Today I’m getting ready to head to the badlands and talk to a group of health educators about creativity, what it means and how we achieve it.
To be creative is somewhat of an abstract idea and for me, a title I was dubbed with at a young age when my parents noticed my affinity for costumes, weird hats, singing made up songs and spending time writing stories about a cowboy clan or a turtle that found himself up on a fence post…
And while I think some of us are born with a louder or larger gene that compels us to create, to express and to feel and wear those things on our brightly colored puffy sleeves, I believe that every one of us has it in us a tendency, a need, to express.
And I believe that the tendency comes from the need to help the world understand us.
And then, maybe, the other way around.
Because there’s so much going on here. There’s so many of us humans out working on the earth and some days we all just feel like we’re walking in a herd, or following one another in a line on that ribbon of highway that takes us to and from a destination.
But sometimes that destination is one worth talking about–what the sunset looked like reflecting off his face, how the rustic taste of red wine on your lips made you want to quit your job in the mid-west and move to a vineyard in the mountain.
How you fell in love with her because her brown eyes, tan skin and warm voice reminded you of the dessert where you were raised.
And how the ocean waves look like wheat fields when the wind blows back home and though you could never live on the sand, that water is somehow a part of you now.
I was focused on getting somewhere and I forgot to roll the windows down and let the wind mess up my unruly hair.
Then the summer sun turned my skin brown again and I found my notebook and I started poking around the place to see if I could find those missing pieces.
And so I picked them up, one by one: my curiosity, my small but determined muscles, my dirty bare feet and windblown face, my determination to get the gates closed on my own, the smell of the plum blossoms, my well-intentioned helpfulness and unwavering clumsiness and tendency to break farm equipment, and my affinity for hats…
And something in me woke up again. That little girl who followed the creek every day after school building forts and singing at the top of her lungs emerged slowly in an enthusiasm for the discovery of the first sweet pea of summer, or the rush of the snow melt in the spring and then the sound of the frogs. And that girl wasn’t scared then of falling off horses the way she was yesterday, because she felt a little braver out here among the trees and rocks and grass that knew her so well…and they said welcome home.
And so today I’ve been thinking about all this, this creativity. This thing we call inspiration. And I think, never in my life have I been as inspired as I was when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen years old and the world was small but open and I wasn’t out in it yet so it didn’t have a chance to hurt me and show me that there are a million people out there with ideas that are better than mine.
When you learn that sort of thing it’s hard to keep wondering about words you are sure have yet to be said or songs that just need to be sung.
And so we might wake up one day to find that we haven’t sung for months, and then one day it will be years and that is it then…
But I never wanted to stop singing and so when I came home I looked for my voice.
And I found it in all of those missing pieces I picked up…
So this is what I think now, that when I was eight or ten or twelve or fourteen I was creating because I was looking to understand myself and how I fit in this world. I was creating because I found it all so fascinating, the way those frogs croaked, the way the crocuses came every year after the cold. The way I could keep growing and changing but this place stayed the same and loved me anyway…
I’m a grown woman now. Twenty-one years after my tenth birthday and I know some things about myself that I didn’t know then.
I know that I grew up and kept my hair long. I know that I never stopped riding horses, something I worried would happen to me.
I know that I will live the rest of my life in this place, a place that keeps me climbing to the tops of hills to see what’s growing and how the sun will look when it hits the horizon tonight.
I know now that it is this place where I am most curious, most inspired, most lost then found, most frustrated, most relieved and most myself.
And I know now that there are a million reasons to keep quiet and stay in line, but there are also a million pieces of you out there waiting to be picked up, put back, rearranged, set out on your sleeve, screamed from the hilltops, explored and written somewhere in a book for curious eyes.
So you see, I think it’s the gathering that is creative. It is that gathering of those pieces that make us beautiful humans in this strange and beautiful world.