We have a lot of cool breweries here in the Shenandoah Valley. One of my favorites is Basic City. It's a great gathering spot with the best wood-fired pizza and arugula salad. They've even got live music, shuffle bowling with that bizarre gritty powder to sprinkle around, and a claw game that my son Truman cannot resist. Good times.
It was at Basic City - shortly after we'd moved to Virginia - that I met a woman (I think her name was Mary but I'm not 100% sure) who asked me what I did for work. I told her, at the time, that I was in nonprofit management for an organization in NY and, so, was very busy with travel, etc.
Her next question was, “Well, do you have a creative outlet?”
I was a bit stunned - it wasn’t your average small-talk question and it made me really have to stop and think.
“No, I guess not” was the answer I came up with. And, as I turned it over in my mind, it occurred to me that I hadn’t ever considered creativity as a big factor in my life. In fact, whenever the topic came up I said things like “I’m not very creative” or “I wish I were more creative" reflexively. Besides, I didn't even have the brain space at that time in my life to read for fun, let alone CREATE something.
But, this one unconventional question from a stranger sparked me to start thinking differently about the role creativity plays in my life. And to start to admit that I can be creative, that I am creative - that we all are - and that creating is what we’re here to do. I realized that my narrow ideas about who and what constitutes creativity - artists, performers, makers, etc - was limiting and wholly incorrect.
Creativity is not just about art. It can take the form of problem solving, program planning, communications, process improvement, even budgeting. And work-related creativity can be nurtured by practicing other creative things for fun - like drawing and writing and knitting and singing - to name a few. First recognizing the ways we are already creative and then improving those natural tendencies helps us grow into more effective professionals. And, when we help others recognize and tap into their own creative genius at work, we become better leaders.
Consider the busy executive director who won’t make time to start an organizational blog or create regular thought-leadership content for her industry. She may view these activities as extra, unnecessary, self-serving, or unimportant - or believe that others will see them this way. Actually, these creative projects would position her as an subject-matter expert and could bring her organization more visibility - with far-reaching benefits for the mission.
Bringing your creative interests with you to the office can enhance your productivity and help you make even more meaningful contributions to the organization. You may think that creative endeavors are a waste of time or that your team members are too busy to get creative - but you’d be mistaken.
What if your position could be about more than pushing papers, making deadlines, and crossing off to-dos? What could you, and your organization, gain if you brought your whole self - creativity and all - to work each day?
When "Maybe Mary” heard me say, “No, I guess not,” she looked dismayed.
“You should try to find one. It’s really important," she replied. And then, poof, she was gone.
My takeaways from that memorable encounter are this:
1. Recognize that you, no matter who you are or what you do, are in the business of creation.
2. Understand that dedicating time to developing your natural creativity will enhance your life and work in every way.
3. Oopsproch Lager is my favorite pour.