WHAT IS CREATIVITY and WHY IT MATTERS. by Mimi Caban Ross
A chapter from The Shalom Lifestyle: Crafting a Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken Kind of Life! (This is the chapter that came next in the editing process 2 days after we went to hear Ray Hughes speak at a meeting in Chelmsford, MA. One the main topics discussed was living creatively and how vital this is in every area of life. This chapter was already written. Another synchronicity 🙂
SL = SHALOM LIFESTYLE M = MIND S = SPIRIT L = LOVE PL = PLAY
J = JOY CR = CREATIVITY W = WORK H = HOME V = VISION CASTING
Because Buddy likes it. #MimiPhotos
What does it mean to live a creative life? Do you need to be an artist, painter, sculptor, dancer, writer, inventor or what? And what does it matter? Does it matter?
I think it does. I think it is vital and necessary. I think living creatively is the same as living fearlessly. Which is may be why so few people do it. I believe that this lack is a major reason why we have so much sadness, divorce, depression, illness, regret, abuse of many kinds, wars and rumors of wars.
Living creatively solves problems and gets the juices of life flowing through your brain, your heart, your spirit, your body, your relationships, your business, your community and the globe.
If you know anything about gardening and how living things thrive, you know that breeds of plants, fruits and veggies do best when they have the chance to cross pollenate. When they stick with their own strain of their own kind, the species develops all sorts of weaknesses and vulnerabilities. This is one reason why the modern version of genetically engineering organisms has the potential to be so bad: we humans cannot include the infinite number of variations and adaptions that naturally growing plants will have. So if a plague attacks your genetically engineered potatoes and they succumb, for instance, the entire crop will most likely be wiped out. Very dangerous for the food supply. Very dangerous for a creative and satisfying life as well.
We see the same problem in breeds of our beloved dogs. Rottweilers and Golden Retrievers and other breeds that have been helped along by humans in the selection of certain desirable traits have also developed defects such as hip dysplasia and high occurrence of certain types of cancer. https://pets.webmd.com/dogs/ss/slideshow-dog-breed-health-problems
Another example of how a lack of creative diversity can lead to disaster is the high tech world crash in Massachusetts in the 1980s and 90s. I worked in that realm between 1982 and 1990. What I did not know was that there was a resistance to sharing information and new discoveries among New England high tech companies, many of whom failed or were swallowed up by other entities. Companies chose to keep to themselves and stay in a competitive, “I’m not sharing my secrets cause I don’t know if there’s enough to go around” kind of mentality and they suffered for it. Information may have been flowing from top to bottom and bottom to top within a company but it was not flowing between companies.
Meanwhile, on the west coast in Silicon Valley, at the same time a much more outside of the box, communal type of business model was developing with Steve Jobs and many others like him. And the results has been an ever changing, thriving, risk taking business community with an atmosphere that seems to welcome change, challenge, sharing, inventiveness and creativity.
And loads of cha ching!!!
And actually when I think about living on both coasts in my life, the thing I loved about southern Oregon and the west coast was that there seemed to be this openness to the creative and artistic. Many people in the entertainment business had homes in Medford, Oregon back then and they would fly to LA and Hollywood as needed. And while I can’t say it was all lovey dovey sweetness and light, there was definitely a sort of acceptance in the culture for the creative and different. Even as kids.
When I moved back to the Midwest and New England, I found a more fear based, “we keep to ourselves and we don’t do things that way round here” sort of mentality. I don’t know if it’s the weather or the geography or the socioeconomic status or the population density in an area. People seemed more enlightened, happy, healthy and creative in Oregon and less so in the Midwest and in Massachusetts.
The power of place in relationship to creative living is definitely something to explore. As I type these words I am sitting in our yard under the roughly put together and very colorful sukkah that we created for Sukkot this year. I am surrounded by color, mountains, the river and not much noise other than the occasional car over on Jacob’s Ladder scenic byway or a plane passing overhead. It’s about 3:30 in the afternoon so the traffic has picked up a little as people leave school or work but I can almost imagine that it is the sound of waves. It’s not an unpleasant sound.
And we live on the edge of the Berkshires which is one of the most culturally rich regions in the United States. We are home to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Tanglewood, Norman Rockwell and countless other art museums, Shakespearean Theater festivals and many in the art, theater, film and music industries have 2nd or 3rd homes in this region. One of the Neville Brothers lived in my tiny town until he passed recently. My husband recently did an estimate for an actor who played Tevye in Fiddler On the Roof on Broadway. I met an actor with a recurring role on CSI at a poetry reading here in town as well as important Broadway folks. And I met the producer of the Broadway show Ruthless just a few days ago at a dance performance in Becket.
We are rich with creativity and natural beauty and people who make their living in the visual and performing arts here.
My little town also has had too many deaths by suicide and even murder and incredible amounts of substance abuse, hopelessness and depression. In Summer 2013 my husband and I rented a closed diner in town and created something called The Happy Place as our gift to the community. It was a creative solution to what we saw as a large need. And for a short season, it met some of those needs.
So in the beginning of this chapter I asked: What is creativity and why does it matter? And furthermore, why should it matter to YOU?
Imagine living a life where everything looked the same and everyone thought the same way. Close your eyes and try to picture it. How horrifying would that be?!
