Someone recently told me that I must be "very creative". I felt flattered, but asked, why? I don't feel especially creative. I don't get up in the morning and think, "the muse is strong in me today..." Mostly, I muck about with coloured bits and pieces, and do a bit of knitting or sewing, and play the piano (middling badly).
Turns out, my friend thinks I'm creative because I have crayons, building blocks, a piano and other craft items at my home. I thanked my friend for what was clearly a compliment. But, in a way, she has it almost exactly the wrong way around.
It's not because I'm "a creative person" that I have toys and a piano and craft materials at my home. Rather, I play with toys and music and craft materials because I want to become a creative person. Our society's view of creativity (and talent, for that matter) is a bit like looking at a photo of someone gazing at their reflection in a mirror, and not being sure which is which.
I'm always intrigued by perception: it can be both wonderful and disconcerting, or upsetting and disconcerting, to be presented with another person's opinion. Thank goodness I'm over 40, I find that others' opinions no longer rock my self-perception the way they would have when I was younger.
On another occasion, recently, my husband and I were complimented for our creative courage, in starting our business. The person who made the comment noted how (comparatively) young we were. This made us laugh, privately, because at the time it was pretty clear most of our friends and loved ones thought we were nuts. We also recognise that being fairly young and with no dependents, we were in a good position to take a risk.
Rather than congratulating myself on my entrepreneurial drive, I've spent most of the last decade feeling a wee bit ashamed that I couldn't "hack it" in the corporate world. Which perception is true? Possibly both of them, possibly neither.
20:20 hindsight is certainly a marvellous thing. It colours what happened. If we had started our business, and then failed (as so many terrific, talented people do) then I suppose we would now be viewed (and view ourselves) as failed business people. I doubt most people would praise our courage if that were the case, is it somehow less courageous to fail? Tthe amount of courage required in that moment of choice has not changed - it's safely locked in that past moment and is not available to be changed. The only thing that has changed is the outcome.
So if you want to be creative, then you must create. And, at the same time, let go of the need for others' to perceive your efforts as 'art' or 'creativity', and even let go of knowing what the outcome will be. If you continue mucking around for long enough, someone will notice. Most important of all, maybe you'll notice.