De-Cute-ing + Reclaiming the Word "Creativity"

photo by  anna denisova

photo by anna denisova

Creativity has become a bit of a buzzword lately.

Creative business owners. Creative entrepreneurs. Creative living.

All of these terms are thrown around without too much thought about the definition of the word itself.
What does it mean to be creative? 

What I’ve been seeing in the online world for a while now is the general watering down of this term. It is floundering and drowning in flowery scripts pasted to pinterest boards, over-priced online courses, and endless hashtags (that I myself am guilty of using, to be totally candid).

The word creativity has always meant a lot to me. It is a major value that my parents instilled in me basically since birth- encouraging play, exploration and thinking outside of the box to solve problems. So naturally, when I see this term being used to describe someone’s business or work, my ears perk up. 

When I was building this original website just over a year ago, I found myself drawn in by the allure of advice from “creative business owners.” I was seduced by the image of this sparkling online world and constructed my site around a lot of the research I had been doing at the time. However, I began to realize that the problem was that this image was often nothing more than just that: a superficial version of “creativity.” A buzzword used strategically to fool people into thinking that the work being sold is unique. I had almost fallen prey to those images of laughing, glow-y faces with some kind of caption that boils down to “I am a creative and you can be one too if you buy what I’m selling you!” I don’t say this to throw all people who claim to be creative business owners under the bus, but to bring awareness to the intentions, layers, and thought-processes (or sometimes lack-thereof) behind what these terms and images present. 

Often when you are trying to create something original, there can be such a thing as too much external research. My phase of reading far too many of these cutesy, aesthetically pleasing articles and advice columns on “branding” yourself, how to build a spectacular website, social media outreach, and properly titling blog posts may have ended up hindering more than helping my personal online growth. I spent hours perusing other websites, reading their snappy, sweet, hi-I’ll-be-your-new-best-friend kind of about me pages and even though I’d like to think that I have a fairly distinct voice in my writing and content, I feel like some of this “research” started to leak into my own work a little too much. I don’t mind being friendly and approachable (that’s how I tend to be in real life), but I don’t by any means want to be a one-dimensional and glossed-over version of myself. Because at the base of it all, this space is created to present myself as an artist. Not a hobbyist, baker, best friend, or Tangier ex-pat. Those may be other parts of myself, but this site specifically is home to my artistic, working, dancing and writing self. 

Bottom-line? I needed to de-cute my website and therefore de-cute the definition of creativity that I had been seeing all around me.

My new redesign (which is really more of a fresh coat of paint on an already sturdy structure) was motivated by recently rereading my own about me page and realizing that there was a little bit too much influence from all of this old “creative entrepreneur” research I had done at one point. It was time to dig a little deeper and focus more on writing and creating this content from the inside out, instead of working from external inputs and influences. 

To return to that sense of internal work, I reflected on my own creative roots. Going back to the kind of artistic play that my artist parents always encouraged, I was reminded of the childlike wonder of discovering things by yourself through trial, error, and constant experimenting with various possibilities of what can be made through different mediums. It is not about searching for all of the answers from people who have already figured things out. It is more about finding multiple answers within and around you that often lead to deeper, more probing questions. I used to do this naturally when I would write fictional stories or create theatrical games with friends. Now, because there is more information and complexity present in my life, I have to actively bring myself into that headspace of original discovery and open experimentation within art. This, for me, is when I feel the most creative. 

However, redefining creativity for myself is not all an internal process. I still love finding inspiration from others, but it is about focusing and finding the right, most resonant sources for me, personally. This means turning away from what already exists in the online “creative” blogging world and instead turning to authors and artists who I deeply admire.

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I could probably write an entire curated collection of creativity as defined by people who inspire me, but one of the descriptions that stood out most recently was in the beautiful book The River of Consciousness by Oliver Sacks. He defines creativity as,

“that state when ideas seem to organize themselves into a swift, tightly woven flow, with a feeling of gorgeous clarity and meaning emerging. ...It is at once not me and the innermost part of me, certainly the best part of me.”

This resonated deeply because it involves, again, that moving from the inward out. It is bringing what you already have inside of yourself towards some kind of external revelation- shedding new light on the shadowy parts in order to see more clearly. 

We are our best selves when we are truly creative. 

Despite it’s overuse in contemporary writing and the online domain, I am determined to continue using the word creative to describe myself and what I strive to put out into the world. Terms are watered down all the time- love, happiness, joy, gratitude, etc.- but that doesn’t make the truth of them any less important. In fact, it is the complete opposite. We need to reclaim these words back from the people who use them simply to sell- whether it’s products, classes, or a branded image of themselves. I am not saying that they have no right to use it, but just that we should not let this exclusively define the term.

Creativity pushes limits, leaps over walls, and crawls out of boxes. I think we sometimes need a gentle reminder that just because a box is painted with pastel watercolor swatches on the surface does not make it any less of a box. Let’s reclaim creativity for the people who are truly exploring what it means to be creative- those who are thinking outside of all of the boxes. I am trying my best to be one of those people (it’s a process, as all things are).