In Depth: Creativity

In Depth: Creativity

This article is part of a series on Brenè Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection.” For more on that, see this post.

Guidepost 6: Cultivating Creativity (Letting Go of Comparison)

Finally, I thought to myself as I approached this chapter, a guidepost I already do and don’t have to worry about.


Oh yeah, I’m a creative person. I do a lot of creating things. I knit, I crochet, I do some hand embroidery. When I first read this book, that was about it. And to tell you the truth, while I believe there is some creativity in all these things (and certainly some bravery in trying new things and learning) I pretty much just follow patterns that are already written. I don’t necessarily challenge myself to go outside my comfort zone in these types of creativity. I was happy and comfortable there, making stuff and feeling smug about doing that whole creativity thing. After all, Dr. Brown says that the opposite of creativity is depression, and if we’re not creating, we’re stifling part of us. I got this.

Except. She also says this:

The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.

Brenè Brown

Oh. Following patterns isn’t exactly that kind of creativity. Nothing wrong with it, and there are certainly creative elements of yarn and color choices and pattern tweaking. I realized fairly quickly though that what would really satisfy the needs of this guidepost for me was to be much braver, and much less sure of myself. I took up jewelry making.

Instead of a pattern to follow, there were infinite options, no skill to speak of, and a lot of opportunities to compare myself and come up short. I’m not going to lie to you, it sucked. It still does, sometimes. But I still make jewelry. I challenge myself to sit down at that table at least once a month and make something, anything, that is just from my brain to the finished object. No pattern, no support. Just doing. It is hard and stressful and has the impact Dr. Brown describes in her book–it opens up my whole world. I look at things differently, I see beauty and opportunity and sparkle more. I see art in the broken places more. It helps me feel more open. Pushing past the discomfort of not being good enough to make a thing helps me feel here, now, and whole.

Another concept she addresses in her book “Rising Strong” is that engaging with a process creatively helps cement it inside us. She calls it “moving from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” She strongly recommends we write our shitty first drafts on paper, literally allowing our hands to work the words into being. That way, it’s more than just an intellectual exercise, it becomes something deeper in us. As we rumble with emotions and struggle with how to share what we know and change our lives for the better, each time we tap into the process creatively, we go deeper. I often encourage people to paint or sculpt something, to create a piece of art of some kind (any kind, seriously, someone I knew once did an interpretive dance as part of this work and it was stunning) that speaks about what they are struggling with. The more we can do this, the more we get that change deep within us.

Are you creating? It doesn’t have to look like art in the way you imagine, it can be as simple as creating a safe space to mediate in your home or a special bed for your favorite puppy. Find ways to create that are yours.