Today I was reading in The Gifts of Imperfection book by Brene Brown and ran across the idea that "If we want to make meaning, we need to make art." (page 96 in my copy) The definition for "art" given is very broad and includes things like baking, doodling and rebuilding an engine. Brown claims that there is no such thing as an uncreative person, only people who are not using their inborn creativity.
Since early childhood I have always been drawn to drawing, painting, crafting, and writing--the traditionally creative things. I married a man who is all about ministry, so that has been a big part of my adult life, and this chapter made me think how ministry, counseling and evangelism, when can also be creative in that each person in front of you is unique, and the ministry of assisting them to find their path is a unique process where creative thinking is applied. My husband does not think of himself as very creative, but if you put him behind a video camera, an unexpected wacky, creative dimension comes out. His creativity comes out in the context of people and relationships. Mine begs for time alone with art supplies or a blank journal and pen.
For many of us taking time for creativity feels frivolous and self-indulgent. And yet--what if the creative things are really the vital and necessary things, and much of the "productive" things we feel we ought to be doing are not the things that are meaningful or important in the long run? This is such an intriguing thought to me.
In my experience, life starts feeling dull and pointless when there has been no time and no room for creativity. When it seems that all my moments are gobbled up by tasks which feel dull and uninteresting--running errands or driving kids places, paying bills, cooking and cleaning when I'm in a rush and there's no time to apply any creative or individual thinking. OK, I'll admit that for me, exercise pretty much feels the same way--dull and necessary, and taking up my time when I'd rather be doing something more interesting. Is there a way to make things like bookkeeping, running errands and exercise creative? I'm not sure.
The cure for the "dull and pointless" feeling (beyond the basic need for rest and sleep, which sometimes must come first) is usually to take a step back from all the boring stuff that is clamors to be done (and believe me, it will still be there when you return!), and take time out to do something creative. I know this. I do this and practice this, sometimes better than other times. But maybe I should stop feeling guilty whenever I do it. Maybe it is important and meaningful not only is a self-fulfilling way, but in a much broader sense than I understood.
This summer started with a lot of busy-ness and time away from home. Now that we are home with no more trips planned, and nobody is involved in any sports which involve constant travel (hooray!), I've been doing some creative stuff that I've been longing to do for ages. I dusted off my sewing machine and went through my scrapbooking and painting supplies--it had been over two years!! Right now I don't want to go anywhere. I want to sit in my nice chilly basement with my sewing machine and photographs and watercolors and knitting. And it feels awesome. Yet I can almost hear my parent's voices in my head saying, "Sure, it would be nice if somebody paid you to sit home and be creative--but this is the real world."
Brown begins her chapter on creativity recalling her early childhood when her father was a student and the family had little money, but a lot of time to create stuff and get together with neighbors. After her father graduated, the family moved and became more prosperous, and the creativity, spontaneity and sense of fun disappeared. One thing I appreciate about Brown's book is she does not portray making changes as an all-or-nothing situation. She does not advocate that we all quit our jobs and move to some idyllic cabin in the woods.
But I do think that in choosing more time for creativity, sometimes there ARE trade-offs. Particularly between time and money. More time usually means less money. For most of us, that's just the way it is. I quit my part-time banking job with eyes wide open to the fact that there would be less money. From years of living on a ministry salary, I know how to live simple. It was nice to have more money freedom for awhile, but it wasn't worth the stress and the near-complete loss of time to be spontaneous and creative. And in a few years there will be no kids in the house--no basketball practices or weekend tournaments, no dirty shoes cluttering the entryway, no socks or towels thrown everywhere, and way less time running to the grocery store. There will be time then to earn more and save more without sacrificing so much in return.
These are definitely things to think through if one is craving a life that feels less dull and more meaningful. The answers are different for everyone, because for many, their job is a place they express creativity and find meaning. There's no cookie-cutter, formulaic answers to these things. Only individual, creative ones.