“I don’t have a creative bone in my body!” I was upset. My junior high school was having a poster contest, and I wanted to enter it. I had a great idea, I thought. I drew a rough draft. Then I drew a final draft, that looked worse than the rough draft. I redrew it … again and again and again. Finally, fighting tears, I crumpled up all the paper, throwing it against the wall.
Walking into the living room I was obviously appearing very downcast, as my dad asked, “What’s got you down Duck?” That’s when I lamented my lack of creativity to him.
He then asked me,
“What do you think creativity is?”
I replied, “I can’t draw well like you or my brother. You both make it look so easy.”
“Yes, we are both good illustrators. We have that ability. But, that says nothing about our creativity. All it says is that we can reproduce what we see in front of us.”
He then led me outside into the garden, to a place, sheltered from the traffic of the neighborhood.
“What do you see?” he asked. I responded that I saw green shrubs and some bugs.
“Just relax, take a deep breath, and look closer,” he suggested. I closed my eyes for a moment, breathing deeply, relaxing the best I could, and then opened my eyes.
“I see a cobweb that has little sparkle beads on it. I see a dead bug in it, and a spider on the side. I see a shadow of leaves on the fence, and streams of sun coming down, almost like the pictures in Bible stories.”
“That’s it,” he replied. And so continued our walks into nature, each time his asking me what I saw, asking me to imagine certain things. When I saw a snail, he would ask me what it would become if it had a toad’s head. We decided it would be a “snoad.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was encouraging what I had concluded I didn’t have — imagination and creativity.
He would also point out many of the creative things I had grown up doing — fairy gardens, dam projects in the sand box, miniature cities in the vegetable garden.
I had been stuck in my own definition of creativity. And I detail this because I feel that what our world needs now is a good dose of creative thinking. It is not something confined to a canvas or a stage. It is a way of seeing the world, of looking at life and its challenges in new ways. It is not partisan. It is not bound by habitual behavior. It is the freedom to go beyond those grooves we have ground into our lifestyles, that have created many of our challenges — whether they be lack of economic freedom, climate change or social injustice. Creative thinking is “out of the box” thinking, looking at solutions and the way forward without the constraints of “that’s the way it’s always been.”
It’s way past time to undo the habits of confining, convenient categories that keep us from looking at our futures with fresh eyes and minds. As much as I now enjoy mixing colors and textures and “playing with art” in my studio, our world demands more. Our planet demands that we take our creative minds beyond the studio, beyond our definitions of who one another is, and use these unfettered minds to create the future we need.