But I’m Not Creative… and Tomato Basil Tart

But I’m Not Creative… and Tomato Basil Tart

Saturday night, my friend stops by to drop her daughter off for a sleepover with my girls. She knows we are having a late dinner {after a spontaneous ice cream dinner-spoiler at 5 p.m.}, so they enter my kitchen as I’m in full dinner prep.

I tell them about the unusual dinner I’m making — chilled cucumber soup and tomato basil tart — and then promptly offer my friend a glass of white wine and escort her to the deck, as the kids romp in the yard. As we sit and talk, I excuse myself several times for various steps in the complex pastry process.

My friend seems skeptical. Is it really worth it, she wonders out loud? I assure her that, yes, it is, and tell her this is a family tradition, this late-summer combination of buttery, flaky dough with fresh mozzarella, of pungent basil with tomatoes at their peak.

At the same time, I notice her plucking dried leaves and spent blooms from a red geranium plant on my deck railing. She apologizes that she can’t help herself. It’s a gardener’s habit. And, I appreciate that, her different view of the world. Just as I’ve passed that plant scores of times without noticing its dried leaves, she would probably skim right past that tart recipe with the crazy-involved crust.

We women are all deliciously different.  We approach our lives in fresh and creative ways that don’t look the same, but that enrich our surroundings just the same  — even when we’re doing something as simple as making dinner or tending annuals.

You see, I believe creativity comes in all kinds of packages, not just those perfectly wrapped ones our culture presents us. I believe we all have creativity within us, and we all express that in beautiful and singular ways — that may, in fact, look quite different than what we’ve been conditioned to believe.

Since I began writing about creativity back in May, I’ve been amazed at the number of women who feel deeply uncomfortable with the word “creative.” They protest: But, I’m not creative!

See if you identify with any one of these reasons.

Four Reasons You May Think You’re Not Creative:

1. Someone told you that once.
For you, creativity may be a painful reminder of the past when you ventured forth and were hurt. Perhaps you were told outright you weren’t talented. Or maybe it was more gradual, and, over time, your creative self withered from fear and lack of encouragement.

2. You work or are gifted in a supposedly “non-creative” field – math, science, law, etc.
You’re probably like my friend, Gindi, a logical thinker and super-organized lawyer {who’ll be guest posting here next week}. You possess stereotypically left-brain skills, so you think there’s no way you can be creative too.

3. You like to create, but you think you’re not good enough to be called creative. You think that label’s reserved for famous people who make a living at their art. You attach lots and lots of modifiers to the word creative. For you {see Elise’s post}, “creative” doesn’t mean painting little boxes to sell at craft shops; instead, it’s publishing novels or selling your work in a New York City gallery.

4. You don’t enjoy {what you think are} “creative” endeavors – such as painting, composing music, writing poetry. You know all too well how the world defines the word creative, and in no way does it resemble you.

And, here’s the thing. We all have a sense of what Creative with a Capital C means. Give yourself a moment to jot down a phrase or example of what you think “creative” means.

Now, let’s compare that to Webster’s. The dictionary defines creative as:

1. Marked by the ability or power to create: given to creating.
2. Having the quality of something created, rather than imitated.

I don’t know about you, but this definition surprised me. It doesn’t say creative people must achieve renown. It doesn’t say you can’t be equally skilled in science. It doesn’t say you have to possess a certain set of abilities. It simply says creative people create.

Creativity is defined as ability, pure and simple. We are all marked by the power to create. <—-Click to Tweet!

Be sure to tune in next week for Gindi’s personal creativity story. Don’t want to miss a post? Subscribe and get new posts delivered to your inbox.

Which of the four creativity myths do you relate to the most?

{Creativity Series} Guest Post: Created to be Creative

{Creativity Series} Guest Post: Created to be Creative

Today I am honored to welcome Christian author Kathy Howard, who is guest posting today on how God — the ultimate artist — has created us in His image. Kathy also snapped this lovely photo that accompanies the post.

* * *

Craft time was always my favorite part of Vacation Bible School. Milk carton bird houses. Popsicle-stick picture frames. Tissue-paper stained-glass windows. I fashioned all these works of art and more. It took only a bit of creativity and a lot of Elmer’s Glue.

As I grew, so did my love for “crafts.” I tried everything from sand art to hooked rugs to cross-stitch. Unfortunately, I only finished half the first rug, but cross-stitching actually stuck well into my thirties. I made several things for our first home and even gifted quite a few “masterpieces.”

