August 2021 | By Kaitlin Murphy-Knudsen
Looking Outward – Seeing Creativity in the People Around You
One of the best things about teaching and coaching writers is witnessing that creative spark lighting up in others. I love seeing children throw themselves into creative projects with abandon, and seeing adults discover or rediscover their creativity, especially if they’d lost connection to it for a while.
Since most of the prompts I have been suggesting are inward-facing for the person who wants to create, what if we turn things outward?
1. Look around at the people you love, or whoever is part of your daily life. What does their creativity look like? Do you ever stop to appreciate it?
Ok, I’ll start.1 The photos posted here were taken by my husband Butch, who by profession is not a photographer but a scientist. I don’t mean to contrast his creative work with his profession. In fact, his field has more in common with creative writing than I would have guessed before knowing him. Though science and the arts are usually juxtaposed, creativity, imagination and gut level guidance are as present in his work as they are in mine.
A few posts ago, I suggested an approach to writing fiction that begins with questions instead of answers, exploration over assertion. It is the same place any scientific discovery begins. Even the conclusions and findings are a partial part of whole bodies of research and in scientific papers the phrase “more research is needed” is more common in abstracts and conclusions than the more definitive “Science proves…!” or “Science says…!” headlines, which can oversimplify and mislead.2
Despite the testing, logic and linear frameworks that sound analysis requires, is science not part of the larger creative processes that exist across all work driven by curiosity? I say creativity is too sublime to pin down, easily define, or categorize into camps. And to see this person I love as husband, father, scientist, photographer and everything else he is, is to see creativity all over the place!
Of course, there is a lot more to him and to anyone. But does seeing creativity as it moves through someone else challenge us to resist simplistic conclusions about who people are and what life is?
Ok, now your turn. What about someone you love? Is their creativity a known entity, clear to you and everyone else? Or is it something only you see? What do you most appreciate in their spark?
2. What about all the stranger-creators out there who influence you only through their work? Do you ever reach out and share what you appreciate?
Writers tend to read a lot, but I for one could do a better job of reaching out and thanking writers when their work resonates. I often recommend work to someone I think may also appreciate it, but I often forget a note to the writer. Most of the people putting great work out there are not on the bestseller lists – and I want someone to know when their work and commitment have connected, so recently I’ve been making more of an effort.
This has been fun to do with my daughter, who recently fell in love with a series of chapter books. We went to the author’s website to send a message thanking the author for her work. Within 24 hours she had written back with a personal response, helping my daughter to understand that it was an actual person who sat down and created whole worlds in the stories my daughter loves.
Look outward at the creativity in the people around you. Is there a person in your life whose spark you’ve taken for granted, forgotten to voice your appreciation for, or even failed to see? Is there an artist whose work means something to you?
Give that nod a voice and send it out there!
Then get back to your own work, knowing you’ve sent out a little zap of appreciation into the world, that there may be more good things created for it.
- Unless you do this consistently already (especially if you are surrounded by artists?)
- This refers to click-bait headlines that give the weight of an entire field to one study. It is not to suggest dismissing sound research or the field as a whole when new information is discovered and available.