, that’s just a bonus.
  3. I’m uninspired. Go outside. Nature holds all the inspiration you’ll ever need. 
  4. I’m lazy. Girl, get up and carpe the heck out of that diem. 

Get rid of your excuses. Even if you haven’t made anything since that diorama for your seventh grade literature class, you are creative.

Boldly answer your call to create.

Paint. Dance. Weave. Sing. Bake. Carve. Invent. Cook. Design. Sculpt. Fix. Plant. Decorate. Sew. Draw. Write. Act. Quilt. Build.

Research shows being creative can improve happiness, stress, confidence, focus, problem-solving, authenticity, anxiety, self-expression, sense of freedom, resilience, open-mindedness, risk-taking, decision-making, and mental clarity.

Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, wrote this beautiful and motivating quote, “The creator made us creative. Our creativity is our gift from God. Our use of it is our gift to God. Accepting this bargain is the beginning of true acceptance.” §