Unused creativity is not benign.
Let's read that one again and then let it sit for a second and sink in: Unused creativity is not benign.
Whoa. The implication of that statement is powerful and provocative. And if you're a creative person - and believe me when I tell you that, even if you think you're not, YOU ARE - that statement might freeze you right in your tracks.
Now, while I've got your attention, let me first say that, though I wish I could take credit for such wisdom, that diamond of a concept did not originate with me. And, in fact, it's not just a concept. It's a truth - a verifiable and indisputable fact - supported by data that was collected and first presented to the world by brilliant sociology researcher and best-selling author, Brene Brown. Brene has written several books including the smash hit Daring Greatly (which, b-t-dubbs, if you don't own, you need to drop what you're doing right now and go out and procure it. No one cares if you haven't brushed your teeth yet and as for your hair, just put a hat on - it'll be fine). If you are one of the smarties that has already read this book, you're probably thinking - "Hey, Moll, that book's almost 4 years old - you're late to the party, girlfriend!" Yeah, well, it's not the first time. So, hush.
Now, let's talk creative...
Most everyone that's ever lived anywhere, ever, associates being creative with making something unique and magical that originated within their own imagination: a piece of music, a piece of art, great choreography, a work of fiction, etc. And for those of you out there that don't regularly do those things, you tend to entrench yourself under the big, boldly lit marquis labeled "NOT CREATIVE." Some don't think they have the ability. Others trivialize it or think it's something that only the weak-minded concern themselves with. Even Brene Brown, herself, when asked if she was creative at one time jeeringly responded, "That's cute - I don't do A.R.T. I have a J.O.B." But here's the thing ladybugs, being artistic and being creative - they are NOT the same thing. You may not be able to draw a stick figure, but you're creative every day of your life.
So, then, what does it mean to be creative? To be creative means nothing more than to act upon inspiration in order to bring something into being. That's it.
The incredible thing about being human that separates us from other animal species (yes, other than thumbs...) is the need to alter the world around us - how it functions, how it's understood, how it sounds, how it looks, how it smells, how it tastes, and how it feels. And that's where creativity - the sheer imagining of what could be - comes into play. All it takes is one idea. Just one. And I'm not talking about something earth-shattering, like the next iPod. It could be an idea for a great music playlist or for a story about werewolves. Could be combining basil and watermelon for a refreshing summer salad. Could be moving your bed to a different part of the room so that you can wake up with the sunrise streaming through your windows. Could be a trip up the California coast, stopping at every town along the way, and documenting your journey in pictures. Could be as simple and basic as envisioning yourself in the job that you know in your heart that you're meant for. Each and every day, we feel inspiration, we spark ideas, we dream, we create. Every. Single. One of us. And that these ideas are unique isn't the point. People have lived on this big, blue rock for a very long time. As such, the likelihood that you're going to come up with something that's NEVER, EVER BEEN THOUGHT OF BEFORE is literally impossible. But casting your own, unique light on it - presenting it with your own, unique interpretation - that's what counts.
True creativity is driven by personal curiosity (I wonder what would happen if...) and makes the greatest impact because it comes from your most authentic self. That false self, the one that shows up one first dates and at business meetings - that self be damned. I'm talking about the true self - the place deep within your one-of-a-kind, fiery soul where the masks and armor you wear out into the world disintegrate like paper in water. I'm talking about that place where who you are is bound in union with your perfect, divine spark. That's where it bubbles and churns and where all of those yummy ideas come from - your most vulnerable, soft, gooey core. That genuine place, that place where you're simultaneously most exposed and most guarded... and most easily scarred.
According to Brene Brown, "85 percent of the men and women we interviewed for the shame research could recall a school incident from their childhood that was so shaming that it changed how they thought of themselves as learners. What makes this even more haunting is that approximately half of those recollections were what I refer to as creativity scars. The research participants could point to a specific incident where they were told or shown that they weren’t good writers, artists, musicians, dancers, or something creative."
Creativity scars. You don't even have to think about it and you know what those are. I certainly do - I've witnessed them being made and I for damn sure have several of my very own. They wield a very particular type of purpley, gnarled devastation and come with their own unique brand of PTSD. It is because of these "creativity scars," old, new or imagined, that most of our creative ideas never see the light of day - we as individuals, set adrift in a world where the sun is nearly blotted out with the slings and arrows of judgement and shame - are too daunted by all the opportunities for ridicule and failure to hold our treasures out for the world to see. So, we try to douse the creative fire and cover our ideas with twigs and brush and tell the world, "Nope, nothing to see here. Move along."
But we're human. And being human means that the creative fire never really goes out. Time ticks on, and the flames may dwindle to embers, but it's always there, glowing softly, waiting for the moment when it can spark and rage with all it's mighty splendor. Until that time, it lays in wait, smoldering and smoking...
Unused creativity is not benign. Unused creativity is malignant.
One thing about pent up energy is that it always finds the path of least resistance: if you block it in one place, it will turn and seep out somewhere else. And, like a cancer, squelched/unused creativity will metastasize - it will spread and start to feed on other areas of your life. As it smolders and smokes, eventually it shifts into toxic, cancer-like emotions such as resentment, jealousy, and regret. And emotional cancer can cripple the soul just as fast as an unchecked tumor can cripple the body.
So, where does this leave us? What are we to do? How do we avoid ending our days as a pile of dusty, old bones riddled with anguished regret and resentment over what might have been? And how do we avoid all of the vulnerability and risk that comes with creative expression? The answer is clear: we must choose. We can do one or we can do the other, but we can't do both. One leads us to a place of immediate safety, out of the harsh light of day, where we're safe from being exposed as all of the things our ego, in an attempt to protect us, tells us that we are: undeserving, unoriginal, untalented, brash, arrogant, a sham. And the other marches us straight into the spotlight, exposed - warts and all - for all of the world to see, to either sink or swim as we will. Quite a conundrum, isn't it?
The title of Brene's book, Daring Greatly, is taken from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt. Apparently, he had a lot to say on the subject of being at this type of crossroads because I offer for you here another quote of his that speaks to weighing such a decision as is laid out before us here. He said, "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."
A gray twilight - a middle place, neither light nor dark - it sounds like a great place to catch a quiet, peaceful moment. But it's no place to live.
Creativity is fire. It is the light that burns inside each one of us. It is what makes us problem solvers and artists. It's what makes us builders of sky scrapers and composers of music and curers of disease. And regardless of whether or not what you create is something that earns a spot as a cultural icon or whether it never makes it further than your refrigerator door, it's still a fiber in the fabric of our collective identity and thus, inspires others - and ourselves - to continue to build upon it. So, let the fire burn, whatever it may bring. Let it rage, boldly and bright. And when you fail, fail marvelously. But speak. Dance. Write. Build. Dream. Live. And enjoy the ride with the sun on your face. -MRM
Molly Maloney, founder of Bliss-Worx, is an Intuitive Life Coach, Psychic Empath, Clairvoyant Medium, Certified Reiki Healer, and a trained Akashic Records Consultant. She holds this work - connecting clients with spirit - as a sacred honor and looks forward to being able to share her unique gifts with you!