Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the honor of being accepted as Bonus-Dad for my partner’s daughter. It’s a title and recognition that I don’t take lightly as I know that suddenly there is a growing human that looks to me as an example for her.
I’ve learned a lot from her these last couple of years, but there’s one thing that continually astounds me about her: her inherent creativity.
Not a day passes where she hasn’t danced because she felt the call, invented random songs on the spot, offered her view of how to solve a challenge, written, doodled, and everything in between.
It is as if her soul is plugged directly into the fountainhead of the creative source of the Universe. And some days, I feel a little envious. Feeling like my creativity well has run dry.
Is an unlimited connection to the universal well of creativity reserved only for kids and ‘creatives?’
Until recently, I might have believed so, as I’d long considered myself to be uncreative.
In grade school, I was graded on my creative outputs. And those were only measured visually. In music, I was graded for showing up. Thankfully, I was not graded on my jazz improvisational skills, because they were non-existent.
For most of my life, I struggled with my own creativity, even while being in creative professions. I refused to identify or acknowledge that the work I did was creative. And when faced with no choice but to do the work, it would take mountainous levels of effort to bring it to completion. I suffered with my identity, found myriad ways to deflect recognition, and felt like an imposter in my own life.
Creativity is forgiving.
Despite the regular practice of ignoring and dismissing my creative identity, there remained a calling beneath the surface. Something that I would periodically tap into, often unexpectedly.
There would be moments of creative clarity that seemed to slice through all the layers of defenses and burst forth and then be gone again. The feeling left in its wake would be similar to a hangover: exhausted and not knowing what had happened.
There would be evidence of some burgeoning creative endeavor. Notes on a whiteboard, sketches, audio notes, plans, action steps. By the time I would notice them again, it would be too late. Life, societal expectations, bills, and my own expectations would fill the void of the hangover.
Looking back, I think these were not-so-subtle reminders that there was still creative energy within me, whenever I was willing and brave enough to tap into it.
Creativity is imperfect.
In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about myself, about my creativity, and about the source of those hangover-inducing bursts of creative energy. Perhaps one of the most profound is the challenge to my ego-driven perfectionist identity. My bonus-daughter finds joy in the sheer act of creation, regardless of the outcome.
In the past, I would often want things to be perfect. To be better than good enough. And when they are not, I will find some cause to justify their deficiency. Feeling like an imposter in my own creativity produced a vicious cycle of self-judgment which resulted in never feeling good enough.
(This led to sabotage of things that came easy to me, to fulfill this narrative, but that’s a topic for another day.)
Embracing the magic of imperfection in my creativity has freed me from the perfectionist cycle, most days. I am embarking on a relatively new journey with my creativity and so some days I find myself slipping back into the cycles of judgment I’ve carried for so long. The commitment is to the practice of creating, nothing more.
Creativity is not limited to the visual arts.
In the search for understanding my own creativity, this last realization was the key to breaking through the walls my imposter-self had built surrounding my creative identity. When we label ourselves as ‘not creative,’ as I had done for so many years, it’s often done through the lens of visual art or expression.
Remember the fountainhead of the creative source I mentioned earlier? Do we think that it is only available to be tapped into by those seeing to create visual art or expression? Surely not!
At home, I watch as my bonus-daughter grapples with a math problem, gets frustrated, then gets up to have a five-minute dance party, and shortly thereafter has a breakthrough that solves her math problem.
The act of learning, by nature, is creation: new neural pathways form between neurons in the brain as we learn and practice new things. How cool is that? Our brains are literally forging pathways that didn’t exist before.
For me, this realization was a game-changer. I have been creative my whole life, in one way or another. I had just never let myself accept it. And as I accepted this identity for myself, one as a creative human, I began to feel as though I had access to that same universal creative source, too.
If you’re feeling the same way that I did, the great thing is that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve resisted your call to creativity. It’s there waiting for you to answer.
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Photo Credit: @brittaniburns on Unsplash