Exercising our creativity
Sept. 19, 2016
by Ivan Raconteur

I read an interesting opinion piece by Laura Johnson in the Star Tribune recently titled “We all must make time for creativity.”

I enthusiastically concur with her assessment.

Imagine how boring life would be if we didn’t exercise our brains periodically by participating in creative activities.

I’m fortunate to work in a career that offers a fair amount of creative expression.

Even so, I look for other creative outlets that require different skills whenever possible.

Most recently, I’ve been doing some pencil drawing and dabbling with acrylics.

The drawing was a challenge for me, because I was scarred deeply after the infamous Pictionary incident of 1989 during which my comrades made disparaging remarks and taunted me about my rendition of a horse.

I put down my pencil after that, and didn’t attempt to draw anything for years.

Taking up painting was also a daunting experience for me.

Painting a picture with words is comfortable and comes very naturally to me.

Trying to do the same thing by applying a brush to canvas is another matter entirely.

Fortunately, with the encouragement of a colleague, I had a moment of enlightenment that allowed me to move forward with both drawing and painting.

I realized that it is the process that is important, not the result.

I’m reasonably confident that nothing I paint is ever going to end up on the wall of a gallery, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have loads of fun and get satisfaction from doing it.

In her opinion piece, Johnson related the story of teaching a painting class to a group of corporate executives.

The goal was to recreate a sample painting of a tree and some flowers.

The executives were terrified and hesitant to begin. They wanted specific instructions and the results all came out looking very similar.

Johnson noted a week earlier she had taught the exact same class to a group of Girl Scouts aged 9 to 11.

The girls couldn’t wait to get started. The results included wide trees, skinny trees, tall trees, and short trees. None of them looked the same, and the girls couldn’t have cared less. They had a ball.

Johnson raises an excellent question. When does the transition take place?

When do we switch from being joyful free-spirited children who take delight in creating things guided by our own imaginations, to rigid, critical beings who think everything has to follow strict rules?

When do we acquire the arrogance that makes us think we need to excel at everything?

Somewhere along the line, many of us lose the natural skill of creating things simply for the fun of it.

I’m glad I figured out the value of creativity when I did.

I’ve had some great laughs when I try to draw or paint a simple object, only to end up with something that looks nothing like the original.

Stepping (or taking a giant leap) out of our comfort zone can teach us that things aren’t always as easy as they might appear.

I don’t have to be an artist to get joy from applying paint to canvas.

Even basic skills such as mixing colors to try to get a certain shade can be rewarding.

I’m happy to say there is hope.

Not everyone is like the group of rigid executives who attended Johnson’s art class.

I’ve been delighted to watch the increasing popularity of creative adventures, like those places where groups of people can go and create a simple painting in a fun and supportive environment.

Perhaps they even enjoy a glass of wine or two while doing it, and they end up with something they can take home at the end.

That’s far more beneficial and memorable than sitting at a bar gossiping.

Other classes in which people can do simple art or craft projects are also popular, as are classes in things as diverse as sausage making and furniture building.

All of these things allow participants to think creatively and do things they haven’t tried before.

There are practically no limits to the creative projects we might choose.

It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, and we can do it just for ourselves.

Johnson challenges her readers to make time in their lives for creative activities. This is excellent advice.

Once we get past the fear that people might make fun of a horse we drew, or something else we created, we can roll up our sleeves and begin a wonderful journey of discovery that can last a lifetime.

There’s no reason we have to leave that kind of fun behind when we graduate from the sixth grade.

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