NOTE: This is adapted and modified from something I wrote on Facebook a few years ago.
I’ll say up front that I am a Christian, and I believe people were made in the image of a Creator; subsequently, all people possess some form of creativity. In some way or another, each person can be creative, given the right circumstances. Granted, creativity is not limited to artistic expression, as creativity is the very essence of life; creativity is what transforms some cloth and poles into a tent, sheltering people from the elements. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m making the distinction between those people like me who live for or gravitate toward creative outlets and those who are less inclined to be creative as a means of self-expression.
The first thing is to ask, “What is creativity?” Google’s dictionary defines it as “the use of the imagination or original ideas, esp. in the production of an artistic work.” Creativity is essentially the ability to produce something new or different, usually intriguing, using whatever resources are accessible. Creativity turns an ordinary cardboard box into a fort, race car, spaceship, or even a non-ordinary cardboard box.
But how are creative types different from those who seemingly lack creative self-expression. What makes a person creative anyway? What qualities do creative types possess that link them together yet at the same time make each person different? I’d like to share just a few qualities we have in common. This is based on personal experience and knowledge of other creative types, not meant as some scientific or groundbreaking discovery. For the sake of needlessly using an acronym to emphasize points, I’ve used each letter in “creativity.” Creative types are
Curious. Creative types are by nature inquisitive explorers; we venture where others are not willing to go or try things others are not willing to try. When it comes to being creative, we overtly or subconsciously ask the question, “What if…?” or “Is this possible?” Creativity is not about seeing things and the world as they are, but seeing them as how they could be; it’s about considering possibilities or looking at potential. A canvas is but an unstarted painting, a sheet of paper but an unwritten poem. Curiosity is but a starting point, for while not all curious people are necessarily creative, all creative people possess some sort of curiosity within themselves. “If you have ideas, but don’t act on them, you are imaginative but not creative.” — Linda Naiman
People less inclined toward creativity may think us curiosities or just plain weird for not seeing things as they are or were; conversely, we may think non-creative people are dull or rigid for not seeing possibilities.
Resourceful. Within the creative process, you may be restricted by resource limitations, but in creativity, the only true limit is one’s own imagination. It’s not about what you don’t have; it’s about what you do have or can access. Basic economics teaches us that resource limitations are a part of life, which means we do not always have what we need to accomplish what we want. But we work with what we have. Creative types like to find ways to get what they need by using what they have available in order to accomplish a goal. If what we have does not help us directly accomplish our goals, we like to find ways to indirectly reach them. For example, you want a new costume idea but don’t have money to afford anything, so you look in your closet and start piecing together old costume parts to modify a creation of your own design.
Emotional. This is twofold, for it speaks of how we relate to what we do and how we relate to other people. When it comes to being creative, there is sometimes an attachment to what we design, especially when it is for whom or what we care about most. When we really get into the creative process, we may figuratively and/or literally pour our blood, sweat, and tears into whatever we are making, sometimes at the cost of basic necessities. Simply put, we can get proverbially lost in a project, but it might be how we best express who we are deep down. Whenever we design anything that requires much effort, it becomes a part of who we are; it tells others, “this is what I do because I want to” or “this is something important to me.” Think of the author who spends hours inside a room with just paper and pen, until words form sentences, characters, and worlds; these are the ones who truly understand how a story takes on a life of its own. Because what is produced is an extension of oneself, there can be an emotional attachment to the process or the end result, and in that process is found a kind of joy or happiness.
Relating to people can be different than relating to what we produce, but it is through creating we connect with other people. When it comes to people, some creative types may seem emotionally distant on the surface, but they really do have emotions that might not always be easily expressed with physical or verbal gestures. Emotions may simply be better expressed through one’s work or even by giving one’s work freely to others. Other creative types may be more emotionally-expressive than others, lashing out and “unleashing their wrath” should their work be disrupted (or perhaps it’s an immaturity on their part), but it does not mean they only care about themselves or their work. If you don’t think they can be given to emotions, think of children who are often proud to have their “masterpieces” adorned on the fridge by their parents.2
Adaptable. Humans have an inherent need for a sense of stability or consistency; without such things, life’s problems will overwhelm a person. However, life is all about change, for change is inevitable. The only way to survive and thrive in change is to be adaptable.
