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Have you ever heard a guru, thought-leader, or world-renowned whatever make a particularly salient and resonating point, only to walk away mumbling, “I’ve been saying that for years.”
Have you ever lain in bed late at night reading a favorite author only to fall asleep thinking, “Well (insert favorite expletive here)! Now, everyone’s going to think I stole it.”
Have you ever recorded a riff, painted a picture, published a podcast, decorated a dessert, or shared an industry shattering concept only to hear, “Hey! That’s exactly what Bob said (or did)!”
ARRGGHHHH!!! It’s frustrating! You’ve been holding back, waiting for the exact right timing. Fleshing out the finer points. Making your creation perfectly beautiful. Then WHAM! You’re reminded you’re not nearly as original as you thought you were. The following days are spent wishing you hadn’t clicked the link, tuned into the show, or gone to the gala, because now, you’re a copycat. Just like Elvis, Google Home or Amazon Echo depending on your allegiance, and more than a few serial killers. Your mojo dims and you put your endeavor in the corner where it sits, looking at you wistfully.
Tell me I’m not alone. Tell me you’ve had the same experience. That you’ve felt your enthusiasm for your craft wane because you thought you weren’t original enough. That you hesitated to share your creation with the world because the proclamation that “great minds think alike” sounds so trite.
Then, please tell me that you went ahead and shared your beauty anyways. That because you know you’re not a copycat, you went back to your creation in the corner (who can ignore that look), picked it up, held it, and loved it even more. And that’s when you then saw the uniqueness in your expression of the beauty you brought to life and that then, you boldly shared it with others because that’s exactly what creativity wants us do.
Now, if you haven’t gone back to your beauties in the corner to squeeze them with love, then know there are at least two of us. But not for long. I’m on my way now, back to the corner, to pick up and hold and love the beauties I set aside and I’m inviting you to cosmically join me and do the same. I’m a slow learner and it’s taken me time to figure it out, but I got there.
So what if someone else has already spoken it, published it, designed it, constructed it, or produced it? I know I didn’t steal it. At the very most, it might have inspired me. But that’s what we’re supposed to be doing in life. Inspiring one another. Our lives are one great big tangle with creation and the inspiration we offer one another is the music that keeps the party going.
Elizabeth Gilbert, one of the great minds who thinks like me (see how trite that sounds) suggests, and I’m summarizing here, that creativity comes from without and not from within. That creativity comes from a magical realm and when it enters our mortal realm as inspiration, this is when it’s ready to become reality. That this is when creativity is actively seeking those who will hear their call. Those who will take them on and enthusiastically eat the “shit sandwich” they bring and see creativity to its gorgeous reality.
“Speak it, Sister!” I sang when reading the words of Ms. Gilbert about creativity and shit sandwiches. I was in complete agreement and not just because a few of her salient and resonating points were quite familiar.
And then that’s when I made a grave error in my thinking and turned into a creativity serial killer. I thought the call from the realm of magic was meant for one lone individual. That creative expression was a race to see who would realize the magic first. So when I heard the calls, I’d drop everything and run like the wind. Doing the work and going as fast as I could to be the one to break the tape and realize the magic first.
… that’s when I made a grave error
in my thinking and turned into a
creativity serial killer.
Inevitably, while somewhere deep in the creative swirl, I’d need some fuel and reach for the Cheez-It crackers. While munching, I’d go back into the world to see what may have happened while I was out. Time after time, I’d come across something all too familiar. My head would hang, my enthusiasm would sputter, I’d toss the endeavor that was in my hands into the corner to die, then I’d reach for more crackers.
Then recently I heard the call. “Again?” I said to no one while letting the hot water run over me. I took a few deep breaths and then, to no one I could see, I bucked up and said, “Ok biscuit, what you got?”
“Listen,” the voice said, “there are nearly 8 billion of us out there so … statistically speaking, there’s bound to be some overlap. Right?” As I was drying off, doing the math, I heard another voice: “And hey, nobody puts creativity in the corner.” Then I heard the music and started dancing.
You know, if we’re lucky enough to hear the call, don’t ignore it. Take creativity by the hand, walk onto the floor, and dance with it. With all your might. Doesn’t matter who’s watching. So again, the cosmic invitation to come with me, back to the corner, to pick up creativity and dance with it.
Contrary to Reality TV where creatives race and winners are given awards that require dusting in the future, in the reality of life, creativity is not a race. Creativity is not about racing to mark territories and get their beauties out there first. Creativity is about hearing the call and dancing in the mud with the magic. It’s about taking magic to the floor, twirling with it, and creating your own dance that will inspire others in ways you many never know about.
Creativity is about hearing the call
and dancing in the mud with the magic.
Magic, inspiration, creativity, whatever you call it, casts a wide net when it calls because one expression is not enough to make the impact on the world that creativity desires to make. The magical realm wants to connect with as many in the mortal realm as possible. Creativity knows we don’t dance the same dance, are turned on by the same rhymes, and that not everyone likes their ducks painted chartreuse. And that is what makes our individual creations perfectly unique and beautiful, because they are not the same and it’s in our differences where we see the possibilities we never imagined.
There is plenty of room on the floor for all the different twists and turns a creative idea can take and we need each and every one of them. So perhaps what you’ve created is not as original as you thought it would be. But please, don’t throw it in the corner. Add your unique touch then boldly put it out there and pass the magic forward. And for those occasions where what was created before just doesn’t get any better than that, then give credit where credit is due and again, keep the magic moving.
Listen for the call,
Capture creativity by its tail, (Ruth Stone via Elizabeth Gilbert)
Add your own 360 to it, (Kelly Casanova)
Drive it like you stole it, (Cheryl Strayed)
Put it out there on the floor,
Then let loose and twirl with the magic.