Fourth grade started off as a shit year. All of my friends were assigned to Ms Fitch’s class and I was stuck in Mrs. Kohler’s class with a bunch of bums. Ms Fitch was “cool”: she was young and her dad was the coach for the Nets which at a young age I knew was something I should’ve been really impressed by. And so of course I was. Mrs. Kohler on the other hand was older with long salt and pepper hair and 2 different color eyes.
While I was upset I wasn’t in her class, the truth is that I didn’t even like Ms Fitch; she was super mean. I had 1 class with her every day during which she picked on people. In fact, it was in her class that I discovered a complex that I’ve carried with me for years.
She made me the example for bad handwriting. And if you remember back to 4th grade, it was considered very un-cool to not have good handwriting…as a girl anyway.
My friends were blasting off some sweet cursive, adding hearts to “i’s” and making those type-set “a’s” and my handwriting was barely legible let alone totally un-creative.
D-day came when I was sent to the principal’s office for my “condition.” There I was given what I will refer to as pencil training wheels: a rubber device that was meant to slip on my pencil to show me how to hold it properly. (Look at that thing! It looks like an ear plug or a chewed up piece of gum. So embarrassing…)
The message was that there must’ve been something wrong with me to explain my treacherous penmanship. It wasn’t appropriate for my handwriting to be so ugly. And it needed to be corrected.
A few months later we had to sign our name in art class and of course, mine was hideous. I was told I wasn’t creative. I can still remember the day.
Fast forward and my entire life I’ve been convinced this is true. I see a painting, jewelry, a sculpture and let out an “if only” sigh and then give in to the feeling of never being one of them: the creatives. The lucky ones.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching to help me get over a stuckness in my life. I’d noticed a lack of drive and desire for certain work that while I’m good at, I don’t really love. It can feel boring and uninspired.
In a discussion with a friend who’s also feeling stuck, I heard myself say that she should honor her creativity. “What the hell does that even mean!?” she said, annoyed. I went on to explain that all people, ALL PEOPLE, are creative. It’s not a lottery and some of us just drew the short stick. We are wired to be creative, we have half a brain dedicated to it, but often we don’t recognize our version of creativity.
Wait, who was saying this? Me? Betty Bad Handwriting? Did I even believe this? So I set out to follow my own advice to see if it’s true.
If it’s not “art,” is it creative?
I’ve begun considering my own creativity and how it shows up. And to explore my feelings about my own limitations when it comes to being creative.
I’ve noticed that my creativity shows up in non-traditional forms like free style writing, coming up with new recipes, helping those I care about work through difficult conversations and problems, making people laugh. It shows up in my yoga practice and in the way I put my house together.
These aren’t examples where I’m writing a novel or painting a portrait, so are they considered creative?
In my exploration I noticed that if something wasn’t traditionally creative work like art, music, dance, etc I’d discount it. But now I think creativity comes from the way we see and process something and how we put our individual stamp on it.
I realize first off, that I have to actively acknowledge creativity for it to be real to me. Meaning, realizing that something doesn’t have to be art to be creative but rather use of my creative brain.
Once I’ve acknowledged something as a creative practice, I notice that I become more inspired, I feel more energized. It’s like I’ve tapped into a hidden well of creativity within me.
Now that it’s Spring, I’m embarking on a challenge to explore creativity further. Are you in? Spring is a time for new beginnings so maybe now’s the time to seek out something that gets you going. You never know what you might excel at or what might light you up until you try.
What if we shed the assumptions we have about what we’re capable of and instead see life through beginners’ eyes? Moving away from traditional definitions of creativity and instead noticing it as how we dance, de-clutter your home, connect people to one another, give feedback, throw a party, make a meal.
Here’s a secret to finding that creativity, that spark: follow your joy. Do what you love doing. Do something you’ve never done but have always wanted to try. Do what feels good. Do what you’re drawn to.
When we find joy in the activity, we’ll approach it with openness and excitement and the creativity will flow from there.
So in an effort to honor my creativity and with the hope that in doing so I can draw forth even more, I’m going to be writing more creative articles in the midst of the career development pieces I usually write. Hopefully it resonates with you!
I hope you’ll join me on this experimental journey because I’m certain we don’t know ourselves as well as we think we do. We might think that by now in life we’re pretty self aware and have accepted that maybe we’ve lost the creative lottery. I beg to differ.
We might just think that we know what we’re good at, we know our “strengths,” but that doesn’t mean we’ve really explored what that means and how else those strengths may show up.
We may just think we know what we’re capable of, but we might have some Ms Fitch voices in our heads making that determination instead of fact.
So let’s do it. Let’s follow our joy and see what comes of it.
And if you’re wondering, my handwriting still sucks…unless I’m using one of those pens on a chain at the bank. It’s perfectly smooth then and only then. Here’s to ugly handwriting, creating new stories about who we are, trying something new and surprising ourselves!
What will you do to explore your creativity- what have you always wanted to try? Are you in for the challenge? Let us know in the comments below!
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