This past weekend my husband and I went to visit a friend of ours who is terminally ill. We were sitting on the back porch talking and drinking soda when our friend turned to me and asked out of the blue, “Where does your creativity come from?”
Admittedly at first I thought it was an existential question, as I imagine when you’re sitting on death’s doorstep (or walking down his street) you do contemplate questions like this. At the same time, it’s not the first time I’ve been asked a variation of this question. Writers are asked this all the time:
- “Where do you get your ideas?”
- “How can you sit down and just create a story from nothing?”
First, creativity doesn’t come from nothing. It draws from real life. Ideas come from everywhere. A thing someone says. A picture in the newspaper. An idea I had as I watched the neighbor walk his dog down the street. As I see it, my mind has always been wired to entertain itself by creating stories and characters. I’ve always been an introverted person ever since I became aware of the fact that I was a person. I’ve always had a story or scenario playing out in my brain. I have loved reading since I was four. I had invisible friends as a child. (I was not an only child either.) My internal world full of stories has always held a fascination for me.
What I’m saying is I firmly believe I was born a storyteller. My ability to take random things and turn them into stories is somewhat innate. I’ve been doing it all my life. This doesn’t mean I haven’t had to learn certain skills to share my stories with readers. I have. It’s just that I’m not sure I have a definitive answer to where creativity comes from. Perhaps I take my creativity for granted.
I guess I always assumed that everyone made up little stories in their head like I did; that they all had internal dialogues with interesting imaginary people. That they worked out story scenarios fifty different ways until they found the most interesting one. It never occurred to me that writers (and perhaps other creatives) are unique in our propensity to do this.
So while our friend’s question may not have been meant in a “meaning of life” kind of way, it has made me stop and think about creativity and where it comes from. And it reminds me that each of us has been blessed with a gift from birth. We may have had to spend a lifetime learning how to hone and use that gift, but it’s there, and it’s something we should never take for granted. It’s a special part of who we are and makes us unique. Sometimes it takes seeing that through someone else’s eyes to make us realize it.