Creativity is so often born out of necessity.
It’s week three of lockdown for me, and I am as happy as I’ve been for years… at home. How I feel about the external world and the situation that hits me like a brick when you go outside, that’s a different matter. That’s something I can’t change or control, so I am ignoring it sensibly, which is to say that I listen to the Today programme when I wake up, watch the 5pm Downing Street Update and then bookend my day with the Coronavirus Newscast podcast in the evening, as I settle to sleep. In between, rather like my husband with his diabetes between meals, I shut it out of my brain, pretend it’s not happening and get on with living.
Having lost a couple of weeks to 24 hours of Covid sleep and post-viral fatigue, I’m probably just at the stage you all were two weeks ago: full of eagerness to do what must be done, like a dog in a street of lampposts about what I can do next and with a mind buzzing with creative possibilities that I just need to settle to. Lockdown? What lockdown? I’m on the adult equivalent of a summer break, except I can’t go to the park or the beach, and shopping takes a lot longer when you have to factor in an hour in the line as well as in the store.
Guidepost 6 is all about Cultivating Creativity. Brené remembers her childhood in New Orleans, when from necessity her parents had to be creative and couldn’t afford to compare themselves with those who had more. “Comparison,” she writes, “is all about conformity and competition.”
When you’re working, unless you choose to enter into a consciously creative field, life becomes a question of conforming in so many little ways. A woman is expected to wear heels in an office, a man wears a suit, cars should be as big and flashy as possible to show how important you are, there are right and wrong ways to shop, worship, raise children….. almost anything in life can be limited by a perceived right or wrong way to do it.
Experience has taught me, and taught Brené herself, that there are very few absolutes in life. That we all have the ability to be creative if we release that absolute definition of creativity…. the one that says that if you can’t sing/dance/paint in a particular way, then you’re not creative. “The only unique contribution we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity,” writes Brené, and we should take that to heart. Creativity, owning our life, and making it absolutely, entirely ours, will give it meaning. How we walk, how we wear our clothes, what flowers we choose for our dining room, the scents we choose for our cleaning products…. It’s all creativity, because it’s all about creating our life. Life is Art, and we are the Artists of our own life.
Stop comparing your life to other peoples’. You’re not them. You are someone much more unique. You have the choice of whether to try and paint a faint copy of someone else’s life, or create your own with all your creativity on show. You get to choose what the stage set looks like, what incidental music is playing in the background, what costumes you wear and whether you have co-stars or you star solo.
No money? You will be even more creative than other people, then. Any fool can live well if all they need to do to redecorate is go online or visit the store with a credit card and a large car. It takes creativity and genius to furnish a house when every penny is accounted for by food and petrol. Second hand, begged and inherited furniture, home-grown food, a wardrobe that owes more to classical panache than this year’s style… it’s not impossible, just harder than it would be with free cash.
As Mary Engelbreit (how I love that woman’s work!) would say….
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