Earlier in the month I received a gorgeous, one-of-a-kind hand made birthday card in the mail from my step-mother. It looks something like this, but only better since the photo doesn’t do it justice.
The text inscribed in silver that you can’t read is imprinted on little foil candy wrappers she saved with factoids about romance novels. For instance, What percentage of paperback books sold in the U.S. in 2001 were romance novels? The answer was 56%.
And although what I write is not always strictly categorized as romance, my step-mom thoughtfully incorporated my passion into this card.
Then, the card got me thinking about creativity that saturates all of my family, even those not strictly related by blood. My father, who opened his own school of photography after finishing with his mfa, along with my cousin are both visual artists and do gorgeous work that finds its way into galleries frequently. My sister has made jewelry and thrown pottery and would love to throw caution to the wind one day and open her own arts&crafts gallery. Another aunt and her husband are world renown architects and interior designers. Not to mention the whole host of therapists, mainly social work trained, filling the ranks of the family tree. If you don’t know much about doing clinical social work, then let me tell you it is the creative out-of-the-box thinkers who are most brilliant at it. My mother fits in this category, although she took it into yet another dimension and became a high-powered social service administrator, another gargantuan creative task if you’ve ever tried to run a large non-profit. My maternal grandmother did brilliant needlepoint canvases and my paternal grandmother took up oil painting in her sixties and sold her first piece recently in her eighties.
Living in this family, I began to have a complex, believing I was not creative in the least and had missed the artistic minded gene by some fluke of double helix mix-up. I was in no way visual, couldn’t read yet alone play music, had no hand eye coordination to do any scultpure or work with clay (I’d probably break a pottery wheel) and my primary school art projects looked like they belonged to a student two years below my grade. I totally discounted my dream of writing novels, since I hadn’t gotten my behind in gear to ever follow through finishing a manuscript.
Until 2005, leading into 2006, when my behind found its gear and I began and then finished my first story, RULING EDEN. Ah ha! I was creative after all. I hadn’t missed the family gene jackpot. I was blessed.
Furthermore, I started to think about what creativity looks like. Last night, I came home from a late night meeting to find the remnants of my sons’ and husband’s handiwork spread across my living room. It looked something like this:
I frequently find lots of very unique creations and decorations spread across my home when my boys and husband are at work. They embody the engineer/scientist version of creativity. You know, the type that means they went into my husband’s workshop and built their own catapult for the backyard. (Not to be confused with the trebuchet they built another time—a medieval engine of work with a sling for hurling missiles. Apparently there’s a difference.) To be fair, my eldest son also writes great poetry. He did this one this past year in first grade:
down mountain brook
deeper and deeper
BIG ocean little pond
River SHORT lake
powerful and beats rock in its competition
There are lines and dashes and representative markings interspersed on the paper. I was proud. (Please excuse the self-indulgent mother moment.)
Creativity does not look like any one thing. Sure, we link it most to the Arts. But sometimes it means finding creative solutions to problems which seem insurmountable. Even mundane ones that crop up in running a household.
Yes, I’m blessed with a great group of relatives that express their creativity in interesting careers and hobbies. And now, I suppose, I can count myself among their number officially with my novels. I’m imagining a whole roomful of muses hovering around our family gatherings, laughing at us as we rub against each others artistic temperaments. (A polite way to label our attitudes.)
But, really, what is most creative is the flexible and varied use of our minds in observing the world and envisioning what it might look like when changed. Political activists, environmentalists, town and city planners, teachers and a whole host of others too numerous to list here use their creativity to make our world vibrant and to continue to improve it. It’s the biggest job there is.
Creativity is not just one thing. What does it mean for you?