Because creative types possess a willingness to try out new ideas and methods or to explore new places, new situations do not necessarily scare or intimidate them. If forced into strange or uncertain circumstances, creative types will eventually find a way to work within the situation. Adaptability allows us to become who and what we need to be for a given situation in order to survive. Our ingenuity, which is a combination of adaptability and resourcefulness, allows us to find ways to work within new settings and thrive when resources are limited. Since we cannot always control our circumstances or have resources readily available, we learn to work where we are and with what we have in order to accomplish a goal. Of course, end results are not always as expected, but adaptability also allows us to change the goal to match available resources.
Tenacious. It may seem counter-intuitive or contradictory, but creative types are flexible yet stubborn. While we may be willing to accept change and work within our circumstances, we are not so easily willing to give up on a project or idea, especially when so much time, energy, and/or thought processes have already been personally invested. When one method or idea does not work, there can be a willingness to try a new approach, albeit sometimes reluctantly. While there are times we want to quit, our determination may compel us to keep going toward some perceivable goal. This drive for project completion can result in sleep deprivation; we sometimes will spend countless hours trying to get “that one thing” just right.
Inspired. While creativity does require imagination, our ideas are probably inspired more often than we pull anything from our own imaginations. Almost any idea you can think of has probably been thought of by a thousand other people who lived before you. This is why creativity does not always mean completely original and why similarities of other ideas or concepts may often be recognized in different people’s work. Being inspired is different from blatantly copying someone else’s work. Appreciation of someone else’s idea, which too may have been inspired, can be noted by the joyfully-exasperated question: “Why didn’t I think of that?” Appreciation is not to be confused with begrudging an unspoken idea being somehow stolen or that someone else beat us to the proverbial punch.
Varied. “Variety is the spice of life.” Creative types are likely less drawn to the “same old, same old” and may become bored or uninspired doing such tedious tasks others are more comfortable doing. There is a joy found in learning or trying something new or creating something different. Creativity is also not limited to one design, one area of expertise, or one avenue of self-expression. A really creative person can produce different designs in the same area or function in different areas; in fact, some individuals may thrive better with multiple outlets of self-expression.
Additionally, the thinking of creative types is probably less linear than other people who only see results, for we might be seeing the beginning, middle, and any number of endings all at the same time. We might be considering many ways to get to a destination, noticing the details other people miss, or perhaps dreaming up ideas others can’t envision. While mechanical routines can feel boring or wearisome, the internal thought processes of the creative mind can generate excitement. Creative types may seem to lack “one-track mindedness” in some areas, coming across as less focused on the mundane or more absent-minded, mechanical processes, but they could simply be lost in their own thoughts and/or creative processes.
Imaginative. Creativity requires imagination. Imagination is the only true limit to being creative. You will hardly lack for ideas if you possess and exercise your imagination, even if you lack the resources to accomplish your goal. An original idea may not necessarily come from one’s own imagination, but imagination is needed to put all parts together, to envision the final outcome before a project is started and as it is going. When everything is pieced together, it can result in a truly remarkable and memorable piece that started in someone’s imagination. Granted, while creativity does not always mean something completely original from start to finish, in some cases it can, yet this may be what is most considered when people say something is creative.
A huge part of who we are, imagination is a piece of our childhood we never truly gave up nor wish to give up. Side effects may include getting lost in thought easily and/or talking happily about things which might not actually exist.
Talented.3 While anything or anyone can inspire ideas, no amount of lectures, book-reading, or knowledge increase will make someone creative. These things can and do spark creative ideas, but they do not make someone creative. Creativity cannot be taught, but it can be cultivated. The ability to really express ourselves creatively is something we either possess or we do not, but even if we possess it, it must be cultivated to grow. Even the most creative people you know probably have works that they look back on and would disown, if not for their emotional attachment and how much they have grown since then. Once upon a time, some of us only knew how to draw stick figures or Tic-Tac-Toe boards.
You-nique. This is the crux of creativity; it separates originality from carbon copy. Uniqueness is the difference between making something our own and just simply imitating what someone else is doing. While similarities are normal, each person’s style, method, medium, etc. of expressing ideas is as different as the person who generates them. If two creative people are given the same assignment and tools, each could conceivably produce something completely different.
