I’d always seen creativity as a finite resource. Something with limits. Something you use up, like gas in a tank—except that once it’s been consumed, you can’t easily replenish your supply. There aren’t any fuel tanks of creativity dotted along the highway to fill up at when you’re running low. You either have it or you don’t.
Commodifying creativity has been problematic for me. My “creative spurts” tend to be accompanied by a sense of panic, because I never know how long the creativity will linger for this time—maybe the day if I’m lucky, maybe the hour. I’d exhaust myself trying to make the most of it while I was on a roll, because I figured my crash was bound to come at any minute.
That’s probably why I have so many unfinished manuscripts and design projects. That’s probably why I feel overwhelmed whenever I’m charged with a creative project at work. That’s probably why it took me a whole decade to eventually return to writing again—because I was waiting for creativity to find me. I would live in a state of perpetual pause for the “perfect” moment or the ideal conditions to write, to reflect, to innovate.
The problem in this kind of thinking is that “not feeling creative enough” turns into a scapegoat. An excuse. A hindrance to our personal development, spiritual curiosity, and professional productivity.
Ken Wytsma turned my perception of creativity on its head when I read his book Create vs. Copy. Creativity is not reserved exclusively for the artistic elite amongst us, according to Ken. Rather, all humans were made to be creative, innovative, problem-solving human beings. It’s not that some people “have” creativity and some don’t “have” it—it’s that we ARE creative. All of us.
“Embracing creativity is embracing what’s already inside of you,” says Ken at the beginning of his book. This is good news—yes, for artists and innovators and entrepreneurs, but also for nonprofit workers, church goers and leaders, students and teachers, parents, and—well—everyone.
Creativity is not a finite resource after all. It’s a “mindset of imagination and potential”, as Ken puts it.
This is groundbreaking for me. When I was in the final stages of writing my first book, When Justice Just Is, I was plagued by fear that I was pouring all my creative energy into this one book and would have none left over for future projects. But when I think about creativity the way Ken does, I feel empowered. It means I’m no longer a victim to the fleeting moments of creative “spurts”. I’m no longer on creativity’s waiting list. I’m my own steward of my creative potential.
Whether I publish one more book or ten or none, my story isn’t over. My creativity isn’t dead. It’s as alive and part of me as the breath in my lungs. It’s not something that gets “used up”. If anything, creativity is something that multiplies the more I exercise it.