After all three kids came along, I traded needlework for scrapbooking. Crafting and preserving precious memories was the perfect creative outlet for me! My scrapbooking fervor lasted until God called me to seminary. School and study replaced scrapbooking. Now I craft through writing.

The compulsion to creatively express oneself is common to all humans. Art in its various forms crosses all cultures and languages. Wherever we find people we find artistic expression.

Humans are creative beings by nature because the Creator made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). When we create – when we freely demonstrate our artistic bent — we reflect the nature of God to the world. God’s divine stamp can be seen in our handiwork. And our God is definitely creative.

Consider the created world. From the heavens to the depths of the ocean, God’s artistic hand can be seen. He painted the Northern Lights across the night sky. He sculpted Devil’s Tower that rises like a sentinel in Wyoming. He designed our DNA with such brilliance and intricacy it cannot be duplicated.

Writer, poet, architect, engineer, sculptor, designer, and scientist. God is all this and more. I would even say He has a wild imagination. Have you taken a good look lately at the aardvark? Or the Venus Fly Trap?

God is the ultimate, perfect artist, and He made us in His image. Sadly, like everything else in our world, art and the creative process have been touched by sin. They can be perverted and abused. Countless examples surround us. As believers, we have an obligation to glorify God with everything we create.

So whether you eat or drink or (create) whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31, NIV

When followers of Christ creatively express ourselves through art to the glory of God, our creation is an offering of praise to our God. Our art stands as a testimony to the One who instilled our creativity.

Whatever your artistic passion, it is God-given for His glory. Let those creative juices flow as an act of worship to our creative God.

Have you ever considered your art an act of worship? How does knowing your creativity reflects God’s image change the way you approach your art?

Kathy in Purple small

Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life by encouraging them to stand firm on our rock-solid God no matter the circumstances of life. The author of five books, Kathy has a Masters in Christian Education and a certificate in women’s ministry. She has been teaching the Bible for over 25 years and speaks regularly at women’s retreats and events. Kathy and her husband live in the Houston area and have three children, a son-in-law, and one precious grandbaby. Find out about her books and speaking ministry and get discipleship tools and leader helps at her website: www.kathyhoward.org.

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

{Creativity Series} Spark Moms Interview

Last week I launched a blog series exploring the intersection of creativity, spirituality, and motherhood. As part of our journey together, I’m featuring interviews with fellow mom-artists.

This week, I’m honored to be talking with poet and mom of three, Sarah Dunning Park, who’s also offering a signed copy of her new book of poems, What It Is Is Beautiful, for one lucky reader {scroll down to learn how you can enter the giveaway}.

Q: When you became a mom, how did that affect your creativity? 

A: Becoming a mom has affected my creativity tremendously, in a variety of ways. But before I get into that, I want to note that getting married also had a major effect on my creativity. With both types of life changes, you have to figure out how to balance the new relational needs and responsibilities with your own desire or need to find time for creative pursuits. To be honest, I would say that I’m only now beginning to figure out a healthy balance, though I’ve been married for about twelve years. Our kids are now 9, 6, and 6 years old. But I wish I’d made it a priority sooner!

When my first baby was born, I really threw myself into the creativity of homemaking. For instance, I got into baking bread with a sourdough culture (which needed daily tending). I can see now that I found that particular creative outlet out of necessity, in the best way I was able to, for that chapter of life.

Three years later, our twins were born, and I entered a very difficult period of a few years — I had three kids preschool-age or younger, and I was also battling a chronic health issue (severe leg pain). The pain (coupled with the challenges of being home with three little ones) led to depression. So I found myself in the position of needing a creative outlet more than ever, and yet not only could I not find the time or energy, I also couldn’t remember what I even liked doing, creatively speaking!

But this story does get better… About three years ago, I spent three weeks on my own in Manhattan, seeing a specialist for my leg pain. It was the first time I’d been away from the kids for longer than an evening out. That time was transformative. I finally had a moment to sit and think and breathe. And another moment, and another, consecutively! Suddenly I had a thousand thoughts I wanted to do something with, and that is when I began writing my recent poems about motherhood.

So the very challenges that had made it difficult to find time for creativity (those constant demands of motherhood), became, in the end, the raw material for my creative work, once I was able to take a step back and start making.

Q: How do you find the time and space in your life for creative pursuits?