What makes someone creative? There’s not really one set thing that separates us from those around us. Creative types are curious about the world around them, and they use what they have available to make things happen. They may become attached to their designs, but they are not emotionless robots or self-centered sociopaths. They roll with the punches but do not give up easily. Their ideas are inspired by others. They like variety and may often imagine things differently than how they are. Creativity comes naturally to them, but more than anything, they are unique in how their creativity is expressed. In short, they are not all that different from less creative types; really it’s only that they engage the world that isn’t with the world that is.
I am creative, and I embrace this.
As another year comes to a close, I thought I’d take a look back and briefly summarize how my life has changed in 2016.
I started this year by working a night job I’d been at for over five years. I was feeling more and more burnt out as time progressed and in some ways losing touch with reality. But for a few anchor points, I could barely keep days straight, as one bled into the next. Also, due to my awkward sleep and work schedule, I missed out on opportunities for social interaction, which helped perpetuate feelings of isolation. I felt trapped and didn’t know how much longer I could take it.
Things began to change within a few months, as I started looking for work elsewhere. In mid-April I found a different job that seemed a good fit, even though it was a line of work I wasn’t familiar. From my brief interaction with some of the employees while interviewing, they seemed to enjoy what they did. In addition, it was better pay and hours. After accepting the job offer, I soon began to feel a pending sense of freedom. I think I’ve spent the past several months still recovering from the physical and mental damage of having worked nights for so long, but that time shift alone was enough to begin recovery.
After being there less than a month, one of my coworkers tried setting me up with her kids’ former nanny. About a month later (this was June), I was meeting up with a wonderful woman for what would become the first of many dates. By the end of October, we were engaged and are now looking forward to our wedding in April.
What started out as a somewhat bleak year in my life has ended up becoming one of the best. There were high and low points during this year. Some bad decisions and some good decisions were made along the way, but by God’s grace I made it.
Onward to 2017! It’s going to be an interesting year.
What do I want for Christmas? What should I get my family? Which store carries what I’m looking for?
This is the time of year when many of us ask those and many other similar questions. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve each year, people spend so much time and energy looking for that perfect gift, fighting crowds and traffic to find “the one present they’ll never forget.” But I bet if you ask enough people, they’ve forgotten more gifts than they can remember, especially if they’ve lived long enough. Sure, a gift here or there might stand out in memory, but think back five or ten years. Do you even remember who gave you what or what you gave to other people for Christmas?
Every December, people get so caught up in the madness of the season, but how many people ever stop to ask themselves WHY? Why do we give gifts? What is the purpose of this annual tradition that puts so many people into debt and causes so much stress? We spend so much time hunting, buying, wrapping, giving, opening, and then quickly forgetting the presents, and in that there’s a hollow emptiness. You can go through the same ritual year after year, but you’ll always find yourself with things that eventually break, disappear, gather dust, or just leave you feeling empty when you finish. In the gift-giving process, it’s so easy to lose sight of what’s important, or rather whom.
When gifts are given, they should point us to something greater; they should remind us of the relationships we have, rather than being an end in themselves. It’s a far greater gift to have meaningful relationships you can’t buy than to receive the most expensive things someone else can. We can give gifts to people we love and care about, but then as recipients, we might get so caught up in the gift itself, we quit thinking about the person who gave us that gift and quickly become ungrateful. Just go online and you’ll see people making big stinks about the gifts they didn’t get. They’re even willing to take out their rage on the people who didn’t give them the gift they wanted or supposedly deserved, all to the amusement of others, instead of being grateful for the gifts they did get or recognizing that someone else loved them enough to want to get them something at all, perhaps at great expense, just for a trinket the recipient won’t remember in a few months. And that’s a great sadness.
But it’s not just the world who does this. How often do we who are Christians forget the ultimate Gift Giver, while seeking to enjoy the gifts we’ve received? We can get so focused on the gifts themselves, instead of remembering the relationship with the One who gave us those gifts. When we get some gift we didn’t ask for or want, or when we don’t get what we want, we throw a fit and get angry at God or other people in our lives. Or we get the gift we want, but then we lose focus on the One who gave us that gift, and we turn the gift into an idol that eventually leaves us feeling empty.
