What Does Creativity Mean to Me?

As a girl, I thought artists were single moms with boys who walked to their dance studios. Or artists practiced mysteriously in a back room with the best sunlight, but not one I got to visit. I thought retired men had workshops with wood and nails and power tools. I think I took a few “art classes” in Mrs. Buffa’s front room a few times, but it was too expensive, and I stopped going. In elementary school, I thought about the stock rooms full of stationary, glue, and grading pens with a blue tip and red tip, and I am like a bee to stamen. But I also remembered sneaking peaks and taking detours so I could just be in its aura of love. I don’t remember being invited or busting in to make my presence known. 

Creativity has always been this thing I thought I could possess. If I got published, then I would show the world that I was a real creative. If I could write the perfect poem or win a broadsheet poetry contest—where a prize is given for one poem out of hundreds—then I would prove to myself I was a fine artist. I could put a framed something on the wall. I could collect stuff for my bookshelf. I could circle back with a mentor and say, See?

Creativity was something to be competitive with. I secretly loathed the fact that writer friends were published in big name journals or would win well known contests or were interviewed to talk about their process. More than this though, I was secretly jealous of some sort of artist dust I thought was sprinkled over their minds and bodies that made them gifted, that made them able to write a sentence with such cadence, one thought an entire percussion session was performing in the living room. The artist dust also made them write regional color with drawls or such melodic darkness or eery images of lemons.

I love what Seth Godin says about the artist and non-artist—the only difference being that the former actually makes something of his creativity and the other does nothing with it. 

Ken Robinson, author of Out of our Minds: Learning to Be Creative discusses general and personal creativities and how our Industrial Age educational model stifles both.

Brene Brown’s research on shame reveals that 80% of participants had a such a profound experience of shame in an early learning environment that it fundamentally changed how they thought of themselves as learners. Half of these experiences were called creativity scars—where someone shamed them for not being a good writer, dancer, musician, or painter!

John Aido Loori, Zen master, writes that the process of making art gets to the core of reality or the core of one’s being. Be the photograph. Be the poem. Be the teapot. 

But what do I want to say about creativity? That many of us have artist wounds. That these wounds can be healed if we shine the light on them, talk about how they made us feel, and consider how they altered our dreams and hopes.

I want to say that I am a feeling woman. That writing is a meditative art. That this scribbling across the page is so I can discover something about myself. The phrase Writing for therapy seems so prescriptive and sterile. Writing as an experiential act, that sounds fluffier, but perhaps more true to who I am. 

I am a woman of feeling. I am creative, smart, and thoughtful. How have I come to heal my artist wound? I will spare you the 12 tips to living a more creative life. I subconsciously sought out people who felt like mothers to me. I go on artist dates to nurture the things that inspire me—a pen shop, an Irish pub, a search for the perfect postcard, a dalliance in the vintage shop to find a fuschia dress for my divorce party. I make things in private and sometimes I give them away. I take spiritual pilgrimages. I start research projects. Many times I like to practice and be disciplined. Or I don’t write. I come back to it. I’ve got to tend to what’s showing up in my nervous system. I plant some marigolds. I sweep the floor. I tuck my son in three times in one night. I write a poem about artist dust.

I think it’s important to express emotions in our art making. 

And it’s more important to express them in our lives. Is there a difference? 

Or is the greatest art-making the construction and reconstruction of our selves moment to moment that becomes a decade then a season then a lifetime?

What is artist dust made of?