A: Of course, I couldn’t stay in Manhattan and live the life of a solitary writer! I came back to my home and family, and decided I had to figure out a way to make space for writing. My kids are all school-age now, and I work part-time, not full-time, so I try to take advantage of hours during the school day to get writing time. Once I have a draft of a poem, I’m able to squeeze in the editing work here and there — getting up earlier, grabbing a half hour while the kids play outside after school, and so on. But it really helps to have an uninterrupted chunk of time when I’m first starting a poem. And that, for me, is a matter of timing; I could never have found such time when the kids were all much smaller. Summers are still difficult.

One thing I’ve found to be quite helpful is note-taking. When an idea for a poem pops in my head, I try to get it down on paper (or email it to myself) as quickly as possible. I keep a file of those ideas. Or if I’m driving around, running errands, I try to use that time to wrestle, mentally, with a problem I may have come up against in the writing of a poem.

Q:  What role does spirituality and your relationship with God play in your creativity?

A: I believe that God values creativity, and art, deeply. After all, look at this intricate world we live in! But it’s easy to write off creative work as unimportant or frivolous. A luxury. So when I’m questioning the value of my creative work, I have to take a step back and revisit what I believe about God.

When I’m writing, I’m very aware that the beauty or truth I’m trying to capture is pre-existing. I’m not the source of it — God is. I’m just uncovering it. And so there’s this wonderful joy in the discovery, and a lack of pressure or fear with regard to “coming up with something good.” The good is there, God-made. And it might not be tidy. But I have the fun of taking part in it, playing with it, and helping others to see it.

I also feel that God has taken this creative work and used it for good in my life in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to predict. It’s been very healing work. So that bolsters my sense of how huge God’s dreams are for us — he wants to do great things in our lives, things that heal us and others, and that bring him glory.

Q:  When you do create, what is the payoff? How does it make you feel? 

A: When I write a poem, I’m helped by the process in so many ways. Writing a poem enables me to clarify an issue in my mind. Often I start one about a particular problem, and I honestly don’t know where the poem-writing will take me. But the process of writing it helps me figure out a new way of looking at the problem, or even “solving” it, in a sense.

In addition to gaining a better overall perspective by the end of writing a poem, I also benefit from the ongoing creative act of mental play. One of the things I love about writing poems is that I get to work with words so fluidly, finding echoes in how they sound together, and really paying attention to the subtle differences in meaning. It’s exercise for my mind, and it lifts me up out of the repetitive cycle of household tasks.

Q: What advice would you give to a mom who feels like she can barely take a shower, so how can she find time to create?

To the mom who can barely find time for a shower, I would say, “I know. I totally get it. If you have five free minutes, take that shower, enjoy it, and don’t feel bad about not being creative, too.”

I’ve been there, too, and I think it’s important to not make “being creative” just another to-do item to feel burdened by. If you long for a creative outlet but feel swamped by your life, then make a tiny, incremental goal. Find *one* way to, say, make your kitchen table more beautiful, whether it’s putting a single flower in a jar, using cloth napkins, or simply removing all the piles of mail for once! I know it seems small, and not as “worthy” as working on a painting or writing something, but it’s vital. Small steps like that will keep the creative parts of your brain alive and hungry for more. And if there’s a hunger for it, you’ll start finding other ways to make more space for creativity.


      Sarah Dunning Park is a wife, mother, and writer who lives in Virginia with her husband and three daughters. She and her husband run the simple online budgeting program,   PearBudget.com. Sarah is the author of
What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below telling us how you fit creativity into your busy life and/or what role God plays in your creative pursuits. The giveaway ends on May 17, 2013. 




{Guest Post @ Life Your Way} Permission to Play

{Guest Post @ Life Your Way} Permission to Play

Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair is famous in our family. A My Little Pony who sells ice cream sundaes for $50 a pop, she also has a perennial bad attitude. And, if you argue with her, the price just skyrockets. We’re not sure how she stays in business, but she does.

Though my daughters are 10 and 8 now, and they haven’t really played ponies in years, they still remember Sparkly Sparkly Crazy Hair — the fun, goofy, off-the-cuff invention of my husband — and they’ve kept her. {Pretty amazing considering how many preschool toys have been donated and/or sent the way of a garage sale.}

Maybe you’re like me — the mom who all too often takes the weight of the world onto her shoulders and feels she doesn’t have time to play. Have you ever looked on wonderingly as your husband {or babysitter, or parent} gets down on the floor and just plays?

Have you ever wondered what would it be like to just let the laundry pile, and the dishes sag sideways in the sink, and the emails and notifications stack up unread?

Join me over at Life Your Way today, where I talk about how freeing it can be to start saying “yes” to play.