So this holiday season, as you spend time trying to find gifts for other people or trying to figure out what you want yourself, take some time out of the seasonal chaos to remember giving gifts should not be about the gifts themselves but about the relationships you have. Whatever you get someone else or someone else gets you, those gifts will likely be forgotten or go unused in a few years or months time. Instead, remember it’s about the people you have in your life; besides, sometimes the best gift you can give someone else is time.
People love adventure stories: stories of good versus evil, of heroes and villains, and of conflict and resolution. In some ways, many of us dream of having the sorts of adventures we read or hear about as children. Though each story is different, serving its own purpose, each is created by a person, one who might be recognized and long remembered for his/her accomplishment. Within each narrative, characters perform certain actions as events unfold, but the author controls the story. So what if I said we are part of a story? If you think about it, life could be considered one giant story written by God, and when the story is over, He will be remembered, glorified in fact. Keep reading, and I’ll explain what I mean.
Off the top of your head, how many authors can you name who used the landscape of adventure for their portraits and are considered by many to possess good quality or excellence in their field? Perhaps J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, or George Lucas, just to name a few. Granted, they have their critics, detractors, or people who just don’t care for their work, just as we all have in whatever we do, but no one can deny they have the ability to grip readers and pull them into a world that is imaginary but at the same time can seem very real. To the reader, this world within the story exists within its own reality, constrained by its own rules and restrictions, troubled with conflict. Characters are created with their own personalities and quirks, stories are told, evil is eventually defeated, and who is remembered for all of this? The author. To those who finish a well-told story, they are rewarded with such satisfaction of having known what happens and how it ended, but something greater happens beyond that. More than just enjoying a story being told, readers often remember who wrote the story, the author’s name becomes a part of human history, and s/he is then recognized for outstanding work. Why shouldn’t they want or accept what they earned, even if recognition might not have been the purpose in creating the stories.
It should be noted that an essence of good storytelling requires some sort of conflict that is ultimately resolved, but a good author will not interrupt a story’s flow just to accomplish this. While characters’ actions move a story along, they must behave within certain parameters or be considered “out of character,” which can ruin the story. Yet if you think more closely about the concept of a story itself, you have to ask some philosophical questions. Do authors ultimately control stories in which characters take on lives of their own? In a story of good versus evil, if clearly-defined heroes and villains are known by the readers, is the author berated for creating such characters? When there is long-lasting conflict within a story that is ultimately resolved with the death of the villain and the end of terror that plagued the other characters, is the author blamed for including or allowing evil within the story? Though negative elements are part of a story, is the author’s ability to tell a story condemned for poor quality work by including them? Or is the writer more likely to be praised for creating something compelling, designing a work of art in which readers invested a lot of time and energy following to its conclusion? While the answers may be obvious, consider that there might be something deeper.
What am I getting at with all this? The Bible, our lives, and God’s glory. From Genesis to Revelation, we read a story. A story of God’s love and faithfulness. A story of how He created a perfect world, yet evil entered the picture, ruined everything, and continues to exist for millennia, but in the end, everything will be resolved, and the Author will have recognition. Now the characters within a normal story live their lives and make their choices, for good or for bad, in order to move the story along, all completely unaware of the author’s involvement, that s/he is really the one in control of everything. The characters are unable to interact with the author; that author doesn’t even cross their minds, as any interruption by the author to the story’s continuity would lessen its quality. But we exist in a different kind of story; it’s a story in which the Author is not visibly seen, yet the characters are allowed to know of His existence and even interact with Him, often pleading for such interruptions that would make other narratives become lesser quality. Sometimes we often wonder how things in our own lives will turn out okay; we may not like that problems occur, people die, or even that suffering exists, but we are part of God’s story, and that’s a story with a different purpose.
