Einstein said it is intelligence having fun, Matisse said it requires courage. The word conjures up images of lone painters hurling pain and a thousand ideas in their studios, or of writers cranking away on their typewriters. It’s a catchphrase thrown in conference rooms when faced with an impossible task at hand, used to summon the right side of the brain for insight and imagination. From one end of the world to another, it has also been invoked for the purpose of survival.
Whether it is used for artistic, commercial or life-preservation pursuits, creativity appeals to what is most human about us — the need and the ability to create something out of nothing for a purpose outside of ourselves.
At the same time, it has also become elusive. It’s not that time wears out our ability to be creative; it is because as we get older, we somehow acquire more fear. Our experiences, specially the bad or painful ones, The thought of creativity also speaks to our youth, when we are most fearless and uninhibited. At a time when we are bound by “efficiency standards,” “service level agreements” and “productivity models,” its use almost requires a luxury of time we do not have. Ironically, its employment is what created those terms in the first place, all for the glory of profit.
I’m interested in creativity not for profit’s sake, but for the expansion of the mind, heart and spirit. The kind that propels us to create work that is meaningful, that resonates with our most natural instincts. The kind that sees people as kindred, not competition. And most of all, the kind that stretches our capacity to be kind, generous and loving.
Over the years, I’ve acquired books that have spurred me in the process of creating — titles that have not only nurtured one’s creativity, but have also aided in instilling mindfulness and spirituality as a reader and a writer.
Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, Elle Luna’s The Crossroads of Should and Must and Seth Godin’s What to Do When it’s Your Turn have all been eye-opening, generous in their lessons.
I picked up Kleon’s books at Green Apple Books in San Francisco during a time when I wasn’t consistently writing. I was always eager to find books and frankly, any advice on how I can bring myself to the page.
And surely, these books helped. A lot.
I also came upon Elle Luna’s book The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion after reading a post on Brain Pickings, the creation of Maria Popova (her On Being interview with Krista Tippet is unmissable).
Luna’s book starts off with the same dilemmas most of us have when it comes to actualizing our most passionate pursuits. We are beset with innumerable shoulds from our parents, families, religion, institutions and other dictates of modern society. Figuring out our musts then becomes arduous in a sea of shoulds.
With its playful illustrations, thoughtful prose and lines from beloved artists, the book invites the reader to look within themselves, making the process of investigating our musts a gentler process.
And then there’s Seth Godin’s book What to Do When it’s Your Turn (And it’s Always Your Turn) which arrived in my doorstep back in 2014 with a gift: an extra copy of the book.
I’ve long been a fan of Seth since I subscribed to his blog. His books Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? and The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? were influential guides as I sought to further my own creativity and push myself to create work that matters.
On days that I feel overwhelmed with my shoulds, Seth’s wisdom prods me to remember my musts. One of the most indispensable things I’ve learned from him is that we’re now past the industrial economy; we are now in a connection economy where more than ever, we have the most opportunities of creating work that truly resonates with people.
I was struck by this idea of connecting since then. In a lot of ways, I’ve taken Kleon, Luna and Seth’s advice to heart and created Libromance.
I had a previous blog for six years and created a total of 86 posts, where I published about 20 posts on some years and 5 on others. My blog lacked focus and consistency. Although it was a medium for my writing, it wasn’t until I started fine-tuning what I was most passionate about (reading) and infuse it with the best way I knew how to be creative (writing) that this blog was birthed (January 1, 2016).
It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t. The act of creating at a time when we are bogged down by fear, our shoulds and other things in life makes the task of following our musts even more urgent.
Most often than not, creativity has been ssummoned by work that goes beyond ourselves — in the service of our loved ones, our communities, future generations.
So in the spirit of Seth, and everything and everyone worth creating for: Go make a ruckus.
Pia Cortez is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She runs a book blog called Libromance where she reviews books and publishes literary features with a queer Filipino immigrant lens. She is a contributor at Hella Pinay, an online magazine for Filipino-American women and at New Life Quarterly, a literary magazine based in Oakland, California. She is currently working on her first novel.