This has really impacted the way I am seeing my world. The word creative is not one I’ve always used to when describing my top attributes. I’ve never considered whether I operate at my creative best. I think this is because I can’t draw. Somewhere in my youth, I must have associated creativity with drawing, and when the best I could do was copy a picture of a brick building, using a ruler, I plopped myself firmly in the category of not-creative. I don’t think I’ve ever reconsidered the idea that even though I can’t draw worth beans, I still might be creative.
Over the past month I’ve had my head bowed over my old sewing machine. I’ve had my good old Kenmore machine since the very earliest days of our marriage. It’s helped me create outfits to wear to school, in the days when teachers did such a thing. Then it worked with me as I made cute overalls for our kids, then curtains for new homes, endless Halloween costumes, and Raggedy Andy for little Benjamin. In the past few years, several quilts have been created with this oldy; it’s quilts I’ve been stitching lately. My machine has no fancy features, but it’s dependable. Kind of like me.
When I think of my machine, and many other things in my life I’ve bought and then used and used and used, never updating, I can understand why people might think I’m not particularly creative. Perhaps they also think I’m set in my ways and not adventuresome. I get it. Sometimes being creative can be associated with being a free spirit, always trying new things, and wearing colourful and flowing clothing. None of these describe me, me with my sensible bob haircut and black turtle neck sweaters. Nor does my background in Mathematics and Computer Programing nudge me into the creative category. Shiny new objects don’t grab my attention.
Creative isn’t all about being a free spirit. Nor is it about jumping from one thing to the next, although it can disguise itself as such. When used as an adjective, creative means relating to or involving the imagination or original ideas. When Kimasia talked about committing to being her creative best, it gave me a whole new perspective. She was talking about finding herself in challenging situations every single day, and stopping, just for a breath, to figure out how to be her creative best in that moment; how to be imaginative and original. I notice she never talked about being her best. She simply talked about taking a pause in the moment to ask herself the question, “What is my creative best?”
When I consider this kind of creativity, when I think of it this way, I open the door to give myself more grace. I give myself permission to think of myself as being creative. What I notice is the very things others may point to as uncreative, my dependability, my strong values, my willingness to not upgrade to new and shinier models, my predictability – these are the very things allowing me room to be creative. Because they are such a part of me, I don’t have to stop and wonder what my values are, and I can act creatively in the moment, assured I will not step on my values. When I pull out my trusty old sewing machine, I don’t take any time to wonder how it works, and all my energy can go into making creative projects. I attempt many more designs, knowing all my focus can be on the creativity, not the nuts and bolts functioning. When I pick up Benjamin to spend the day together, I don’t need to wonder about the basic flow of the day, and I can be creative within our routine. This week floating popsicle sticks down the melting ice water on the side of the road felt pretty creative to him.
I was raised with a healthy amount of advice to always do my best. There isn’t anything wrong with this, and the intention behind it was good. But I’ve never found I can be my very best every single minute of every single day. It can feel like a failure when I fall short. The truth is, I hope I haven’t found my best yet. If I have, I may quit growing. I don’t want that to happen. But I can be perfectly content being my creative best in most moments.
That said, for the record, I have ordered myself a new sewing machine.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is my creative best?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to be your creative best.