Compulsive creativity

Creativity takes courage.

–Henri Matisse

When I was in elementary school, I wrote a very long short story called “Tina Tuna.” My parents will tell you about this story with pride.  They will tell you how witty and imaginative I was, even in fourth grade.  My most distinct memories of “Tina Tuna”… I remember the fun I had building my story, the pride of knowing, without a doubt, that I had created something good, and most prominently, the pressure of a deadline.  From that moment, I’ve been seeking to create.  I’m not saying that I’ve done any remarkable work.  My creativity isn’t consistent… I’ve crafted for my classroom, I’ve sang with a chorus and with a worship team, I’ve written a book, I’ve taken photography and pottery classes.  The products of my creativity hang on the walls of my parents’ home and sit on bookshelves.  The drawing of my name, a bold ALLISON in block lettering featuring a “S” that I fashioned into a slide, has been hanging for so long the construction paper backing is faded almost unrecognizably from navy to gray.  My proud (and tiny) attempt at the pottery wheel currently holds change dumped from my husband’s pockets.  No one is trying to pay me for my work.  But even though I’m not particularly remarkable in my creativity, it is remarkable perhaps that I am creative at all.

What does it mean to create?  It means producing something.  Somehow, even following a recipe from Pinterest isn’t necessarily as creative as imitative.  But sometimes imitation leads one to create.  I felt that way when I wrote a book for NaNoWriMo.  I had an idea for a romance novel rattling around in my head for a few months, after feeling disappointed in many of the fluffy romances I had been reading.  So I started building a character I would love to see in print, started imagining a situation to place her in, started envisioning scenarios and plot points.  But imagining, while important, isn’t creating.  Creating is the hard, dirty, sometimes (literally and figuratively) painful work of putting imagination into production.  I wish creating was easier, or it wouldn’t have taken me so long to write a book.  Creating means staying up nights because you can’t sleep until a thought is perfectly articulated on paper; it means walking around with a claw hand from the typing-induced wrist cramps.  It means crushing disappointment when you realize that while you LOVE your work, others might not feel the same way.

To create is an important counterpoint to consumption.  I certainly excel at consumption: my current entertainment obsession?  Watching YouTube videos from people, real people, who love make up or organization or being snarky and are compelled to create content about stuff that they love.  It would be so tempting to simply consume.  Easier certainly.  But I see the effects of consumption in my classroom: my students are so accustomed to consumption that they HATE to produce with any kind of creativity.  They would much rather watch Vines and scroll an Instagram feed than create something MORE.  I get it.  It is humbling to put more than 10 seconds worth of effort into something to then allow other to judge and critique.  But when we only consume, we fail to be everything that we can be.  We miss opportunities to figure ourselves out.  Or to realize that it isn’t possible to figure ourselves out after all.

So even though I’m not a Pinterest-worthy crafter or best selling author, I’m going to create anyway.  Right now, my outlet is this blog.  In July (or November), I hope it will be another novel.  I’ve even thought about glass blowing.

How are you creating this week?  This month?  Are you consistently creative?

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12 thoughts on “Compulsive creativity

  1. Smiling, for a long while you were great at creating a mess, but you have not maintained your standards over the years and even messes aren’t so messy anymore. Allison as an only child you were always very creative, you had to find the ways to occupy that busy brain of yours. “Tina Tuna” wasn’t your only work from that period, but it is clearly the one we all remember, but there were countless other times you would verbally share a story with your mom and I. And we thank you. I know you will always find satisfaction with what you create, and as long as your happy with it, that really is all that matters.. Love Dad

    • Always calling me out, aren’t you Dad? The mess factor is a real reason for creating with the computer. It isn’t messy that way! How are my notes about Texas going?

  2. I have attempted most of the craft crazes over the years, often just long enough to invest in all the supplies and gadgets, before deciding that I would rather do something else. Visitors to our occasional yard sales are usually benefit when the must-have supplies are sold for pennies on the dollar. I have stuck with a few tried-and-true projects over years, sewing, cross stitching, and Photoshop, and blogging are favorites. But, as you point out, consistency is the challenge because whatever one’s creative outlet is, it almost always benefits from regular practice. Good luck with your blog and with your next book.

    • LOL oh my goodness, you’re SO right. I’ve seen so many friends get into some craze, like jewelry-making or scrapbooking, and get all the stuff, only to realize how tough projects actually are and then give up. But creating is creating, so however it gets done is great for our brains, right?

      I’m looking forward to writing a novel again, but it is SO all-encompassing that I’m reluctant to commit right now because I’m so busy with school. But I can’t wait until summer 🙂

  3. It’s impossible to be part of my family and not be creative to some extent. My mom went to art school (but didn’t finish) and sews, my aunts quilt and knit or crochet, some scrapbook. I attempt to scrapbook, but currently design and make Steampunk jewelery and costumes. I also like to write, and want to write a book too. Too many ideas and too little time though, so in the meantime I blog.

    • And blogging, I’ve learned, is an awesome way to be into the practice of writing. It also forces me to think about what I’ve taught my students, like “I’ve started too many sentences with ‘I’, so I need to work on sentence variety.” There are lots of bloggers who think a lot about the craft.

      I’ve seen your steampunk stuff on Facebook… how fun!

      • Is a good way to get into the practice of writing. I tend to start things with I too a lot, it’s hard not to when talking about yourself or your own experiences.

        Steampunk is so much fun, and it’s really heavy on the DIY since it’s what you make it. You can be as historically accurate as you want, and put a spin on things. If I get the position at Hudson, I plan on bringing a Steampunk craft program to the library for tweens and teens, you and Carrie would be more than welcome to come.

  4. Allison, you’ve always been creative. Tina Tuna was just one of your creative works. One of the most important parts about today’s world is that those who are creative are those who will have more work. They may not make $$$$, but they’ll work. They’ll be the folks who will create the next BIG THING that we all can’t live without or we can’t live without reading or can’t wait to watch. Thank you for your insight!

    • I think that in work, being creative is almost the same as being innovative. And I love creating for work, but I want to be more than just work. I feel compelled to actually do something with my time that isn’t at school.

      But you’re right. One never knows when creativity will become a national obsession. For now, though, I’m pleased to write for myself 🙂

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