Creative is something I think is an action word. I think we are all born creative, but some people like to label others as creative. Truly, though, I think everyone has the potential to be creative or to use the creativity that they were born with. It just needs a little action underneath it.
I was watching an interview on the Internet with Taylor Swift. Her music may not appeal to everyone. I have heard people complain about each of her songs being about breaking up with this guy or that. Truly, though, if you hear her story, you can’t argue with the fact that this girl figured out the creativity math at a very early age. She didn’t sit and admire everyone else; she put that drive into action. Each of her songs is a story. A story that came from within her. She set them to catchy tunes, then belted them out in her best voice. And she started at age five!!
Most of us don’t believe in ourselves long enough to hit it big like Taylor has. We start something, then doubt it, or get distracted. We set it aside for weeks, months or even years – sometimes dabbling in it for a short period; sometimes never going back to it at all, as we sit and envy those who kept at it till their craft was well-polished.
Mainly, though, I think it is quite common to fear the passion that drives creativity. I admire those, like Taylor Swift, who let the passion be their guide. They let it become who they are.
My story is pretty much like the average guy. I dabbled in my creativity, tossed it around, loved it, hid it, forgot it, came back to it, judged it, feared it and eventually – embraced it!
When I was in second grade, I wrote a story. It was one of those things that just come to you, and you decide to write it down, no real goal in mind, except to put it on paper. My mom read my story and thought it was good enough to send to The Weekly Reader, a periodical for children. She mailed it off, and I remember checking the mailbox every day till, finally, there it was – a letter from The Weekly Reader!!! I was so excited to open the envelope, but when I read their response, it was not what I had been wishing for. Although they thought the story was good, they would not be publishing it. The disappointment was huge! I felt my mother’s disappointment for me, and I made a subconscious decision to not experience that feeling again. I let that rejection douse my passion.
When I was in fourth grade, our art class was assigned a project where we took fabric and other items and made pictures from them. I took fabric and yarn, and I made a picture of a little girl with a smock and bell-bottom pants of fabric, hair of yarn, and I actually won a ribbon for it. I remember standing in the hall of the school that always smelled like erasers to me. My mom stood beside me, starting up at the display on the wall, so proud of my work, and I was proud, too. I stared at my creation and wished she were a real girl who could be my friend.
When we were allowed to take our pieces home, I hung my picture on the wall of the bedroom that I shared with my two older sisters. After a while, I grew tired of looking at it, took it down, and put it in the closet. It had lost its power – or more like, I had put water on that fire. It was too much for me, and I saw the girl as just a piece of paper with glue and fabric stuck to it.
When I was about nine years old, I went to my mother one Sunday afternoon. It was the only day that we were allowed to just play and do whatever we wanted. It was our day of rest. No chores. Just church, and then freedom. My siblings always seemed to have something to do together outside – ride motorcycles or horses, or something like that. Things that didn’t interest me much, and I didn’t feel that I fit in. I don’t know that it was a fact, but I did feel that I was the only one that was bored with free time. I would go to my mom and complain, and she would threaten to put me to work if I didn’t find something to do. Even so, this Sunday, I whined to her anyway, desperate for some direction.
It was this day that my mom decided to teach me to make patchwork quilts. She showed me how to use an envelope as a template to cut squares of fabric, and she showed me how to arrange them the way I wanted them, and then, to sew them together. She helped me layer the top, the batting – which was usually an old blanket, and the backing. Using red yarn, she showed me how to tie the layers together. There were parts that she did for me, but as she did so, she showed me, so I could do it when I got old enough to perform the tasks myself. This was my first lesson in quilting.
I loved making quilts. I made one for my dolls, and then I made one for my bed. After that, I got busy being a kid, having friends and just indulging in life and school. It wasn’t till my daughter was eight years old that I found myself going back to that craft. As with many inventions, need was the motivation. I needed Christmas to be bigger. I was scrambling in my mind to figure out some way to come up with more gifts to give to the children.
My husband, who is a carpenter, said he could make our son a toy box that looked like a truck, and I decided I would make our daughter a quilt with her name appliqued on it. When my project was complete, my best friend loved it. She and her husband were having tough financial times, as well, and she decided to make one for her mother. A bit short on fabric scraps, she went to the local fabric store. While there, she saw a quilting class advertised that was going to be held in the spring. With much coercion, she convinced me to sign up with her.
This class was where it all took a new direction for me. It was in this class that I learned that quilts didn’t have to consist of only squares or rectangles. There were endless possibilities. My friend and I became obsessed with quilts. We learned to quilt by machine, and then, intrigued with Amish quilts, we taught ourselves to quilt by hand.
Again, life – work, children, husband – took over, but I always had a quilt in the making. Quilting lifted me up, gave me purpose, and I was never bored again. The little girl that I had created in the fourth grade art class had become my best friend. She was my creativity!
It has been twenty-four years since that quilting class. The techniques I was taught brought a new sophistication to my craft. Since then, I have watched the art of quilting expand with possibilities. Quilting has become an art. No longer just a need and a way to keep the family warm.
I don’t know what I would do without my quilting. The feel of fabric between my fingers and the transformation that takes place, as each color takes a new shape, meets with another, and becomes something new altogether feeds a hunger inside me that nothing else can.
Writing is still part of my creative venture, as well. Despite rejections from The Weekly Reader and many others, since that summer so long ago, I still find the words bubbling up in me, asking to be put “on paper.”
In 2003, I was laid off from my job. I had been writing essays and memoirs for fun, and I journalled my way to clarity. When this unexpected fate of losing my job interrupted my flow and shook my norm, I was presented with more time on my hands than I was used to. At a wise man’s suggestion, I took some distance education classes in writing. It improved my skills, and it gave me more confidence, as I received A’s for my work.
My daughter, a photographer and artist, and I compiled a book of my writings and her art illustrating my work together. It was a mother-daughter creative venture that we will always have. Our artist friend gave us an opening at one of her classes where she presented us and our creation to the group where several in attendance bought copies from us. It was a powerful night of affirmation and empowerment.
I’ve had a couple of poems published in chapbooks, but the truth is that I write – because I have to!
Creative is an action word. Between quilting and writing, my mother will never hear me utter the word, “bored.” I believe we all have a little Taylor Swift in us. Maybe we aren’t meant to receive a Grammy, but I do believe that the fulfillment of letting the creativity flow through and then out of us is something that everyone needs. When you are in your creative flow, it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing or what everyone else has. It takes you to a world all your own, where nothing matters, except the joy that creating brings.