Here in Melbourne, we’re currently in the thick of a cold, dreary winter. As I write this, the wind howls through a gap in the window and the fire flickers in the background – burning for the fifth day in a row.
Winter is traditionally a time for rest and retreat, and with that – at least for me – comes reassessment. Today, I did a quick check-in with my goals for the year, and was pleased to discover that I’m making good progress on many of them – though failing spectacularly at spending less time on social media. An endless battle, right?
As often happens this time of year, even after this checking in and re-evaluation, I feel a little unsettled. A bit disconnected from goals that – in light of recent global events – feel rather meaningless. In fact, my ability to make sense of the world and my place within it feels about as chaotic as the crazy wind outside. Somewhat unexpectedly, I’m beginning to realise that the older I get, the less I know. This was not the deal! Yet (reluctantly), it makes sense. As the years pass, our awareness expands – and with it, the world grows bigger, badder, more unfathomable. Sometimes, to be honest, when everything feels a bit heavy, I’m convinced being alive is a fool’s game. There is simply too much that can go wrong, too much to lose. Think about it too long, and I’d never leave the house – nor let my loved ones leave either.
It’s adrift on this mix of uncertainty and confusion, that I find solace in three things only. Love, of course. Mother Nature too. And finally, creativity – both as a consumer and a creator myself. Why? Because creativity gives me a framework within which I can make some – albeit abstract – sense of how it feels to be alive. It allows me to question, explore, express, to get lost in the manual repetitiveness of a craft – sometimes the only thing that can successfully still my rampant mind. Somehow, this all occurs on a cellular level that feels both ancient and current.
Once upon a time, like many people, I thought creativity equalled art. I would sit myself down dutifully with my folio, pull out my pencils, and let my fingers take the lead. Sometimes, this was a blissful experience – just-the-right music aiding my flow and beautiful creations emerging with very little effort. More often though, it is a disappointment. I rip pages out of my journal. Get frustrated at my inability to replicate what I see in my mind’s eye. Compare my art to the amazing work of others. And so, predictably, my art practice became sporadic. Despite being creative every day as a copywriter (my one consistently-dependable creative activity – thank goodness!), I had seemingly failed as an outside-hours creative.
Until, I realised that being creative is so much more than crayons and watercolour. Creativity is rescuing old apples destined for the bin and turning them into scrumptious, steaming apple and cinnamon muffins fresh from the oven. It is making a home by combining new things bought with intention and old things imbued with character and family history. It is delighting in the fronds of home-grown fennel and the vibrant pink of a radish. Discovering old books that inspire and open our hearts to new worlds and ideas. Closing our eyes and getting lost in a piece of music. Adorning ourselves in beautiful, quality clothes. Or, even better, sewing them ourselves – like my Nana used to do. It is communicating our love in thoughtful ways. Planning a party. Following our curiosities. Devoting to a project. Standing up for a cause and speaking our truth – even when it’s hard.
Really, creativity is just the medium via which we explore and express the truest, most tender parts of ourselves. And by doing so, we are able to connect with the people around us. How often have you looked at a beautiful painting, read an excerpt of a book, or eaten a delicious meal made with love, and thought – deep in your bones – “Yes, I feel it too.” Often, we can’t actually explicitly define what ‘it’ is, and yet there in that expression – plain for all to see and experience – it is.
Through pain and pleasure, creativity anchors us to the essence of what it is to be alive. After all, what is life but an endless exploration of ourselves and the world around us? A process of putting it all out there, getting it right, getting it wrong, trying again – and again, forever blundering forward. To me, this is what it means to live a creative life. It is living with intention, searching for more, being brave enough to share our truth, living with our whole hearts, fully feeling the risk in every breath – and journeying on regardless.
And finally – amidst the chaos, the struggle, the endless, unknowable seeking – it is trusting the universe to paint an even more magnificent picture than we can imagine for ourselves.