The purpose of human history is to bring glory to God, yet with all the evil that exists, we sometimes wonder how that can be accomplished. How will the fact that evil exists in the first place ultimately glorify God? With all the bad stuff that happens to us personally, how is everything going to work out for good in the end? Even more theologically, how do we rectify God’s sovereignty with human freedom of choice, while maintaining our sanity? If God is ultimately in control, do we really make choices? If we’re able to make choices freely, is God really in control? And if He is in control and evil exists, is God responsible for evil?
If you think about God as an author, you can begin to understand a dichotomy that often puzzles many people. As an author, God is writing a story, a story in which He created characters who essentially took on lives of their own. The characters (that’s us) live our lives and make our choices, for good or for bad. In some ways, those choices advance the plot of this narrative we call “life,” but it is really God, the one who is ultimately in control of the story, who is moving everything along. We don’t know the outcome of everything, but He does. The Bible tells us how the story ends, and while we know that all evil and suffering will eventually cease to exist, what then will be the result? When all this life is said and done, God will not be condemned for all the evil that ever existed, as many are want to blame Him for; on the contrary, just as other authors are noted for their skillful writing, He will one day be praised for His excellence, His ability to tell a compelling story.
Maybe you’ve never thought of it this way before. Authors create compelling stories filled with good and evil, and those authors are often remembered, maybe even revered, for doing so. They aren’t chastised for the bad that was included in the story but are recognized for the quality of their work, and although the characters still possess a freedom of sort, the author really controls the story. In much the same way, God too is an author, and He’s writing this story in which we exist and freely move. We may not understand how everything fits together, but in the end God will receive the glory. That’s what it’s all about anyway.
Let me say right off the bat that after 5+ years of working nights at the same location, I will soon begin working a daytime job somewhere new! The short version is this past week I was offered a daytime job, which I accepted. For a while I’ve hated working nights and how it’s impacted almost every aspect of my being (and sanity) and for a few months have been looking more seriously for daytime work. I am not even sure how to describe my thoughts or experience; it wasn’t exactly horrific, but it was far from a good thing. I am so ready for this next chapter in my life to begin, but at the same time, I’ve started processing how this change will affect people and remembering these past several years. As I also thought about it over the last few days, I’ve also realized the timing couldn’t be more perfect, even though I never I intended it this way or at this time. I’ve mentioned before a bit of my view on change, how it can be exciting and/or scary, but my past is an integral part of who I am today.
As I’ve been getting myself ready to start a new job and finish the last week at my current job, I look forward to the future. I started to think of different possibilities I’ll soon have, things I’ll be able to do, events I’ll be able to be a part of, and so forth. It’s been somewhat exciting to know I won’t have to be sleeping while life goes on around me. I may be losing whatever freedom people imagine I had not working during the day, but I’ll more than make up for it for it by having the opportunity to be around other people and feeling less isolated from humanity. So I’m more than happy to feel alive at the cost of no longer feeling dead.
Even though I’m ready for the transition, I also have a bit of nostalgia in me, so saying goodbye and leaving somewhere is not always easy, especially since I spent over five years with the same employer, seeing the same people, and getting used to their presence. As I was considering the future, I was also reminded of the first time certain things happened at my current job, although some of it seems so long ago. I remembered when I first met certain people or experienced certain events. I think of how much has changed since I started, who’s still there, who isn’t there, what we do differently, and just different thoughts about what was then and what is now. In some weird way, I know I’m going to miss this place. I won’t so much miss the building, because it’s just that: a building, but I did spend all of my late twenties going to the same job at the same location. I will miss the people I worked with on an almost-nightly basis, even if I didn’t always get along with some of them (not getting along is sometimes part of life, right?). Most of them I don’t know outside work, unless we became friends on Facebook, but I still saw them each and every work day, excluding vacations, holidays, etc. While I was there, I assessed some of their strengths and weaknesses, and I learned something about part of their lives away from the job. I saw people come and people go. I worked under four different shift managers. I changed job positions twice myself, and I saw multiple changes in how we processed work. In some way that’s hard to describe, that place and the people I’m leaving have been a part of my life.
