Unused Creativity

During the last 8 months, I’ve watched many people come alive with creativity while staying at home during the pandemic. Whether baking bread and discovering new recipes, taking on new home decorating projects, or deciding to learn that new instrument or language on their bucket list, I saw examples all over my social media. I wasn’t one of them.

The first couple of months, we focused on adapting our business to the new reality. Sure that required creative energy figuring out how to make the in-person sessions we do translate to the virtual world. But logistics, marketing, and communications dominated. Then we decided to use this window of time to update our internal systems. Much needed, but very consuming. The little creative work I’ve done for the blog or social media lately has been last minute and under the gun.

And I’ve felt it. I’ve been feeling surprisingly burned out and couldn’t figure out why. We’re not traveling as much as we used to so that should make things easier, right? Actually, no because when we travel I always explore and photograph the place we visit which is part of my creative outlet. We’re fortunate to be able to continue doing our work and create a playful energy in the virtual space. But for the facilitator/teacher that I am, it’s not the same as being in the room with and creating the experience for people. 

Like the image, I’ve let the cobwebs grow instead of replacing that unused creativity with something else. And I’ve been experiencing a lot of frustration lately. When I used to teach, I experienced a lot of similar frustration, but for a different reason. Then I had lots of creative ideas that I wanted to use and develop, but no time or energy because of all of the other administrative work required of me. I can only imagine what teachers managing remote and in-person learning while having to oversee decontamination practices today must be experiencing.

If you are one of the people that have uncovered new forms of creativity during this pandemic, keep doing it! And don’t stop once things open back up. Pay attention to how happy it’s making you now so you'll remember later. For the rest of us, notice when you feel frustrated with yourself and others. I can tell you from my own experience, the frustration might not be caused by the thing you think that is right in front of you. That’s probably just a scapegoat for your playful, creative self that’s been dying for some attention. Squeeze in a little bit of time wherever you can for her/him.

Now, I’m guessing there’s a few of you saying what I would have said many years ago, “Oh well, that’s not me. I don’t have any creativity.” For you, I share the full Brene Brown quote that I saw in Creative Calling by Chase Jarvis. “There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There’s just people who use their creativity and people who don’t. And not using it doesn’t go without penalty. As it turns out unused creativity is not benign, it’s dangerous.”

So maybe don’t call it your creative self to start. Maybe call it your playful self if that makes it more comfortable. Or maybe think about it as finding flow. Maybe start with activities you already enjoy or maybe try something new. For me, the key has been recognizing the creativity cobwebs and making the connection between them and my current burnout. Now I know what I need to do.