All Living Is Creative Living

“This I think is the question upon which all creative living hinges: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you?” -Elizabeth Gilbert

This question is for you. It’s for me, too, but it’s also for you. Every life is a creative life. All living is creative living. We are all creators. We just create differently.  We can’t limit our definition of “creating” to just the art world we typically think of. Creating is much more than painting, designing, writing, sculpting. It’s more than photography, songwriting, singing, choreographing, dancing, acting. Creating is storytelling, and we’re all just trying to tell our stories to the world. Everyday, that’s all anyone is really saying: understand me. Listen to me. Know me.  

All living is creative living. 

Have you ever felt nervous to show someone something you made or wrote or did? Have you ever felt the sting of a less than fabulous review for that something you put out into the world?

I know you have, because every life is a creative life. 

Everyday that you’ve showed up to work for someone, you’ve lived a creative life. You have done something uncertain in front of someone else. This is the ultimate fear beneath creativity: what will they say about what I show?

This is why Elizabeth’s question is so pertinent: do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you? To put it less poetically (despite my dangerously poetic tendencies): are you brave enough to really show up? When it’s time (and it’s always time), will you be authentically present, or will you choose to safely hide behind certainty? Will you roll the dice and pour your heart into it, or will you live in a template in efforts to avoid what “they” might say?

I can tell you now, straight up, when the critics come out and have one small not-so-pleasing word to say about my work, I wish immediately I had chosen the template. I wish I had hidden. I wish I hadn’t shown up, because, man, what a blow to such an intimate part of me.

When I launch an idea and someone says, “That’s never going to work,” I wish I had kept my stupid mouth shut. 

When I display a painting and someone says, “It could be better,” I consider never showing my heinous work again. 

When I share a writing and someone says, “That was pointless,” I think about how great it would feel to never feel this way again. 

All living is creative living. If you’re doing it right, everyday is stage-fright. Everyday is wondering if it will work. Everyday is being afraid of what they might say, but having the courage to bring forth those hidden treasures. 

As an artist, I have felt the ebb and flow of shame and pride in my work, and thus, I dare say I would never criticize what another artist puts out into the world. I see every production as an extension of someone’s self, someone’s courage. To say, “I could do better,” is to say, “Your courage was not enough.”

The truth is, though, as long as you showed up, you won. There can be no “better.” It pains me to hear other artists say, “I could do better.”

But the same is true in the world outside of art, too. Every life is a creative life. If someone is brave enough to show up, who are we to say the way in which they showed up wasn’t good enough? We are all here asking the same questions and begging the same things: understand me. Listen to me. Know me. I think one of the greatest shames is that we haven’t recognized that, yet. 

Let us put down our scoring pads and stop judging—as artists and as people. Let us each show up uniquely, authentically, courageously, and let us allow others to do the same.