Unleash. Not Learn.
Let me give this one straight - as someone who writes, web designs, and does digital marketing for a living, I thought I was a pretty creative life-form. And one day, as I was floating through the void in my own little creative bubble, I got acquainted with Monica Kang (OK - maybe I reached out to her), and got to learn about the very special work she does in her company, InnovatorsBox®. The pleasure was all mine as Monica invited me to participate in Creative Jump. Then, I realized two things about myself:
I was not a creative at all.
I was very creative.
Huh? Those two statements are like saying “thank god, I’m an atheist”!
Oxymoron, I know - but here is why both of those statements were absolute and utter truths that I learnt about myself earlier this year:
It was a fine Saturday afternoon on February 24th, 2017 (‘fine’: (adj.) chilly and cold winter afternoon, with streets feeling lucky due to a brief absence of snow covering their concrete beauty). I had just emerged from a long and tiring week filled with full-time work, full-time study, MBA exams, and a painful interstate travel marking the week’s end - and the only thing I was looking forward to after a string of sleepless nights was some metaphorical quiet that weekend.
Instead, after a very brief dog’s nap, I surprised myself by turning up to attend a 1.5-Day long Creative Jump that Saturday. I had accepted Monica’s invite over a month in advance, not knowing what this weekend was going to look like for me. And I had a long mental battle on Saturday morning about choosing my beauty sleep that I owed my body, or a 1.5 Day program which I didn’t know at the time that I had owed my mind. Considering the way it was decided, I would’ve as well tossed a coin instead. Oh, and mind you, it was my SO’s birthday that I ditched for this. Yup. All for being too intrigued to see how a creativity workshop could help a ‘creative’. (Insert: eye-roll emoji)
So I got ready and headed to Social Tables in Downtown DC.
This forever-fumbling-fiona got there in time!! So naturally, I rewarded myself with my signature happy dance in the elevator. As I entered the stunning venue, the room was pretty full with a lot of beautiful faces. For a curious mix of extrovert and introvert that I am, who gets excited by the idea of networking and meeting people, but loathes being in an overly crowded room like a pack of herds to make small damn chats, this crowd was just perfect.
There was Mindful Dinner on Saturday evening, and with no intention to toss any spoilers at you - all I’d like to say is that, it was THE best networking dinner I’d been a part of in some recent years. Like me, if curiosity is embedded into who you are too, you’re keen to know ‘why the heck?’. OK - I’ll give you one (just one) of many things that I was oh-so-impressed about that evening: imagine being in a room with a pack of strangers, but one question that’s banned is, “So, what do you do?”! You may think, ‘well, that defeats the purpose of meeting new people’; I’d say, ‘well, think again’!
The next day was a Sunday and the short stroll down G Street that morning was relatively quiet, and so was my mind. I did not know what to expect of the day, but I had one thing set in my head: I was going to walk in with a very open mind and absolutely no expectation or agenda today. Nothing. Zero. Nada.
And so I did.
Cutting out all the nitty-gritty’s, let me dive into what that day meant to me, and (part of) what I learnt that day and in the next seven months of my creative journey since then!
Unleash, not learn.
There’s no need (or source) to learn creativity; we only need to unleash it. There’s no magic formulae, nor is it one of those traits that ‘either you have it or don’t’. It also isn’t something that one learns and then teaches others to follow down that very same path. Most importantly, it is not external, but something that is in the very core of us, and we have a full access to it. The key is to know that creativity is not peripheral, but it is within ourselves. And then, we need to know how to unleash it and let it blossom. Remember, it is not a skill or knowledge that we learn from extrinsic sources. What we need to truly learn is how to find that seed inside us, how to nourish it, and help it grow. Once we learn how to do that, it will, in turn, help us grow.
It’s both big and small.
Being creative doesn’t mean doing only big, novel and important things. It means doing all the small things that we do everyday - a little bit differently. And more importantly, it is being very intentional about seeking different ways to do those things when we only know of a limited ways of doing them.
We all have habits, and they play an important role in this too. While habits are a big part of who we are (and another momentous topic entirely), they can hold us hostage in our own little world. We all have our own unique ways of doing certain things, and once we’re set in a pattern, it almost becomes our only known way to do something. While habits helps us keep our energy levels up by reducing the amount of decisions we have to make every day due to the autonomy achieved through them, they can counter our creative muscles. The key is to know how to manipulate our habits, and to learn, unlearn, and relearn. This will help us see and do the little things in our life much differently than our accustomed ways.
Don’t try too hard.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but what I’ve learnt in the past 7 months is to not try too damn hard to be creative. Creativity is not a fact, knowledge, or a skill that we learn and recall as needed. Have you ever felt like some days we’re positively buzzing with brilliant and wicked ideas, and other times our brains are jammed in molasses and no idea seems to find their way in, no matter how hard we tried? It happens to all of us. It’s like sand - the more we squeeze our hands to hold it, the less we’re left with. And we need to recognize that all the creativity that there is in the world is all inside us. We only need to open the horizons of our minds to welcome it.
One of the first things I used to do in moments when my brain felt stuck (or too crowded) was to quiet my mind rather than let unnecessary thoughts crawl in when I’m looking for something completely different. However, Creative Jump taught me that quieting my mind is one thing, but actually practising creativity on a daily basis is completely another. By being mindful, present, and clear-headed, it helps us see things in new ways - in ways we never have, and yet, when we do, we feel surprised how we could’ve missed it when all these perspectives were staring right at us!
The exercises that are done in Creative Jump are not only playful and fun, but they may also seem a little silly on the outset. However, they completely changed my perception of what was possible if we tried. Oh, and one more thing: creativity can be practised! Yep - damn right, it can!
So going back to the two contradictory statements I made earlier. Just because I am in a ‘creative’ industry, it doesn’t automatically make me a more creative person than others. Also, for the sole fact that someone is in the government, engineering, education, or any other industry that are not perceived by the society to be a creative one, it does not mean that creativity isn’t accessible to them.
So, no - I am not a creative singularly because I work in what society perceives to be the ‘creative industry’.
But yes - I AM CREATIVE. Why? Because I am. Just like you are.
If you’re keen to unleash all the creative power and creative confidence that you already have, just look inside you… and know that you can be a creative. In your daily routines, at your work, or in life in general. And if you happen to live in DC, MD, or VA, you should totally take the Creative Jump too! It’s coming back this fall!