The creativity of everyday life

We tend to use the word and concept “creative” very restrictively. Mostly for artists, maybe inventors.

Most jobs are not considered creative. Or most lives. There are creative people and there are the rest of us. We tend to put creative people on a pedestal.

But if you back off from this common creative/uncreative dichotomy and examine the meaning of the word “create,” creativity comes to have a much more universal and more vital meaning.

“Create: bring into existence, cause to happen as a result of one’s actions. ” We would probably think of a chef in a fancy restaurant as creative. But so is the server in any level of restaurant whose attitude, energy and attention creates a substantial part of the experience of the diners. Or the super market checker with a smile and good energy that enhances an otherwise drab moment.

All sorts of common, ordinary actions, even ones thought of as profoundly uncreative are in this basic sense “creative.” Producing comfort in a baby by changing a diaper. Lifting the spirits of a partner by a smile or supportive comment. Simply making a point in a discussion that would not be made by someone else, and almost certainly not in the way you make it—with your voice, with your energy, the flavor of your intelligence.

Every time you solve a problem, no matter how small, you are being creative. And in a sense every moment is such a problem, in that before you are in it, making your contribution, it lacks that contribution.

The creativity of everyday life is making something happen that wouldn’t otherwise happen, something that only we can provide, whether poem or painting, or smile, or joke or frown, some energy injected into the world around us—the situation we’re in—that would otherwise be lacking.

Looked at this way, every moment in life is an opportunity that demands creativity from us. Every moment, at least, is an occasion to which we rise…or not. (And to which we are more likely to rise if we see it that way.)

Looked at this way, we are all creative artists working our whole lives, all the time, in such media as facial expressions, tone of voice, thought, concern, caring, love, as well, of course as the strength of our muscles.

And every moment is a fresh “canvas” inviting—requiring—our unique “brush strokes.”

And because you work in media besides the traditional ones of artistic creativity—paint, musical instruments, writing—doesn’t mean you are necessarily engaging in a lesser form of creativity. A wonderful moment of being yourself, a smile you know how to turn on, a sense of humor, your unique sense of humor, quality of caring, of appreciating, of helping…all in a real sense can be brilliant, perfect, unique works of art.

But hold on, perhaps you’re thinking, surely it’s not so simple. What about when one fails to rise to one of those occasions? And are there no inherently uncreative (and boring) jobs? Is there no drudgery in the world?

And is all creativity even a good thing? That basic definition of “create” says “make something happen”; doesn’t say what. What about when your creativity creates a problem for me, as when your contribution to a conversation seems dead wrong to me? Or as in the case of those upstate New York murderers whose creativity in escaping from prison created fear for people living in the area?

All legit (and creative) concerns. To be addressed in another blog.

Meanwhile, it’s good to take creativity off its pedestal and put its prestige to work in the everyday world.


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