Updated: Nov 14, 2019
It always surprises me how much creative people limit their creativity as if it’s a finite commodity-- something to be rationed and used only when absolutely crucial. The idea is funny when we look at it from the outside, right? “Hah! Silly people!” you may be thinking.
But for a long time, this was the way I thought. I moved to Washington, DC after college to be an actor, and started collecting part-time jobs to support myself financially while I auditioned. I could hustle VERY well and always managed to make just enough money to pay my bills. I was a personal assistant, I walked dogs, I taught drama, I nannied. I gave tours, I waited tables. I sacrificed. I was tired. I was poor. But this is just the way life is for creative people. This is what it looks like to be an artist. Right?
Until one day, I hit a [metaphorical] wall. I stopped and looked at my life, and I had seven jobs — none of them were acting. I was too tired to audition, let alone take a gig if I booked one. I was exhausted, frustrated, confused, and ultimately unfulfilled. And I wanted more. I wanted to travel, to have kids, to retire… all the things that aren’t guaranteed in a career in the arts. And it felt like my creativity suddenly ran dry.
In the midst of my frustration, the universe introduced me to a life coach, which I didn’t even know was a thing at the time. When I told her my sad story about my creativity drying up, she didn’t buy it. Instead, she encouraged me to step out of my own way and see the bigger picture of what I wanted my life to be— to get creative not just onstage, but also with the life I was living, breaking down expectations based on what I already knew or what I’d seen of other people’s lives.
This weekend, I posed a question to a room full of women in the arts community: What if you were able to create your whole life with abandon, free from rules, shoulds or have-tos — what would you create? What if creativity was your superpower?
Some women talked about being confronted by how big their dreams were, and what would be required of them in order to get there. Some realized that they didn’t give themselves the space to dream - their creativity was usually dedicated to other people. Some wondered how their current commitments and relationships fit into those big dreams. I saw dozens of people come up against the same walls I did years ago. Walls that box in our creativity, taking it off the shelf only when we make art.
When I first started exploring the creative possibilities for my life, it felt like I was walking on a pond that had iced over (it still feels that way, if I’m totally honest). Knowing that it could be really fun to skate on, but also worrying that the ice was too thin and that I’d fall through. However, one foot in front of the other, I started allowing my creativity more reign. I started dreaming bigger, skating faster. In the few years after meeting a life coach, I quit all seven of my jobs, founded a theatre company, got married, and created a coaching practice of my own. My creativity is no longer just reserved for what I do on stage, but it inspires my work, my relationships, even my free time.
What if we lived in a world where creativity fueled everything we did? What if, instead of asking, “how can I save my creativity to fuel my art?” we asked, “how can I bring more of my creativity into my day-to-day life?” What if creativity wasn’t just how we came up with a vision, but was a tool that we used to make that vision a reality? A superpower to move past obstacles, redefine circumstances, and find solutions?