We all hope to make the world a better place. When we seek to improve our communities, we often turn to left-brained, action-based approaches: We educate ourselves, curb our energy use, and alter our buying and transportation habits. But tackling our world’s most pressing problems will require a whole new mindset, a whole new way of doing things. The solution will not likely be found in our organized minds, but in our non-linear, non-rational, sometimes downright-crazy imaginations.
Yet today, as art and music programs are scratched from school curricula, the message is clear: Creativity is expendable and frivolous—a luxury we can’t afford. But creativity might be more crucial to our survival now than it’s ever been.
Who Is Creative?
We often assume creativity belongs to artists, but watch any child playing and you know everyone is born with creativity. When we see clouds gather or a seedling push through the soil, we know creativity is in every cell of the natural world.
Creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas and patterns and to create meaningful new ones—an idea that seems necessary, but often difficult to achieve, today. I asked two of my most creative friends to share their ideas on creative thinking.
“Creativity is about knowing you’ve got everything you need, and one way or another, you’re gonna make something,” says Gavio, a designer, natural builder, artist and chef.
For Marilee—artist, nurse, interior designer and educator—creative pursuits are an essential part of feeling alive. “When I paint, I go into a zone, and time just falls away,” she says. “That zone is where healing happens, too.”
We can be creative in every moment and at any scale. We’re creative when we plant a garden or cook a meal. We can bring creativity to enlivening our homes and shrinking our ecological footprints. We can be creative about how we raise our children, how we make our money or how to organize a creek clean-up. In any activity, we have the choice to act from habit or to ask, “How can this be more fun? How can we invite something unexpected?”
Gavio enjoys bringing fresh energy to dinner parties. He asks each person to bring three food items that call to them. “The meal always turns out amazing, and the process is fun,” he says.
The creativity Marilee unleashes when painting carries into her work as a nurse. She recently created Worry Doll Kits for hospital patients. “You write your worries on a piece of paper, wrap it around a Popsicle stick, cover it with fabric, and turn it into a doll. Then you let the doll carry your worries.” Now worry dolls—and smiles—are beginning to spread through the hospital.
Nurture Your Spark
For me, creativity springs forth when I make free time with no agenda, when I ask myself open-ended questions, when I try something irrational, and when I give myself permission to follow a glimmer down a rabbit hole. Marilee recommends tossing out preconceived notions. “Countless children have been told they couldn’t draw, and they still carry that story in their heads as adults,” she says. “The stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what we’re able to do can kill creativity.”
The most immediate reward of creativity is what it does for us. Nurturing creativity keeps us open, fluid and alive. It excites us, and it heals us. Creativity opens us to something greater than ourselves—call it a muse, a higher power or inspiration. And creativity—as a way of being—may very well save us.
This is my last “Design for Life” column. “Design for Life” has been part of Natural Home & Garden for nine years and 53 columns—what a great run! I’ve loved writing it, and I’ve enjoyed hearing from you. If you want to hear where my writing will pop up next, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.