All Over the Map | October 2015

By Liz Massey, October 2015 Issue.

Every year, Echo publishes a fabulous arts issue. Perhaps because I am a writer and because I was born into a tribe of passionate amateur musicians, I think about creativity more than the average person, probably even more than the average creative person.

For six years, I published a blog entitled Creative Liberty, which I dedicated to “celebrating and exploring the creative process.” You can still find it if you Google my name and the name of the blog together, although I’m no longer adding new posts.

Blogging for that long about creativity shifted my opinions on what creativity is, who possesses it, and how it functions. In the beginning, I thought the blog might support a creativity coaching practice; I quickly realized that for me, trying to coach artists would be like trying to coach (very talented) house cats, and that it would be a more natural fit for me to share the wonder and joy of the creative process with those who found it exhilarating too.

As I studied the dynamics of creativity and interviewed artists and innovators, it was inevitable that I would ponder the supposedly “special” relationship that LGBT people have with creativity. The conclusion I came to is that I don’t believe queer people are naturally more creative ... What I think actually happens is that necessity is the mother of invention, and when members of our tribe have been threatened by a hostile dominant culture, they’ve used their creativity to adapt and survive – often in colorfully transgressive ways.

During my blogging period, I came into contact with a lot of people who created just for the joy of it. Sadly, I also interacted with a lot of people who refused to admit they were creative because it wasn’t how they made a living. I came to understand that one of my roles in life is to act as an agent provocateur of creativity – someone who finds ways to entice ordinary people into creating their own paintings, stories, dances, songs, parties, games, etc. This role has an element of activism in it, for people who can rely on their own ingenuity are typically also people who can survive hard times,  and who don’t depend on the media or consumer culture (or, God forbid, ministers and political leaders) to define their lives for them.

So, even though my blog is essentially on permanent hiatus, I’m still a passionate pied piper for creative activity. If reading the Arts Issue whets your appetite to bring more creativity  into your life, here are a few suggestions I can offer.

Everyone has the potential to be creative.

Yes, everyone. You, me, your sister, even the grumpy man next door.

Not all creativity is artistic.

There are profoundly creative engineers, teachers, landscapers, research scientists, nurses, even project managers. As psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”

Creativity follows a process.

It may not always be visible, and different people have described it in different ways, but there are definitely factors that encourage creativity (open-mindedness, curiosity, suspending judgement) and discourage it (competitiveness, anxiety, criticism).

Complacency is the biggest obstacle to creative work.

Thinking there’s only one right way, or that you have to be right 100 percent of the time, is a sure way to see any original ideas you might have dry up and blow away. I find that I have to constantly shake up my perceptions by “cross pollinating” my brain with ideas from people, industries, cultures and topics I might never seek out otherwise.

Owning your own creative power is a profound act of self-love.

Allowing your creations – music, art, dance, first-rate soups, home decorations, or whatever – to come to life prevents a sort of emotional stagnation that I find nearly unbearable. And letting others see you being creative can provide inspiration for their own creative journeys.

LGBT people know better than other cultural groups that creativity isn’t primarily a pretty frill whose purpose is to entertain the power elite; it is, at its most glorious, a shocking, powerful, disruptive force that upends the traditional order of things. It’s that sort of creative power that we truly celebrate with our Arts issue. As author Tom Robbins in “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues” put it, “In times of widespread chaos and confusion, it has been the duty of more advanced human beings – artists, scientists, clowns and philosophers – to create order. In times such as ours, however, when there is too much order, too much management, too much programming and control, it becomes the duty of superior men and women to fling their favorite monkey wrenches into the machinery. To relieve the repression of the human spirit, they must sow doubt and disruption.”

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