Creativity and a Creative Blogger Award Nomination!

creativebloggerI used to think creativity was a magical, mystical wind that snuck into my bedroom at night and whispered stories and poems into my ear. So romantic. So unpredictable.

Which is why I was completely surprised, a few years back, to read this line from Twyla Tharp’s amazing book The Creative Habit.

Destiny, quite often, is a determined parent.

She was referencing Mozart, a man thought to be one of the most creative musical geniuses ever to compose music. More so, she was talking about Mozart’s father, a skilled musician himself who recognized a talent in his son that prompted him to think something like, Huh, interesting. The kid’s got talent. Let’s see how far he can go.

In short, creativity doesn’t just come to anyone, just as children aren’t inherently well-mannered, kind, and able to compose perfect, flittering sonatinas.

A true creative discovers something that gives them energy and joy, and then commits to the hard, determined work of making it happen. This means that behind the quiet genius façade, a creative person is simply an honest being who is unafraid of work, and who knows two things.

Creativity is process and practice.

This is something that Kayla Johnson, who has just started blogging at The First Twenty Rows, totally gets. She’s got that crazy awesome mix of personality, skill, and literary knowledge in her writing voice, and I love seeing her new posts pop up in my inbox. We’re slowly becoming friends in the shy way that internet people do – commenting, liking, interacting with one another’s words, and it’s good.

Then she went and nominated me for a Creative Blogger Award, and now I have to think of some amazing way to thank her, which might be hard since she’s in Oregon and I’m in Minnesota and I can’t just drop fresh eggs and perennials off on her front porch.

Meanwhile, there’s this matter of the award and a few rules, which are as follow:

  1. Thank the nominee.
  2. Share five facts about myself.
  3. Nominate other blogs and notify them.
  4. Tell the nominees these rules.

I know you’re just dying to hear five facts about me (as though I haven’t overshared on most aspects of my life already) so I’ll dig deep. Enjoy.

  1. One of my strangest pregnancy cravings was raw cake mix. Preferably the Duncan Hines yellow variety. No, I never got worms. Or gestational diabetes. But I probably deserved both.
  2. I love the outdoors. If I can trek it, climb it, swim in it, dig in it, or slide over it, I’m sold. Someday, my husband and I want to hike one of those crazy three month treks like the Appalachian trail, the John Muir trail, the PCT, or the Camino Real.
  3. I never thought I’d live on a (hobby) farm. I’m pretty sure I specifically told my mom that one day while we were doing dishes and talking about my future. I’ve never been so glad to have been wrong.
  4. In sixth grade, I won a young author’s contest for a book entitled, “Clouds, a Foot, and a Little Old Man.” Twenty years later, I still suck at titling.
  5. My favorite place to brush my teeth is in the shower. Next is outside my tent when I’m camping.

There you go. And now, it’s my turn to nominate a few blogs that I read for various reasons, and that all have an understanding of true creativity. Please go say hello!

  1. The Local Kitchen – Kaela makes beautiful, local, drool-worthy food from the Hudson Valley and pens great stories to go along with her recipes. I have a list of her recipes I need to go back and try when I’m done doing my 40-day fast.
  2. Sarah in Small Doses – Need a laugh? Sarah’s on it. Always, always on it. She’s got great insight on writing, creativity, and pop culture. Plus I went to grad school with her and she’s a cool person to boot.
  3. Barren to Beautiful – Rebekah’s blog on faith and motherhood is a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to talk mama business. She’s not a typical mommy blogger doing reviews of plastic toys and obscure clothing labels. She talks Jesus and parenting and contentment and I love it.
  4. Everyday Inklings – This Sarah – she’s got skills. Word skills, parenting skills, life skills. She is incredibly mindful in the everyday and her posts rub off on me in the best way. Plus, she’s my neighbor. Lucky me!
  5. Jackie Lea Sommers – Can I brag for a second? Jackie wrote a book – a CRAZY good book called Truest which comes out SO soon, and you all should go pre-buy a copy now. She’s also in my writing group, which means I get the honor of talking craft, words, and frustrations now and then. So. Great.
  6. The Creative Jayne – Welcome the beautifully designed world of Kayla. She’s got graphic design in her blood and it shows in her blog, in her styling, and in the way she presents her words. Definitely one to keep on your radar!
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When creativity goes missing

IMG_7177Forgive me for being quiet lately.

My creative process packed a rucksack and went whistling away down December’s open road.

It hasn’t yet come wandering back. And now I’m on a mission to find it.

This is easier said than done. With three small girls at home with me during the day, the needs are endless. Someone is hungry. There are booster trays to wash, and sink traps clogged with tiny trees of broccoli. There are miniature fights to break up. Frowns to tickle out. Books to be read.

Every day, creative ideas form and cluster like soap bubbles. And then I look at the clock. And my to-do list. And back to the clock.

Someone <skips a nap><cuts a molar><scribbles on the computer screen with permanent marker>. The soap bubble idea pops.

Everything falls in a swirl down the drain.

***

One of the authors I studied in grad school was a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ($5 if you can pronounce that) who says, “Creative persons differ from one another in a variety of ways, but in one respect they are unanimous: They all love what they do.”

I fell into a slump after Christmas. The house felt claustrophobic and close – newly gifted items didn’t fit into my already less-than-perfect organization scheme. Suitcases from coming and going needed to be unpacked. Everything needed attention.

Finally, I gave in and spent two weeks using my free time (a precious commodity) doing things I didn’t necessarily love. I organized. I laundered. I folded. I scrubbed. I purged. I went to bed strangely stressed, and woke up tired even after eight hours of solid sleep.

I had no idea something was wrong until the night I put the girls to bed, kissed my husband, and went to worship team practice at my church. For the next hour and half, I banged out chords on that big black grand piano. I sang. Slowly, I fell out myself and into Grace.

Leaving the building that night, I felt lighter. It occurred to me that singing was the only thing I’d done in two weeks that was for sheer enjoyment.

Not because I had to. Not because I needed to. Because I wanted to.

Just then, I saw my creative process waving in the distance.

Deep breath. Right.

***

The last couple of weeks have been a study in balance, and slowly but surely, I can see my creativity levels start to build.

I’m baking bread. I’m making up stories for the girls. I’m going to the gym with a regularity that surprises even me. Today I’m sitting down at the computer, wading through the rhythm of putting words the page.

They aren’t perfect. They don’t have to be. I’m happily lost in my craft, and that’s the point. When I’m doing the things I love, I’m a better, kinder, more expansive version of myself.

Friend, if you’ve somehow found yourself in a similar creative slump, please take a deep breath. Ignore the overflowing laundry basket, put in a pizza, and schedule a block of time to get out and do something you love.

Let it overtake you. Change you. Give you new ideas. Your creativity is the truest expression of who you are. Don’t let it get away.