The moment it occurred to me is still a little foggy, it is likely connected to my appreciation for music and poetry. In Junior High School our English teacher introduced us to poetry and encouraged us to bring poems to class. One of my classmates brought in the lyrics to “Talking Old Soldiers” by Bernie Taupin and Elton John. I remember being struck by those words and the emotional landscape they created in my mind. I began to feel music and poetry and get in touch with how they affected my emotions. The entire Tumbleweed Connection album by Elton John became a favourite. Perhaps if I had the right words to describe it, I would have then called myself a “creative.”
But the actual act of creating would take some more time to grow within me. The first things I created were musical performances. I would interpret a song and sing it for an audience. I did not recognise the first few performances as creativity. What eight-year-old understands creativity when the choir director encourages them to sing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”? Yet, it was a creative performance by a boy tenor. In later years I found myself working for many hours and days to give a dramatic performance of a song or a whole character’s worth of musical drama for a church musical. I began to understand why someone might create ice-sculptures. Ice-sculptures are a very pure form of creativity because after all the work that goes into them, the resulting piece of art has a very short lifespan. The same can be true for a vocal performance. After it is over, it is remembered for only a short time. The work that went into it may live on in the performer’s mind but not as much in the mind of the audience members.
Eventually, I began to write my own songs: a few worship choruses for church and then a “lost love” ballad. To this day, while collaborating with others, I have written or cowritten over twenty-five recorded songs. Far fewer than Rivers Cuomo from Weezer, who puts out more music than that in a year; yet twenty-five songs in twenty years still qualifies as creative.
It has slowly dawned upon me that I am a “creative.” I like math, biology, and physics and did well at those in school. I worked for thirteen years in molecular genetics. I can still use my scientific mind to solve basic functions like how long a rock will fall when dropped from a fifty-metre height. But since then, the creative side of my brain has been leading a quiet coup d’état. Writing poetry and music has led to further developments like writing hundreds of speeches, approximately one-thousand blogs, a novel, and a non-fiction book. Although I am very much a generalist who does not focus on one thing for long periods of time, it is fair to give myself that creative label. It frees me up to focus more on creative aspects of life and to let other things become slightly less important. Calling myself creative makes me comfortable in my own brain.
The slow-burn of a charcoal fire is greater than the rapid flash of a firework. Is there a flame growing in your life, dear reader? If you went back to school tomorrow, what studies would be your focus? Would it be physics, math, biology, athletics, poetry, history, languages, ceramics, paint, culinary arts…? How do we allow for the slow dawn of mental or physical gifts in our life? How do we create space and time for these? The joy of finding something that we love to do is certainly worth the effort. Do I dare to say, “I am creative”?