finding creativity

song: i wanna go by summer heart

read time: 8 minutes

rewind the time to 2005.

i was a freshman in college. i had just left california, living in uniform skirts, and everything familiar. my whole life, i knew what i wanted to be when i grew up — a teacher. i had an obsession with school supply shopping [the pen aisle really got me. still does.] and thought that obviously i ought to build my career around my love for office depot.

things changed though. freshman year, they wanted to put me in a classroom at the elementary school across the street as a teacher’s assistant. i freaked out. i came to the conclusion that office depot was not reason enough to stay in the education system. that day, i quit my journey of becoming a teacher [before it even started], walked out the door of my department head’s office, and began my quest for something else.

i never thought of myself as a creative person. i had worn uniforms since the 4th grade and the only clothes i wore were the ones that my mom bought me from the b.p. section at nordstroms. occasionally, she would dress me in business like pencil skirts from the adult section. clearly, she was really shaping me early on in life to dress like a ceo. so, yeah, basically — i had zero style. i didn’t wear makeup until i was sixteen — so my make-up artistry skills were subpar. i was in no way creative in the style / fashion department. i couldn’t draw— to save my life. even stick figures were a struggle. i played the piano, but i was nowhere near becoming the next mozart or modern day alicia keys.

i am just gonna call it out — i was kind of plain.

by kind of, i mean, a lot.

while i didn’t view myself as creative, i was attracted to it. i was surrounded by so many creatives in college. artists, musicians, writers — people who had passion for making something out of nothing. were they good? who knows. some of them were, some of them weren’t.

i started dabbling, because that’s what you do in college.

or at least, what you ought to do.

i wanted to discover what i liked, what i was good at, and if i could be creative.

i got really into painting. my monthly allowance of $300 was spent almost entirely at hobby lobby buying blank canvases, modge podge, paint brushes, paint, and you know — everything else that a professional dabbler needed. i had no idea what the heck i was doing. i just did it.

next, i got into songwriting. yes. it’s true. i had a piano mentor who really encouraged it. my career as a songwriter was short lived though. at the time, i was IN LOVE with anything and everything brooke fraser and wanted to write songs just like her. my infatuation and obsession with her songs is probably what killed my would-have-been career.

after that, photography. i actually wasn’t bad at this. in fact, i think i actually impressed my professor. i learned how to move around in the darkroom and develop my own film. i was obsessed with photography and telling stories through visuals. i was that girl who had her camera with her at all times [before it was the cool instagram thing to do]. on the weekends, i would round up my friends to do photoshoots. my best friend would help me set everything up — we came up with concepts, went to thrift stores to style the shoots, scouted out locations, then made it happen.

somewhere in the mix of all of that came writing. i had read a book that talked about the importance of journaling. so i wrote. everyday. eventually, the thought came to me that one day i ought to write a book. i decided that i ought to prepare for that “one day” moment. i began to write in the sticky notes of my computer [remember those from back in the day?]. i would write in rabbit trails — starting off with whatever came to mind. then, the next day, i would pick up where i left off. the idea was that these writings would mirror our conversations as people. we rabbit trail. you know what i mean — you’re in conversation with a friend about a cool coffee shop you found last week, then before you know it you’re talking about philosophy. the conversation doesn’t just get there on it’s own— it rabbit trails from one topic to the other.

during my college career, i was an activist, in every sense of the meaning. a few friends and i started a justice group on campus and every couple of months we would throw events to raise money for different causes: invisible children, toms shoes, love146 to name a few. we were in the middle of trying to throw an event to raise money for child soldiers and needed a poster to promote the event. the kid who had told me he’d help make the promo poster flaked. [as college students do sometimes.] i was out of a poster and wandered around campus looking for someone who could help me and the child soldiers. after that experience, i told myself i was going to learn how to use photoshop because i never wanted to depend on someone else to make me something again. so i learned. i bought my friend a cup of coffee and in exchange she gave me a one hour lesson in photoshop. i messed around with the program whenever i found spare time. i created constantly. my designs were terrible. like really, no one needs to pain themselves by looking at my early work as a designer.

fast forward to current day. people often tell me, “lindsey, you are so creative”. they say, “you are so talented in so many things.” sometimes i’ll hear, “i wish i could do what you do.”

it makes me smile and laugh a little, because rewind back to 2005, i would have never have seen myself as a creative person. i didn’t think i had a creative bone in me. my life wasn’t exciting, my dreams weren’t anything wild, and i wasn’t particularly good at anything. i thought i was going to marry a youth pastor, support my husband’s ministry, and mentor awkward teenagers going through weird teenage drama.

everything about my life changed the moment i walked out the door of education department and decided to start dabbling.

here’s the point to all of this: creativity is not just for the few. as humans, creativity is part of our dna. it’s innate. each of us are born with creativity flowing through our veins.

if you’re sitting there thinking — “but you don’t know me… i’m not good at anything.” go re-read the first part of this article. i wasn’t either.

my secret is that i started dabbling. i tried things. i may not have been good at them, but i tried them. the things i wasn’t good at, but loved, i kept working at. i practiced. i asked for help and learned from others. i kept pursuing creativity.

then, i showed people my work. i didn’t hide it. if i painted something, i gave it away. if i photographed something, i shared it on facebook. if i wrote something, i read it to someone. if i designed something, i posted it in public places.

there is power in sharing your work. yeah, you may not be the best at it right now. but that’s okay. you don’t have to be.

one of my dearest friends is an incredible artist. every week we get together for wine + art. she’ll always say, “i need to practice.” one day, i said — “alannah, you don’t need to practice. you are so good at what you do.” her response opened up my eyes. she said, “everything is practice for something else.” it’s so true. this article is practice for my future books. the logo i designed yesterday is practice for the next logo i make. the website i designed last week is practice for the website i make next week. it’s practice, because it’s making you better. it’s forcing you to become stronger in your creativity. we will be practicing till the day we die. we will never reach the epitome of perfection with our creativity. what we do today is always preparing us for tomorrow.

i must mention — creativity isn’t just for the artists though. creativity is a lifestyle, a mentality. it takes creativity to do anything and everything in this world. it takes creativity to do business. it takes creativity to build spaces. it takes creativity to put systems in place to make a project run smoother. it takes creativity to work with difficult people. it takes creativity to decide which medicines can help someone. it takes creativity to work with numbers.

creativity is infused into everything we do. it’s the oxygen to our lifestyle, without it, we’re as good as dead.

this is what i need from you —

yes, i have a request.

  1. i need you to tell yourself that you are creative. but don’t just say it— i need you to believe it, because you are. creativity is like a muscle. the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. but you have to take that first step to tap into creativity and use it.
  2. if you don’t know what you’re good at  — dabble. try things. you may suck at it. that’s okay. try something else. if you find that you really love something even though you are terrible — keep working at it. i was really terrible at graphic design, but now i make my living off it. practice makes you better.
  3. share whatever you are working on. don’t be afraid to hit the publish button. you’ll never get better if you are hoarding your work to yourself. if someone offers critiques, welcome it with open arms. critiques can make us better creators.
  4. never stop dabbling. if you’re in the place in your life where you have found your “thing”. that’s great! but don’t stop dabbling. try new things. keep experimenting. keep playing. keep imagining up new ways, theories, and ideas.

okay, that’s all. that’s all i need from you. i am not the only one who needs this from you though — the world needs you to do these four things too. there are dreams, ideas, and talents inside of you that the rest of the world needs. it’s time to uncover them.