The Blessing of Creativity

by Julie, not happy about this Artic blast in Somerville

I’m working on a short story that’s due at the end of the year. By work, I mean listening to the song that inspires the story, taking walks, knitting, and jotting down ideas on index cards. Nothing is gelling yet, but I know it will. I have faith in my relationship with my writing muse, and my creative path.

That wasn’t always the case, of course. For a long time, I didn’t even admit aloud that I wanted to write a book. And then it took me years to feel confident enough to have folks read my work. Figuring out how to get published was another journey, made easier by Sisters in Crime and folks like my fellow Wickeds. I’ve spent a career supporting performing artists on their journey, but it took me a long time to embrace my own creative dreams.

I’m not alone in that.

I remember sitting on a author panel, and someone in the audience mentioned that her dream was to be sitting on a stage at some point, talking about her book. Afterwards, I talked to her and asked about her writing. She had a couple of half started novels, but felt that they weren’t any good, so she’d stopped writing.

I met someone else who talked to me about playing a guitar in college. When he spoke, I could tell that he had fond memories of those days. I asked if he still played, and he said that no, he was never that good, and he didn’t have the time. But, when I asked, he admitted he missed it.

Here’s the thing, my friends. Creativity is about the journey, not the destination. In other words, it’s about the writing, not the publishing. It’s about the playing, not the mastery of the guitar. It’s about the baking, not winning the competition.

I’ve created a program I’m calling Muse Mapping. Imagine a blank sheet of paper, and then a magic wand where you tap it and your successful creative journey appears. As folks who are on a creative journey know, the path isn’t straight. There are blocks and obstacles. Different paths appear, and some of them call to be explored. Along the way you meet your community, hone your craft, and figure out what to do with your work should you choose to get it out there. Then there’s the plan itself, and learning how to deal with criticism.

That’s a lot, isn’t it?

Well, I think that the map is necessary. Too many people think that learning how, and then setting a goal are all you need to do. But it takes so much more, including the support of your community, belief in yourself, and the skills to stay on your journey.

But here’s the thing. Creativity is a true blessing, and makes life so much more fun. I’m so glad that I decided to “go for it” regarding my writing life. And I’m glad to have supported dozens of theater artists on their own creative path.

Friends, what is your creative outlet? Tell me about it, and about why you love it. Remember, creativity can be found in all sorts of paths, so let me know.

25 Thoughts

  1. So very true, Julie! Of course writing stories is my creative outlet, but I sometimes wander into writing a poem. Cooking lets me be creative, too, as does the occasional quilting I do. Aren’t we lucky to have found the journey we want to be on?

  2. I used to be a youth basketball coach. Trying to create a unified team out of 10-12 individual kids with a combined goal taught me to be creative in juggling all those attitudes. It didn’t always work but I did it for 25 years so I must’ve liked that kind of creative challenge.

    I write reviews of books, concerts and CDs which requires a degree of creativity I think. You’ve got to come up with a critical summary of the item in question. I don’t know that I always reach “perfection”, but I’ve had moments where I was actually pretty pleased with how something I wrote turned out.

    When my niece was young, I used to write little stories to go along with a gift that I would send her for her birthday or holidays. I not only had to make up a story with characters who inhabited the two pages of text, but I also kept continuity between each letter. The Easter Bunny would talk about candy negotiations with King Brien of the Leprechauns who would deal with Vinnie The Valentine Substitute. And then there was the Princess of the Land of Peppermint Reindeer. Goofy stuff like that.

    1. Those stories sound wonderful! I wonder if she still has them. And coaching kids definitely requires all sorts of creativity. As does criticism.

      1. Well, if she doesn’t have the stories still (which I doubt she does), I have copies of them.

  3. Obviously, writing is one outlet but I also have always loved photography. i remember all the times you, Julie told me I should join Instagram before I did. I also had a dear friend who picked her clarinet up after decades of not playing. She joined the local symphony and played at her church. It gave her a lot of joy.

    1. I love, love, love the story of your friend and her clarinet. Finding that joy again is such a gift. And yes, you are a very gifted photographer. I love that you use that skill–your heart leaves make me happy this week.

  4. Obviously writing is my main creative outlet. In the past, I have done counted cross-stitch and played music (piano and violin). I recent got back into singing in my church choir. And baking is fun, especially in the winter.

    1. I’ve started a new cross stitch project, and forget how wonderful it can be for the brain. I agree about baking. And love that you are back to singing, and talent I covet.

  5. I’ve never thought of myself as being very creative, but I do love making interesting little “niches” in my yard. The kind of thing that you suddenly come across and makes you smile. I once wrote a ghost story for a hotel. The story is still prominently displayed in the lobby. But, I think when my creativity is most called upon is when I have to find ways to be supportive of people who are in a lot of trouble. Finding ways of supporting without patronizing or sounding condescending can be a challenge.

    1. I agree that working with folks going through challenges requires a lot of creativity. But your niches sound very creative, and fun. They remind me of Lilly Jayne is my Garden Squad series. I imagine her garden with spots of joy throughout.

  6. My creative outlet is quilting. Playing with fabric and patterns makes me happy! I love to read what you all have written, and since I discovered audio books, I can quilt and “read” at the same time. Pure joy!!!!

  7. There’s my blog, of course. But I find I enjoy others creative outlets more than creating my own. Creating is just too much work.

  8. Lovely post, Julie! I have noticed that a lot of professional writers also have another creative outlet — cooking, painting, quilting, gardening. I suspect it helps us relax, but also keep the synapses firing, giving us opportunities for cross-pollenization. My characters don’t garden, but when I’m playing in the dirt, my subconscious might be working out a plot problem. And hanging with painters and musicians and other artists is so inspiring, even if the skills and challenges of one medium don’t directly transfer to another.

    1. Thanks Leslie! I agree that creativity is contagious. Love being around folks who are passionate about what we do. I find for my writing brain, knitting, gardening, baking–all of those are perfect ways for me to think, plot, recharge.

  9. Julie, I have such admiration for how you marry creativity and business. You are a true inspiration. And a great writer on top of that!!

    1. Thanks so much, Ellen! So blessed to know so many wonderful writers, yourself included. And working on the marriage–it’s my calling in so many ways.

  10. For many years I did oil paintings. I stopped because the smell started to bother my allergies and what do you do with all those paintings? I still have most of them hanging in my house. I switched to gardening, making greeting cards, cooking, and baking. I think being creative is most important not how well you do it.

  11. I also write and have several manuscripts- though they are on a disk unloved at the moment. I like to paint fabric and create my own unique pillowcases, even when they don’t quite turn out, I like them well enough to use…I think the Journey resonates with me…

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