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When I'm 64... I'm Going to Knit a Sweater That Fits

AndyGilatsNEW.bmpfrom Andy Gilats, LearningLife director

I believe that it's impossible to be human without being creative. Creativity is a defining characteristic of our species, and is related to urges like hunger and thirst. It impels us to strive, make and build, have ideas, be resourceful, make discoveries, solve problems, and craft our futures. Creativity might be repressed, it may go to sleep, but it doesn't die until we do. We are all creative from birth to death.

Creativity shows itself in infinite ways. Whether it's an especially elegant way of organizing a space, teaching someone to read, knitting a sweater that fits (my yet-unmet life goal), leading a team through a satisfying project, or baking a soufflé that "turns out," large and small creative acts are a daily part of living and integral to a fulfilling life.

But creativity is like a muscle. If we don't use it, it will atrophy, diminishing a human element that is especially effective at insuring vitality as we age. In fact, research suggests that our creative capabilities actually grow with age. (The Creative Age by Gene Cohen discusses this.)

The bottom line about creativity is that we must use it or lose touch with it.

Are you actively using yours? If you think there is room to grow, it might help to define more clearly the nature of your individual creativity: the more you know about how your own creativity works, the easier it is to consciously live more creatively. As luck would have it, I found an engaging book that offers a way to do this. The back cover of Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd puts it perfectly: "Every life should be a work of art."

Lloyd describes 10 artistic profiles under two broad categories of creativity - collaborative and individual. These profiles work well as prompts to help us think about our own natures, our creative activities and accomplishments, and what fascinates us.

Collaborative Artistic Profiles
Teacher. Teachers enjoy giving people empowering information and knowledge. Preferring informal, intimate groups over large, formal gatherings, they are less interested in possessing power than they are in transmitting it.

Realizer. Realizers are the people everyone else depends on to get things done. They relish the process of problem solving with lots of elements, people, and materials. Limelight and fanfare may result, but ultimately, realizers often prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Interpreter. Interpreters play with stuff that is already there - bringing it to life in new and fresh ways. Their creativity is built upon understanding how things can be made better.

Healer. Healers access creativity through the part of them that wants to console, nurture, and cure. Morally inclined and very intuitive, their creativity springs from their sensitivity to emotional states.

Leader. Leaders have a talent for moving people toward a common goal. They can perceive a dream in vivid detail. Their words make a distant blur seem real and immediate. ...The leader's ingenuity comes from the ability to work with people.

Individual Artistic Profiles
Maker. For most makers, their greatest joy springs from creating things with their hands. They value craftsmanship and material creation over abstract conceptualization. They want to be close to the means of production. They are not satisfied with daydreaming; they doodle.

Thinker. For most thinkers..., thinking is its own reward. They consistently prefer introverted activities over interaction. They value the idea as much, if not more than, the communication or realization of that idea. Thinkers enjoy measuring, interpreting, analyzing, and theorizing.

Generator. Generators manufacture ideas and schemes. They have enormous enthusiasm and a surplus of initiative. ...They have more ideas in a week than they can carry out in a whole lifetime.

Inventor. Inventors create new forms, objects, and ideas. Their talent lies in dreaming up new thingamajigs and then trying to create them. Like generators, they are... brainstormers, but the inventor's product is not the idea, it's the project itself. Their creative process is not complete until they have tested their theory.

Mystic. Mystics tend to be less product-oriented than many other artistic types. The ideas and objects that spring from their labors are side effects rather than the culmination of their creative process. ...First and foremost, they live creative lives - moment by moment.

These descriptions are all quoted directly from the book. As I was typing them, I found myself identifying with almost all of them in one way or another, so I think it's important to pay attention to our gut reactions - a sure indicator of strong resonance - as we consider our affinity with each profile.

We tend to think of creativity as highly individualized (the mad genius!), so I'm grateful to Carol Lloyd for recognizing that some of us realize our creativity through collaboration, rather than by ourselves. It is vitally important to nourish the types of creativity that most suit us. The creativity we all possess can and should permeate our lives, no matter what our life's work. This, too, is critically important, since not all of us are "artists" by traditional definition.

Living is itself an endlessly satisfying, creative act. Flexing our creative muscles and letting our creative juices flow are two of the most effective ways to harvest the best that life has to offer. My advice to myself? Get cracking and - at least metaphorically - knit a sweater that fits!

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