Several years ago we came up with a brilliant idea: let people write quotes on our dining room wall with Sharpie marker. Though the idea seems irreverent, it has spawned joy and playfulness in our house. People have penned favorite poems, ditty’s from the Internet, and words to live by.
A teenager who was selling magazines door to door wrote my favorite quote. When I invited her in for drink of water and break from the heat, she was agog at the idea of writing on the wall. I offered her a Sharpie, and she immediately penned, without a moment of thought, the following quote:
Be who you is
And not who you ain’t.
Cuz when you is who you ain’t,
You still ain’t.
These words inspire me everyday. They inspire me to use my life to offer the world my authentic self, rather than face the chilling last line of that poem: “You still ain’t,” a sad annihilation of the soul.
There are so many ways that we can learn about and engage our own authentic nature. We can investigate our fears, dissect our responses to comments from others, and delve into a meditation practice. Or, we could just play.
Creativity is a remarkable path to discover authenticity. Sadly, the word “creative” offers immediate mental blocks because our culture has a limited view of what creativity is. We falsely assume it is limited to “the arts”, like painting, music or dance. If people aren’t “artistic,” they often utter phrases like “I’m not creative at all!” But creativity is a part of everything we do, including:
- How we tackle a complicated problem at home or at work
- How we use our free time
- How we manage our finances
- How we string words together to tell a story
- How we support the other people in our life
- How we support ourselves
Most people presume that being creative is about producing an end product…like a fabric-covered headboard, a beaded necklace or an amazing meal. But being creative is more than making something. It is about engaging with constraints, exploration, playfulness, risk taking, failure and exposure. The process of being creative might include:
- Shedding preconceptions or constraints around how to solve a problem
- Exploring something deeply and making connections between seemingly disparate ideas
- Approaching a situation with playfulness to induce generativity rather than stagnation
- Taking a risk at work or in a relationship to do things a different way
- Failing at something gain information about it
- Exposing our ideas to the world from the perfectly imperfect human being that we are
When we engage in the world with creativity, we might not deliver a masterpiece, but there is a bigger prize in the end. When we engage in the world creatively and follow our progress on the that journey with compassion, curiosity and non-judgment, we move more in the direction of “being who we is” and further from “who we ain’t”, which is the greatest gift we can give ourselves and the world.