I'm not a creative type - or am I?

As a photographer, you would think I’d consider myself a creative person. But honestly, I don’t. Even though I create art with my camera. So this got me thinking recently, what are the traits of a creative person? With one google search I found dozens of articles with lists of traits typically found in creative people and tests I could take to determine how creative I am.

What really got me thinking about this was when I cleaned up my office recently. When I was finished, my desk was clean except for a phone, computer, keyboard, mouse, a lamp and a couple of wooden block sayings. I’d been pretty busy lately and things were scattered all over my desks, the floor and overflowing into my spare bedroom. This makes my brain feel cluttered, overwhelmed and I get discouraged if I try to get any work done. So once I cleaned up my space, I felt better and ready to tackle some projects.

But, if you believe everything you read, messy desks are supposed to help you get your creative juices flowing. And can be a sign that you’re a genius. Except I prefer that things be neat, tidy and organized in my home. So what does that say about me? I’m still not sure, but let’s take a look at some other personality traits common to creatives.

1. They observe everything. My husband jokes that if he does something around the house like vacuum, I notice it right away. And I do. If something is out of place, has been moved or is missing, It’s the first thing I see when I walk into a room. 

2. They work independently. I’ve been self-employed for over 25 years and I love it. While I do have a schedule to keep with regards to appointments and pet visits, I love that I can work when I want and can take down time when I’m not feeling productive. Many people don’t like the idea of working from home - too many distractions. But these things don’t bother me. I can multi-task by doing a load of laundry in between writing a blog post. Or go grocery shopping while I take a break from answering and cleaning out emails. I’m more productive when I do things on my own time, than when I’m told to work during certain hours.

3. Take time for solitude. I love the early morning hours when the world is just starting to wake up. I prefer to start my day with peace and quiet - no TV, no computer, no conversation. I really enjoy the silence as I go about getting my day started. It helps me stay focused and allow for some creative juices to start flowing. 

4. They get motivation from within. This is so true for me. I have followed my passion my entire life, working jobs not for money, but because it’s what I love doing. One of my all-time favorite sayings is “Do what you love and the money will follow.” I’d rather make less money doing something that makes me happy than work a job that brings me oodles of money but I hate. 

5. They are emotional. Ah, if I could have a dollar for every time someone told me I’m super sensitive, I’d probably never have to work another day in my life! I wear my heart on my sleeve. And I listen to my emotions. I don’t believe in bottling them up so they can sit, fester and one day explode. Emotions exist for a reason, pay attention to what to what you are feeling. If I feel sad, I let myself cry. If I’m happy, I’ll sing or dance even though I can’t carry a tune or shake my booty with any kind of rhythm!

6. They are day dreamers. You won’t find me sitting under a tree staring at the clouds like I did when I was a kid, but I create stories in my mind all the time. Before I fall asleep, when I’m driving on the highway, sometimes even after watching a movie. Some are based on news stories, others just come to my mind. Usually there’s some element of a hero involved, often because of a tragedy. Hmmm…I may need to pay more attention to what this might mean!

7. They are ok with being different. This is one trait that doesn’t fit me. I tend to like and follow trends. I never broke any rules until I met my husband. I like boundaries and fitting in with the crowd. I read bestseller books, watch movies that are big hits, listen to top 40 music on the radio. I’d hardly describe myself as unique and original.

After combing through a few articles, I realized I do have more traits in common with creative individuals than I thought. Is being creative something you can teach yourself? I think so. I've become more creative since I started studying photography more seriously in the last couple of years. Maybe, I just need to re-think how I think of creatives including myself.

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Here's a look at the space where I do almost all of my creating after the photo session. Not quite the messy desk many creative types are known for. But it works for me!

On the bookshelf - What I'm reading now

I’ve been an avid reader all my life. From fiction, to mysteries, best selling authors such as Stephen King and Barbara Kingsolver, business, self-help and photography, I try to read every night before I go to bed. When I travel, I pack several books as nothing gets me more giddy than some down time curled up with a great novel.

At the end of 2016, I wrote out goals for what I’d hoped to accomplish professionally and personally in the New Year. Part of my plan included books I wanted to read, or in some cases re-read. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert was one of those books. I read it last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Recently, it’s come up on my radar referenced in podcasts I’ve listened to or face book posts in my feed. So I picked up a copy and read it again.

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert since her book Eat, Pray, Love became a best seller. Big Magic got a lot of hype from other creatives I know who’ve read it and I must also sing its praises. Her ideas are not just for artists who want to or are making a living. It’s for everyone who wants to create something, whether it’s making jewelry, designing a house, decorating a bike and yes, taking photographs. While women are usually thought of as the creative type, men and children also derive happiness from the pursuit of doing something they enjoy.

There’s a lot about this book I could write about, but I’m going to focus on two things that stood out for me. We’re familiar with the idea that we are all forms, just as animals, plants, mountains, furniture, buildings and so on are. But the author proposes the concept that ideas are also forms. Capable of interacting with us. They have consciousness and will and strive to be manifest – through us. Think about that for a moment.  Ideas want to collaborate with you. They will try to get your attention, to see if you want to work with them, to bring it forth into the world. You know it when it happens. You’ve experienced it when your hair stands on end, or suddenly everything around you reminds you of this idea, or you become obsessed or distracted with it. This is what Elizabeth Gilbert calls Big Magic.

Maybe this will better resonate with you. Have you ever had an idea come to you, probably at the most inopportune moment like when you’re walking in the woods and have no pen and paper? Or perhaps someone says something to you at a cocktail party and you just realized what the last sentence of your novel should be?  Or you’re sharing ideas with another creative friend and you suddenly “see” the next painting you need to work on?

Inspiration. It will come and it will go. It may visit you and someone else on the other side of the world at the same time. Creativity can be scared away if you complain about it. Enjoy the process – every bit of it. Invite it to come to you. Put it out to the universe. And be open to what may come. 

As any creative person knows (and isn’t that everyone), sometimes ideas or inspiration comes easily and sometimes we get stuck in ruts. You’ve heard the term writer’s block. In these moments, we often try to follow our passion. If that’s writing, then we try to write more. Maybe we’ll lock ourselves up in an office and demand that we write for sixty minutes every morning. And what usually happens? Nothing. Gilbert suggests that curiosity is the way to work through this.

Is there anything you’re interested in? No matter how small or big, ask questions. Explore. Trust the process and see where it takes you. If baking is something you’re curious about, bake some cakes. If it’s gardening, plant a garden. Whatever it is, get to know as much as you can about it. Take notes. Even if it’s completely different from anything you’ve ever done. You just may be surprised. Maybe this new interest is what brings you back to living creatively again.

Every artist fails. Sometimes failure stops us in our tracks and keeps us from trying again. But for those of us who have a passion, I love this question Gilbert poses – “What would you do even if you knew that you might very well fail?” Because whatever that is for you, it’s something fun. That is creative living. 

I’ve only touched on what Gilbert shares in her book. If this has piqued your interest in any way, I strongly suggest you get your hands on a copy and read “Big Magic” for yourself. And if you do, let me know what you think.

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