The Common Creative Life

I am surrounded by creative adults, not to mention the children. It makes sense- Hot Swede and I trained in music and count many performers, composers, directors and teachers among our friends and acquaintances. But that is not the fullness of creative richness around me. The arts do not hold a monopoly on creative life, not in the least.

“Free form shelves” by Uncle Swede.

Hot Swede comes from a strong tradition of men who design, build, fix and “improve” things. You can’t stop them; they are compelled by nature. These men, sometimes to their women’s delight, occasionally to their despair, design and build their homes, furniture, light fixtures, boats, and countless smaller projects. I come from a line of imaginative small business people- restaurateurs, photographers, boutique, grocery, and shop owners, homebuilders, natural health product developers, and a grandfather who, among other things, was a hotelier, radio DJ, theatre director, and actor.

Creativity is about solving problems; working within constraints and finding ways around them- like a composer manipulating voicing and timbres to express exactly what she is after. It keeps the mind nimble and breathes vibrancy into life.

When we are living well, we are all creative. I cannot imagine a full life without using my mind in this way. It is part of the human condition to make, impact, and form the world around us.  We learn through it and need to do it. I once had an art teacher tell me that if I really wanted to know what something looked like, I had to draw it.  We have a hunger for consuming our own and others’ creative product, even when there is no pragmatic reason to do so- YouTube, anyone?

Some people think that if they are not involved in the arts, they are not creative. They sell themselves short. Where would we be without all those non-artistic inventors and problem solvers? I like a Picasso, but I love indoor plumbing. Hot Swede is an excellent musician with a good ear and clear ideas about what he wants, but his most creative work is currently happening in our kitchen remodel- redesigning stairwells, creating new layouts for spaces, and running new pipes. Some of his solutions are beautiful in the way they work around rigid constraints.

Most of my creative challenge has been in designing and sewing Halloween costumes , thinking up new schemes to get my children to behave in desirable ways, and beginning to write this here weblog. And there is the eternal problem of “what’s for dinner?” I find much satisfaction in solving problems or thinking up clever ways to avoid them. “We’re having a treasure hunt dinner. Eat whatever you can find.”

Not all find satisfying creativity in their paid work; that’s why we have hobbies. I know a journalist who makes books, an arts administrator who crafts beautiful objects in Japanese papers, a physician who plays Bluegrass, singers who love woodworking, and multiple attorneys who sing.

What feeds your creative urge? If you can’t answer that question, try something. Go outside. Spend twenty minutes in your own head and find out what’s in there. Ask someone to teach you a new skill. It will enrich you, even if all you do is make an ugly hat or lopsided loaf of bread.  If you present a spectacular creative failure with the words, “Ta da!”, its reception is automatically improved. I promise.

Ta da!

Ta da!

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