Think Outside Your Box

I was doing some research at work the other day, and I came across a blog post with the most peculiar message.

It was about how the author (an architect) takes great pride in his drawings, and views them as an opportunity to express his "artistic" side.  

I scoffed.  

Technical construction drawings are the farthest thing I can think of from artistic or creative expression.

But his words kept nagging at me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he is RIGHT.  

I may have been making a huge mistake in my life by wishing and waiting for an opportunity to be creative, rather than turning what I'm ALREADY DOING into that very opportunity!

I have a very narrow idea of creativity in my mind.  For me, it consists of writing, creating art (i.e. painting, drawing, making cakes, sculpting, etc.), any kind of crafting, jewelry making, decorating and party planning.  I don't really branch out much beyond those things.

But creativity can be SO MUCH MORE.

Dan and I were talking the other day about creativity for men.  He was arguing that guys sometimes express themselves differently than women, but it is creative expression none-the-less.  For example, a guy who spends his free time re-building an engine may view that as a highly creative endeavor.  I personally view it as the worst kind of torture, but that's just me.  Different strokes for different folks.  Or what about the way that Dan tricks out his truck and boat.  Or the hours he spends organizing his fishing tackle.  That looks like a real snooze-fest to me, but he is honoring the very deepest parts of himself when he engages in these activities.  He is painstakingly caring for a dream and a vision that he has for himself.  He is devoting time and attention and effort to his heart's desires, and he is practicing self love by allowing himself to enjoy something so thoroughly.  If that isn't creativity then I don't know what is.   

I had a conversation with a structural engineer this week about the various ways that we could attach a guardrail to the edge of a concrete wall.  It was eye-opening to see how he thought through creative solutions to the problem at hand.  He was passionate about steel and concrete, and thrilled when we came up with the simplest, cleanest and most cost effective solution.  I never thought about structural design as an expression of creativity until that moment, but it IS.  Or at least it CAN BE.

Any time you are engaging the deepest parts of yourself and acknowledging your true interests and passions:  that's creativity.

Any time you are making connections between things in your world, putting them together in new and interesting ways (whether it's physical objects or ideas):  that's creativity.

Any time you are actively engaging a problem and developing a solution:  that's creativity.

Any time you are figuring things out on your own, rather than waiting around for someone else to do it for you:  that's creativity.

Any time you are making time and space in your life to do the thing that your soul longs to do:  that's creativity.

Creativity is using the brain that God gave you.  It's fully engaging with what you are doing, and doing it to the best of your ability.  It's looking at a problem and allowing yourself to think outside of the box for the solution.

Yes, creativity can be expressed through art and music and writing, but it can also be expressed in the way you live your life.  Creative Living.  This is how you engage with the world; how you do things, how you pay attention, how you interact, how you carry yourself, WHO YOU ARE.

I worked at Red Lobster for a number of years back in college, and I will never forget one particularly busy day when my sister and I were on dessert duty together.  I was slinging key-lime pie and cheesecake like a mad woman, some of my plates looked like piles of sugary wreckage.  But my sister was carefully and lovingly creating each dessert, decorating every plate like she was freaking Martha Stewart.  At one point, the manager came over, looked at my sister's work, and demanded to know who had created that dessert.  We looked at each other in alarm.  "I did" my sister said timidly.  "Good work!."  the manager barked and turned on her heel in the other direction.  

That's creativity.  Taking any task you are given or situation you encounter, and putting your heart into it - owning it and using all of who you are to accomplish the task.

"How you do anything is how you do everything."

So the good news it:  we have no excuse to not engage our creativity on a regular basis.  We don't have to wait around until we have a week off of work to devote to our creativity.  We can  be creative NOW, with whatever we find ourselves doing.

When I think about my career in terms of this new idea of creativity, what I start to realize is maybe the key to a fulfilling career lies in finding ways to combine elements of the things that your soul longs to do.  

I woke up this morning with an overwhelming desire to do graphic design.  There is something about organizing words and images that makes me feel alive.  And even though I haven't done much graphic design since college, it is still there, as much a part of who I am as the fact that I work every day as an architect now.

I've been watching the Great British Baking Challenge this week, and watching those contestants lovingly baking pies and pastries stirs up a lot of the same emotions in me as graphic design does... it's another part of who I am.  I LOVE to bake, my soul longs to do it sometimes.  

So, while my role at work is an architect, that doesn't mean that I can't approach my job duties with some creativity and identify ways to incorporate my passions into that.  I can utilize my design skills, my intuitive knack for organizing and laying out images and words, my love of baking (ok, maybe baking is a stretch but you see where I'm going with this).

We need to figure out ways to bring ALL of who we are to whatever we are doing.  I've been guilty of keeping various parts of myself separate, I get into "technical" mode, or "creative" mode, and neglect to utilize the whole of my abilities.  But creative living requires us to bring all of who we are to everything we do.  Nothing less will suffice.  That is what we are called to do.  No one else on earth has the same perspective, the same background and passions and point of view and ideas that I have, or that you have, and no one ever will.  It is up to each of us to share our passions and talents and ideas with the world, or else they will go to waste.  And what a terrible shame that would be.  

What about you?  How can you approach what you are already doing in a more creative way?

Let me know in the comments.  I'd love to hear from you!

Till next time,


© Haley McManigal 2016

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