What is Creativity Anyways?

Hey, long time no see! Would you believe that I’ve been working on this post for weeks and every time I sat down to give it a whirl, found myself needing to suddenly clean out my closet or re-seal my bathtub? Sometimes it stuns me how much a break can affect my entire creative routine and despite me loving writing, how hard it can be to jump back on the horse.

Since June I have been struggling with my creativity and lacking what my therapist recently named as “my muse” — which made me feel like an 18th century painter. It just seems that every time I sit down to write I feel so overwhelmed to make something perfect that I often don’t finish anything at all. As any good overthinking introvert would do, this entire experience has left me questioning long into the night the concept of creativity: Is it a muscle that needs to be worked everyday or do I give it a rest and wait for it to come back? How do I stay focused in the midst of longterm creative goals? And how do I get creative with my creativity? (To name a few.)

Lucky for me, I’m not the only one contemplating these big creative life questions. While stumbling around in the dark trying to find my own answers, I found that The Layman has been doing the exact same, and it got me thinking: Where does creativity come from for me?

[Shameless plug: The Layman is a new 1021 Creative YouTube series hosted by one of my favorite humans Alex Sargeant. After years of making YouTube videos for other people, Alex is stepping out on his own to answer life’s big questions with the help of some very smart people. This episode above features one of my best friends from childhood Robbie McCarthy — a former Master Lego builder, classical composer, musician of all the instruments,  and founder of Air-Schooled. The episode is all about creativity and it’s definitely worth hitting that subscribe button for.]

For me, creativity can at times be an elusive nymph touching down when I’m about to fall asleep and then disappearing for weeks at a time. I often try to clear entire evenings for her in my calendar only to find myself, hours later, binge watching Kelly Clarkson live performances on YouTube. But over the years, there are a few things I’ve learned to be true about my own creativity and today I’d like to share them with you as much as I’d like to remind myself of them as well.

  • My creativity enjoys being constantly in use — even when it’s not easy. Sometimes the words and ideas flow out faster than I can get them down on paper and sometimes it’s like pulling teeth. But what I’ve been trying to focus on lately is, instead of psyching myself out with the pressure to produce “the most perfect project,” just getting the project done. I find that once the ball gets rolling, the second and third and 537th piece/pitch letters feel so much easier because I’m already in motion and there is less pressure on one specific idea. This idea is much more beautifully explained in Smarter Everyday’s recent “It’s Never Going to Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done” if you’d like to give it a read.
  • My creativity doesn’t live in a silo away from the rest of my life. For a long time I thought of my creativity as living in a bucket away from all other facets of my life. But what I’ve learned this year is that it all plays into one another. Taking care of my physical body and my mental health, being social, and being creative all positively impact one another so it’s become important for me to make equal amounts of time for myself away from my creative projects as it has been setting aside time for them as well.
  • Creativity isn’t finite and it doesn’t even need to be shared with others. Some people write and never share a word with the world. To me that doesn’t make them any less than a writer than Stephen King because there isn’t a finite of people who get to be “writers.” If you pick up a pen and write down some words with the purpose of telling a story on paper you’re a W-R-I-T-E-R and get to own your creative identity as much as the next person. Creative comparison is a tough thing to not get bogged down with and some days, it gets the best of me as I scroll through Twitter and see byline after byline from people I deeply admire. But I’ve been trying to remember that everyone’s creative path is different and that sometimes creativity doesn’t have to be a huge thing that you share. Sometimes it’s a sketch book you take to the park and keep to yourself or a story project that you don’t let the world know about for a couple years or your journal or a tiny blog that is around to capture your random thoughts and not much more.
  • Creativity can strike in the most unassuming, unexpected places if you let it. I find the more stressed I am the more creativity is no where to be found. And can you blame her? Who wants to live with all that worrying about broker’s fees and pet insurance. Once I’ve decluttered my brain, I find myself hit with inspiration much more and often from experiences that have nothing to do whatsoever with writing. The more I engage with the things that bring me joy, the more my creativity tends to blossom — especially when I watch people doing things they’re really passionate about as well.
  • Creativity is much more about enjoying the process than about the outcome. This is one I really struggle with and have been trying to be more mindful of. The high I feel after publishing a new piece lasts for about a day — maybe two — before I find myself hungry for the next story. All those highs and lows of rejection can really affect my mood so it’s taken some time to shift my thought process around finding value not in the outcome but in the process.
  • Creativity can be anything, not just the traditional forms we normally associate with it, so get creative with your creativity! Wow that sounded much more meta than I originally intended but it was something that deeply resonated with me from Robbie and Alex’s video. To summarize, Robbie explains while building Legos in a bus with Alex that creativity is a huge part of how he builds engines everyday and it struck me how I would have never used the word creativity with anything mechanical! So now, thanks to him, I am going to try to implement this new idea that creativity can be anywhere in my workout routines, the way I approach new recipes and even planning dates because there is something exciting about approaching something routine with ingenuity.

And should you also be suffering from a bit of a creativity hiatus this week, here are a few things that have been inspiring me lately:

  • The Full Dustin and Suzie NeverEnding Story Scene | Stranger Things S3” (YouTube) This video makes me clutch my heart with it’s sheer cuteness.
  • The Working Woman’s Handbook is a series of articles from the New York Times that made me feel so seen as a female in the workplace. They creativity cover everything from imposter syndrome to negotiations to managing stress.
  • liz and mollie because it ain’t easing being a working woman in 2019.
  • This photo of Judith Kerr, the author of “When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit,” is my retirement inspiration.
  • Body neutral advocate Bethany C. Meyers is someone I recently started following on Instagram and have been beyond inspired/intrigued by. Looking forward to trying one of her fitness classes in the fall.
  • I am OBSESSED with Amber Rae’s well-being drawings/sayings and have almost every single one saved on my phone. I use her weekly reset map to guide my weekly planning and if you’re a productivity/wellness junkie like me, I definitely recommend giving her a follow. (her photo is above)
  • Girl’s Night In is always the perfect blend of lighthearted and in-depth writing that I look forward to enjoying over a cup on ice tea on Saturday morning.
  • These little older women doing tai chi in the middle of a New York City construction site in the East Village. They were unfazed by all the noises of trucks backing up and dropping piles of rock, and it was so peaceful to just sit and watch them.

  • I haven’t felt super inspired by books lately (which is WEIRD for me!) so I’ve been digging in deep to the journalism world. Ask Polly is a column I look forward to reading every Wednesday, and this piece from The Everywhereist, “I Have a James Beard Award and I Think You’re So Great,” made me want to explode with happiness and pride and inspiration. The piece is the ultimate creative pep talk and I have it saved on my desktop for moments when inspiration is running low.
  • This piece from The Financial Diet about why it’s okay to like, not love, your job.
  • Trying something outside of my wheelhouse, like going to a 6am dance party on a boat with this babe in July. My next summer adventure: Beach day and hiking upstate.

  • This new section of the New York Times, Overlooked, is obituaries of remarkable people who were overlooked during their time in history. Now writers are going back to write about the lives of women and people of color traditionally overlooked by the New York Times from the 1850s onward and giving their stories the words they deserve.
  • This piece by LIT in the CITY about turning creative jealousy into inspiration really spoke to me and gave words to something I’ve been mulling over for a while.
  • Amber Janae always seems to have exactly the right words for when I need them most.
  • And of course, going back to where it all started, Leena Norms inspires me with her ever diverse, articulate YouTube videos about writing, publishing, and being just a genuinely good person in the world.

So create on you beautiful wizards and should you need a fellow friend to contemplate life’s big questions with, I’ll see you at Prospect Park with an ice tea in hand … or over in the comments section of The Layman.