Of course, like most jobs, each day was a mostly predictable routine with little deviation from whatever the norm was, even if there was a new norm after each significant change in how we processed work. Despite whatever changes occurred, I learned just about every aspect of my department, as I became trained by other people or picked up little bits of knowledge from them. I’m also detail-oriented, so I did figure out a few things on my own, as well as notice small but important details, but most of what I know was learned from other people. Due to my years of training and exposure, I’ve come to understand how the process works, how each step could help or hinder a following step in the process, and how to resolve seemingly-minor issues when they arise. I also understand well enough the hardware and the software we use in our business, which has made me a reliable source of information when something doesn’t work right. Because of my knowledge base, if someone was needed to perform just about any task within the process, I was a go-to person, even if I wasn’t always happy about it. There’s a part of me that values desirability, as well as variation of work, but trying to focus on multiple activities at one time can be stressful and somewhat chaotic, and sometimes I just wanted to focus on and finish whatever task I was currently dealing with. Although I do know a lot about the work I currently do, I’ve tried to pass on to other people what I know on how to address issues that arise.
Granted, I am not the only person who is able to do what what I do, regardless of different methods or ways of seeing problems. The business was around long before I was there and has changed since its inception, so I’m confident there are others who can do some, if not all, of what I have done for these past several years; after all, I did learn most of what I know from other people. I think I can point to each job detail and remember exactly who taught me what; I merely brought together the knowledge I gained from other people in order to accomplish our goals each night as seamlessly as possible. Other people may not understand or see issues the way I do, but the people I’ve worked with are capable of learning what they need to know. Sometimes all it takes to solve a problem is thinking critically, understanding necessary details, and testing possible solutions. You just have to be willing to try if you have the freedom and willing to fail if the solutions don’t work.
As to the timing being perfect, I couldn’t have predicted it would happen when or how it did. I was scheduled to be on vacation next week, so even though I’m leaving a few days shy of two weeks after giving my two-week notice, it’s still technically two weeks because I wasn’t going to be present anyway, due to vacation. But more importantly than the logistics of my leave notice, a somewhat significant change in work flow will be happening where I currently work. Beginning later this week, some sort of upgrade/modification none of us really knows anything about will take place; although, the upgrade is built upon a preexisting process. It was an upgrade mentioned by our site manager last year or the year before, and I was interested when I first heard about it; in fact, some time prior to that, I had pitched a similar idea for this modification to someone else, so the idea intrigued me probably more than most other people who heard about it. Since we know so little about the upgrade, what information we do have is limited, while our questions are less limited. We do not know what sort of impact, negative or positive, it will have on how we do what we do. This change starts two days before the end of the week, which is an awkward time to try learning something new and perhaps complex. As someone who is familiar with certain aspects of the system being changed, I’ll be one of the key players in the initial transition for those first two days. After that short time period, things get interesting, but I won’t be around to assist.
Since I was initially scheduled to be gone for vacation right after those two days, it would’ve meant I would return after other people have a week to run into issues and learn things we might not in those first two days, but then I might run into any issues they miss while I’m gone. However, because I accepted this new job offer, it means I will be leaving entirely after those two days instead. Now this might seem like a bad thing because I’m leaving everyone right after a major upgrade and they’re going to need me because of my problem-solving ability, but in reality I know as much about the upgrade as anyone else, so we’re all going into this thing together somewhat blind. While I know the machines and what we do really well, other people know these things well enough themselves. If I were only on vacation, everyone else would be able to spend that week learning things none of us currently knows, and they would learn them without my help. As to whether someone else or I would figure out some problem no one else will be able to, I don’t know, but as I mentioned earlier, I believe the people I’ve been working with are capable of learning what they need to know, even when I’m not around. I may have understood and solved certain problems in ways they couldn’t or noticed issues they didn’t catch, but I’m sure they’ll be fine without me.
As to what sort of impact my permanent absence will leave on those to whom I came into contact during my employment, I do not know, but I hope my presence was mostly positive. As for me personally, it’s time for change, but you will be missed, even if I only saw you at the office.
Update: The upgrade was not nearly as dramatic as anticipated; in fact, we misunderstood what was going to happen. The upgrade we were expecting will come later, at some point soon after I’m gone, but what we got was a patch to help with the forthcoming upgrade. As much as I’d had my hopes up of seeing everything in action, it’s just as well. I may missed that opportunity, but there are other things I’ll soon be seeing and learning. Time to get excited about that.
…in 26 words: