Annie over at No Hat No Gloves wrote a lovely piece the other day about finding contentment. You can read it here. Her post perfectly dovetails with an idea that’s been rattling around in my head for days. An idea precipitated by an e-mail I had from an organization called Creative Mornings. All about investing in ourselves and our creativity. How creativity is something we can choose to nourish… or as they put it… something in which we can choose to “invest.” The email goes on to say that “to live a sustainable creative life [we should] say ‘yes’ to the choices that bring richness into our lives.”
Okay. I’m all about bringing “richness” to my life. If not riches. Ha. We all know from reading the tabloid headlines in the grocery store line that riches don’t necessarily bring richness. But I’m digressing already.
So, I’m interested in cultivating richness in my life. And in cultivating creativity. I think too many of us dismiss creativity as something which has no connection to our day-to-day lives. We think of creativity as the exclusive province of those who have talent in the creative arts, like painting or drawing. When all kinds of things we do in our lives require creativity. Even sometimes just living our lives. I’ve always loved Harrison Ford’s line from Raiders of the Lost Arc when Sallah asks him what he’s going to do, and he tosses back, “I don’t know. I’m just making it up as I go.”
I love that movie, and I’ve seen it a fair few times. My friend Susan and I used to show it to our grade nine classes when we taught mythology and the classical hero. In fact, choosing to show that movie to our kids was an example of creative thinking, I think. When we taught in the same school, Susan and I used to plan our courses collaboratively. We had so much fun doing that. Casting about for ideas, then bouncing these ideas off each other, coming up with big picture objectives, talking excitedly about possibilities, planning our outline, setting timelines and tasks, who would do what and when.
Sometimes we’d even split up topics which suited one or the other of us better, and then swap our classes for a day or so. We did this with our senior university prep class one year. Susan was a history major; she could teach background and historical context like nobody’s business. She has much more historical knowledge and understanding than I do. I would have had to do a ton of research, and then still be hard pressed to field unexpected questions from the class. But I could go gangbusters on the open-ended, airy-fairy kind of stuff. Lobbing a question at the class about interpretation, and then seeing where they took it, eventually shepherding them in the direction I wanted them to go. I loved doing that. I’m smiling even as I write this.
But to get back to my topic, working collaboratively was, for Susan and me, a kind of investment in ourselves, as well as in the kids. I think Susan would agree that those were heady days in the classroom for both of us. And out of the classroom, come to think of it. Planning together stimulated our creative thinking. We benefited by having better content to share with our classes, the kids had way more fun, and we gained greater professional satisfaction in knowing that we were doing good work. Working together, investing in ourselves so to speak, added richness to our lives, and made us better, more creative teachers. And it kind of cemented our friendship.
The idea of creativity and where creative ideas come from has long interested me. We used to discuss the creative process a lot in my writing classes: the importance of observation, ‘feeding the muse’ as one source called it, the incubation of ideas, and then inspiration followed by plain hard work.
There is nothing I love better than “feeding the muse,” casting about randomly for inspiration. Being open to the world around me, hopefully building new ideas of my own. Only nowadays these ideas aren’t used in the classroom. They usually end up as blog posts, or as outfits. Which then end up as blog posts. Ha. There is so much scope for things to write about.
And being retired I can cast about to my heart’s content. Happily sitting on my exercise bike, listening to new podcasts, reading a book, or listening to my favourite shows on CBC radio. One idea leads to another, and to another, and sparks a memory, or makes me think of a line from a book I read last week, or something Hubby said on the ski trail, and pretty soon I’m off down a blogging rabbit hole.
While I pedal, I may watch five videos, one after another, on fashion. Or listen to the latest That’s Not My Age podcast, or a new Slightly Foxed one. Activities which make me inordinately happy and which I love for their own sakes. Hubby calls this “doing my research.” Only now I guess I can call this “investing in myself,” if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. Because these activities add what the Creative Mornings people call “richness” to my life.
You see, I think that the “richness” that Creative Mornings e-mail was talking about doesn’t have to be something earth shattering, or particularly deep, or startling. It doesn’t have to be climbing Mount Everest, or hiking up Machu Picchu. Although Machu Picchu was pretty enriching, even though we didn’t hike up. It could be something as small as a cool little video about planning an outfit. Or a conversation with an earnest young waiter in a restaurant in Herzegovina. Or the sight of a bunch of miners from all around the world laughing and drinking beer in a small lodge in Quebec. Richness can come from anywhere; there are interesting and quirky and notable things happening all around us.
It could even be the fact that my mum called my sister Carolyn yesterday on her birthday to describe to her the night she was born. Apparently there was a big thunder and lightening storm. Which my sister and I both thought explains a lot. Ha. “Real life pathetic fallacy,” Hubby just quipped from the kitchen. Wouldn’t that make a wonderful scene in a novel? Not the birth, or the storm, just the phone call. From a 92- year-old mum to her 71-year-old child. At the very least, Mum telling Carolyn that story created a story for me to tell you.
And now here’s where Annie’s blog post on contentment comes into play. You had to know I would make it back there eventually.
I am perfectly content when I’m on my exercise bike, or skiing (or walking) along the trail, listening, letting my mind roam, thinking, making connections, whatever. Free to do something with whatever idea comes to mind, even if it’s just sharing it with Hubby in the coffee shop afterward. Or maybe to do nothing with it at all.
The good thing about being content is that you are able to be happy. Not maddened with joy or screaming loudly as you jump up and down, but quietly jovial. A sort of internal buzz.Annie Green
Of course the very best thing is to pound away on the keyboard sharing my random thoughts with you guys. That makes me content. And happy. And as Annie says, gives me “a sort of internal buzz.”
By the way that Will Barnet painting above should be titled “Contentment” in my view. It makes me think that I really, really need a cat.
It’s your turn now, my friends. What do you have to say? What do you think helps you to live a more creative life? No matter the form that creativity takes.
P. S. I first heard about Creative Mornings on my friend Frances’ blog, Materfamilias Writes. Frances wrote about attending one of their events in Vancouver a couple of years ago. They are a very cool organization with branches all over the world. And they hold free events in many, many cities. Maybe yours is one of them.