The power and wonder of personal creativity is as stunning to me today as ever. Whether you view yourself as a creative person or not, you are creating all the time. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Now, please know that I realize that the babies we create are made out of “us,” who are in turn made out of meats and grains, which were in turn made out of dirt, which was made up of rock and trace chemicals, which are composed of base elements. Likewise, I’m aware that there are a limited number of sounds and letters in the English language with which every poet or writer or speaker creates words, as there are only so many notes from which all songwriters and composers may choose. But let’s not ruin the moment with Spock-like ponderings. Instead, rather than quibbling over technicalities of definition, consider in this moment that to create is essentially to make something out of nothing.
Before my birth, my book The Best Advice So Far did not exist. It could not have existed. It was nothing at all. Today, however, it does exist as a unique collection of experiences that no one else has ever experienced in the history of the world. It is thoughts and reflections and connections put into a formation of words that has never before occurred, and which not another person – alive or dead or who will ever walk the earth – could have written.
When a song finds its way out of me, it too is born out of nothing. Unlike my physical body, however, a song is not made of dirt and trace chemicals and elements. It’s something – other. And it couldn’t have existed without my existence and experiences, without my act of will to make it be so. It was nothing, which became a vapor of an idea, which took form in words and sounds. More sounds were added, and in the end, there is a thing – a song – that is real. And it has power – power to move people or to tell a story or to cause someone to want to dance.
For you, maybe it’s a garden you created. Before you, it was just empty land. Dirt. Perhaps some grass or weeds. And now it is a labor of love, a true work of art that no one has ever seen before and which, by its nature, will never be able to be recreated. Before you, there was no garden. There could not have been. And then there was. You made it so.
In case you’re wondering, I haven’t forgotten about those of you who have dubbed yourself “uncreative.” I invited you to continue reading with the notion that I could change your mind. You’ve kept your end of the bargain, and now it’s time for me to uphold mine.
Let’s start with a challenge. Tomorrow, throughout your day, whenever you encounter anyone at all – at work, with your family, at the grocery store, everywhere – I want your first interaction with each person to go like this:
1. Make wide eyes and smirk as if you know something they don’t.
2. Say, “Seems like Humpty Dumpty’s back up on that wall, eh?”
3. Then laugh a little laugh as if they should get it.
Now, I realize that most of you – particularly if you’ve already deemed yourself lacking in creativity – will not take me up on my challenge. It’s a pity, really, because you’d get a humdinger of an object lesson out of it. But for the sake of continuing here, I’ll at least ask you to imagine that you’ve taken my challenge. What do you suppose would happen? How would your boss react? Your coworkers? Your spouse? Your friends? The drive-through server at the coffee place?
“I’d get fired!” you might protest. “They’d call the men in the white coats and have me committed.” “They’d stare and wonder when I was going to finish the joke.”
The fact is that it really doesn’t matter exactly what people would do or say. What’s important is that you will most certainly elicit a different reaction from the one you get now and every other day, when using your routine of standard pleasantries and predictable responses.
OK, but what does that prove about creativity? Well, the words are nothing special. Everyone has heard of Humpty Dumpty and his wall, and you didn’t write the poem. But the combination of your words and actions have the power to produce absolutely unique results. Before the Humpty-Dumpty version of you decided to make that face and say those words and laugh that laugh, there was nothing to indicate that anyone should be calling a psychiatrist. And then there was. You made it so.
What I’m getting at with this quirky little example is that your words, your actions, your tone of voice, your facial expressions – your indifference, your anger, your sarcasm – they are all fully within your control. And with them you create moments, both in your own life and in the lives of others.
How about a realistic example?
Let’s say that you bump into a teen you know and his mom says, “Jared got his license yesterday.” In that moment, you have a canvas on which you will create an experience like none other in the history of humanity – one made up of you, that particular parent, that particular boy, that particular milestone and a special ingredient called right now. What will you create with it? You could shrug, snort derisively and say, “Yeah, give it ten years and see how excited you are about it then.” In so doing, your words and actions have created a moment. There was excitement and hope and the joy of youth before you began creating. And then there wasn’t. You made it so.
Or you could smile broadly, remember the day you got your own license, and exclaim with enthusiasm, “Oh, wow! That’s awesome! Can I see it? You are absolutely gonna love the freedom that comes with driving. I still do! Now, tell me all about your first solo drive …” And with your choice of words and actions, you have created a moment. You have affirmed a young man and added excitement to his own, helping to make the most of his accomplishment. A minute before you started creating, that affirmation and expectation that we never need to outgrow the things we love as we grow older – wasn’t anything at all. And then it was. You made it so.
Are you in a rut? I’m sorry to have to say so, but it’s of your own making. With a series of choices, you have created it and decided to keep walking in it. But in that truth lies the power to break out of the very same rut. For in making new choices, you can create a new outcome.
Every time you choose to avoid eye contact with those around you, to disregard them, to do exactly what you did yesterday and complain, it is changing you and those around you. It is creating a dismal mood, a feeling of disconnection, an environment of tension or cloying numbness or merely the idea that the status quo is all there is to life.
Every smile you choose to don, every kind word you choose to utter, every helping hand you choose to extend is also changing you and those around you. It is creating joy, expectation, fun, an environment of invitation and positivity and possibility.
And so you see, creating goes far beyond writing a book, composing a symphony or cultivating a garden. Because you are an agent of choice, you are a creative force by very nature.
I signed a copy of The Best Advice So Far for my friend Sydney yesterday. I ended my note with this:
“YOU + CHOICES = ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES”
What possibilities will you choose to create in your life and in your world today?