Take that same idea and apply it to a standardized educational model which many of our public schools have adopted across the country. Imagine everyone learning the same things in the same order at the same ages. With little to no variation. Children that grow up in a standardized world are kind of like those genetically engineered potatoes I mentioned earlier. Without variation and cross-pollination, the species weakens with little chance to adapt when faced with a problem. And unless people are taught that it’s OK to think differently, creatively and not just be fed information, they will be stumped. Stuck. Dependent on someone else to come and fix it for them. (Read Free Agent Nation by Daniel Pink if you want explore how this narrow view affects business and all of society.)
But what if we all became more like my west coast culture growing up: open and interested in the new, inventive, colorful, exciting. What if it was OK to ask questions, make mistakes and explore the ideas of our imaginations? What if we lived fearlessly and took risks that might lead to breakthroughs and solutions to problems? What if we were generous and shared resources and ideas without concern of being exploited and taken advantage of?
I know I describe some sort of Pollyanna Utopian Wonderland, right?
But what if YOU, right now, made a decision to use the rest of the time you have on the earth to live creatively, authentically, generously and fearlessly? What if YOU decided to be the one who lived without believing you are limited by your resources, training, education or background? What if you stopped waiting for someone else to lead? What if you stopped depending on others to get things done? What if you took one of your gut level, heart felt ideas and you ran with it even though you don’t know what you’re doing yet? What if you did a love experiment just to create a ripple effect of goodness, health, vibrancy, poetry and music even if no one else gets it? What if you just act on your ideas for the sake of acting on them without judging them or yourself? What if you created a Happy Place in your life and invited yourself into it? Then others?
What a wonderful world it would be!
I see creativity as a fiery assault against the mundane, the restrictive and the lonely. Living creatively blows up concepts like boredom, poverty, failure, isolation, hopelessness and starvation. Creativity brings with her a rich feast, a merry heart, a strong work ethic, a lack of judgment, a child-like wonder, fireworks, kitty cats, mountains, prairies, micronutrients, macro-science, dunamis power and agape love. Bells, whistles, love affairs, sparkly things, internal organs, princes, paupers, Wall Street, Rodeo Drive and Jacob’s Ladder. Harlem, Hell’s Angels, hiccups, hamstrings and Hava Nagila. There is NO END to the variety and color of our lives when we live creatively. When we allow ourselves to be swept up into the river that we are already connected to. The Pulse. The Rhythm. The Taste. The Sound and Fury. The Color.
Creativity is the color of love that opens our hearts and minds to the I’m Possible and the I AM and the Internal YES! Creativity is not a specific class or personality or medium or profession. Creativity solves problems when the naysayers say it can’t be done. Creativity gives generously. Creativity jumps in to fill a need, build a bridge, fund a campaign, raise a child, heal a marriage, invent a cure, tell a joke, buy a coffee for a stranger.
Which reminds me of some folks who live very creatively. These guys own a coffee shop. One day someone decided to pay in advance for coffee if any person who was homeless came in for one. This was several years ago. This caught on to the point where large numbers of people contribute to this prepaid coffee fund in many locations so that people who are going through very hard times can come in and enjoy a cup of coffee and relax. Just like everyone else. (See the “suspended coffee” movement https://suspendedcoffees.com/ )
Another amazing business that does something like this in my area is Skyline Beer Company in Westfield, MA. https://skylinebeerco.com/ They’ve expanded this to people being able to prepay for just about anything on the menu and they can specifically designate their prepaid gift on a bulletin board to nurses, someone who lost a spouse, a single parent police officer, recovering addict, someone who just got dumped, a grandparent, veteran, or anyone else you can imagine. It’s a pretty beautiful sight!
Do you see it? One person’s teeny tiny creative gesture can touch thousands of lives. Including mine. And now yours. See how amazing that is? Do you think Suspended Coffees came in with a big plan for universal coffee care? I don’t know. I think perhaps not. They had a thought. They fearlessly acted on it. And their teeny tiny act of kindness that cost maybe 5 bucks continues to impact lives to this day.
See? Anyone can live and act creatively. Whether introvert or extrovert, whether newbie or expert. It’s all about ignoring fear and doing it anyway. It really is.
And you know how to get started? Stop worrying about what others might think of you and just begin.
Here is an exercise you can do to get your juices flowing:
Set a timer for 15 minutes. Write everything that comes to mind that you would like to do with your life. Or acts of kindness and generosity you would like to do. No matter how small or grand. Don’t edit or censor. After 15 minutes look over the list. Is there any small task or act of artistry or kindness that you can do RIGHT NOW? Go do it. Don’t overthink it. Then come back.
Did you do it? How do you feel? GIVE YOURSELF A GOLD STAR PAT ON THE BACK TRUMPET FANFARE!!!!
And buy a copy of my book, The Shalom Lifestyle: Crafting a Nothing Missing, Nothing Broken Kind of Life!, when it’s published in its entirety and give it to a friend or relative or an enemy. Smile. You just set something glorious and beautiful in motion! This the The Shalom Lifestyle in action.
If you want updates on my Book Launch or to discuss your creative ideas, just fill out the form below. Thanks for you time today. I appreciate it.