Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 25, 2019.
Mark Twain wrote, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Recently, the “greatest American humorist” has showed up in a lot of my posts. His wit and eccentricity defy convention. Boundless creativity define Twain and other classic writers.
Is this it in Life?
Sitting in my cubicle at my bank job got me thinking quite seriously about creativity, self-reflection, and life in general. During a long span between inbound calls, I gazed across the floor and noticed something—more accurately the absence of something. Perhaps it is the drudgery work, but I realized, my job does not reward creativity. Compliance, uniformity, and procedural elements dominate the world of finance. “Is this what life is truly meant to be?” I pondered.
Instructed to work within the limits of law, policy, and procedure, I learned that I cannot be free to create—new ideas, content, strategies, or even share best practices. Although I enjoy order, working in a solely unimaginative environment stymies my creative side. Along with my desire to evangelize and educate others on the Catholic faith, my primary motivation for writing was to satiate my creative thirst. Creativity cannot be contained. It may be limited and temporarily tempered, but it can never be truly contained.
Uniqueness Defeats Conformity
Influenced by my faith and personal experience as a father to special needs children, I place high value toward individuality. My sons require an individualized education plan (IEP) to best succeed in school. Human beings are not meant to be uniform. We should celebrate our differences, strengths and limitations all together! Authentic diversity actually leads to true unity. This is best summed up in the Catholic Church.
St. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12 speaks of the importance of the uniqueness of the Body of Christ. United by Christ the diversity of the members is graced with the ability to work for the greater good.
Another reason that containing creativity is impossible is because creation by its nature is limitless. French philosopher Albert Camus purported, “All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.” Creating art, language, music, and technology starts with the mentality of the limitless. The greatest act of creation, that formation of the Universe via the Big Bang, seems absurd. Creation out of nothing. Genesis 1 tells us God created the formed the universe ex nihilo!
The Supreme Creator God definitely cannot be contained or limited. That would be contrary to God’s nature. However, that is a grandiose example of creativity. Creation simply cannot be bound. My 5 year old daughter uses her imaginative and sees beyond the ordinary in everything. A rock becomes a “piece of chocolate”. Cardboard boxes become animals. Sticks become “silverware”. Pages and pages of drawings populate our kitchen table, bookshelves, and dresser tops. Maya Angelou describes the limitless nature of creativity perfectly when she said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”
Along with the unique and boundless quality of creativity a third reason why imagination cannot be contained is due it is spread so easily. According to Albert Einstein, “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” Opposites attract. Creativity attracts exponentially more! Great imaginative minds never exist on their own. J.R.R. Tolkien attracted C.S. Lewis and vice versa.
Together they transformed literature in the 20th century. John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborated to bring the world amazing music. The Wright brothers worked together to innovate transportation by developing the first airplane.
Whenever I feel my creativity spirit drying up I look to the creative individuals to reignite my creativity. Reading Tolkien, Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, and the doctors of the Church such as Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila brings forth creativity. Creativity elicits more creativity.
If you are a writer stuck in an imaginative idleness please don’t despair. It is natural to experience periods of droughts, but creativity is never truly lost or fully contained. Seek out other creative individuals (both past and present). Learn from their works. Creativity lead to creativity. Embrace your uniqueness. Don’t try to be anyone else expect yourself. You have a 100% monopoly on being you—let this be your advantage!