• Dr. Jill Bakke

Creativity (Take 2)

NOTE: This is an update to a post that originally appeared in June, 2015.

For some reason we frequently consider creativity the domain of writers, artists and other deeply innovative people of the arts and sciences. Occasionally we even define that gift as being possessed by successful entrepreneurs. We seldom think our creations good enough to qualify for the term creativity. Yet, most assuredly, you are creative. If you have any belief that says otherwise, you need to toss it out. To be successful in our responsibilities, we need to make time for self-care in ways that calm and regenerate us. One of those ways is to indulge in creative activity.

We are all born creative. Remember the games you constructed as a young child? Remember your first apartment? Maybe it was in college or when you were newly married. What about those special meals you put together or the lovely outfit you were able to create out of individual garments and accessories in your closet? Each of us has many creative gifts. We exhibit creativity everywhere. It is the way we solve our problems, decorate our homes, plant our flower gardens, and wear our hair. Using our creativity in these ways are not smaller, not less important than those actions we may think bigger and more necessary. For instance, you may never know how the restful, lovely home you create reduces the stress of your overwhelmed spouse.

Yet, many of us box up and store a lot of our creativity as we go through life, especially the areas that don’t fit into our day by day living. We offer many reasons why we do this.

“I loved to paint, but I am not very good at it, so I gave up.”

“Oh, dancing was so much fun, but my husband doesn’t like to dance. I just don’t get to do it anymore.”

“I don’t have time. My family and work consume me. They have to come first.”

Even if we allow ourselves to indulge in our creative endeavors, we often remark: “No one would be interested in my little offerings.”

Every big creation has its roots in small beginnings. We need to tend our creativity as we would tend a garden. Using our creativity in everyday life brings us pleasure, even great pleasure, but using our creativity in connection with our stronger, deeper passion, that is the miracle maker!

Creativity is not only to utilize to beautify our life or bring us financial remuneration. For us to be truly happy and satisfied, life requires us to follow our passion. Although creativity is never limited to one area, we may find we use it with more passion in a specific area. Perhaps that area is color and textiles, painting, cooking, science, creating gardens or arranging their blossoms. You may have one or more interests that are strong, but when coupled with your passion and creativity they can carry you to heights.

Usually we have a strong interest and ability in some creative activity from birth. We automatically want to sketch and paint, perhaps taking this love of color into fabrics, learning to weave or another skill that goes with color and design. Maybe we early are fascinated with clay dough and creating little pots or items from it. Then in school we learn pottery and love it. This will be our area of greatest creativity. I call it a talent or natural gift, but we reach its culmination in many different ways.

My oldest grandson starting drawing figures and scenes as a young child. He played with drawing all his growing up years and after his high school graduation was offered an apprenticeship in a tattoo shop with a respected tattoo artist. He learned his trade quickly and in a few years his teacher sold him the shop and went on to a new adventure in his life. Less than a handful of years later my grandson has a flourishing shop, is known as an expert in his field, and creates tattooed masterpieces. And guess what! His former employer now works for him part time.

I followed a longer path, but my love of words both in reading and writing was with me as long as I can remember. As a small girl, just learning to write, I had pen pals all over including India, England and the United States. I wrote poetry in grade school and always leaned toward writing over the other creative skills we learned in school like art and music. In high school I became editor of the school paper and part of the yearbook staff. My yearbook nickname when I graduated was “Journalism Jill.” I wanted to be a writer, but my excuse in 1954 was that I couldn’t make a living at it. And I had already been offered a job as a legal secretary.

For a number of years and across four states my writing passed into non-existence except for letters home to my family back in New Jersey. Work progressed well; I was doing paralegal work. The children came, four daughters, but while my love of words continued, my writing suffered a meager existence. As the youngest started kindergarten, I switched to teaching basic financial management at the local Air Force base, moved into administering a college program, and started to piecemeal my undergraduate degree.

I started college looking at a liberal arts degree but ending up with a double major: English, focused on writing, and Communications. And I was writing again. First it was articles for a local shopping magazine and then features and fillers for Montana Magazine. In addition, I wrote personality features for the local newspaper, published some devotions and poetry, and occasionally did articles for other publications. I even led a nineteen-week poetry writing course in an assisted living center, and the center printed a book of the class members’ poetry.

When I could, I found time to work with the written word. After graduating from college I taught English at the local two year college, and memoir and journal writing in the community, as I headed off for my masters and doctorate degrees. However, I also hung onto my so-called security. I took my newly earned masters on to a Licensed Clinical Counseling status and focused on teaching in my doctoral studies. When my doctorate was complete except for my dissertation, I returned to New Jersey. There writing fell into the background again as I began to work in administering a Financial Readiness/Army Emergency Relief program on one post and a Wellness program on a different Army post.

In the eleven years in New Jersey I managed to resurrect the gift long enough to create two new written projects: a Widow’s handbook and a New Jersey Vacation Guide. The latter I promoted as a way to save money. Additionally, my writing found a bit of exposure in the number of workshops I created and a weekly column Dollars and Sense in the base newspaper.

Moving back west in 2006 put a damper on even that much involvement with my gift. For the next few years I did military financial counseling and education. But the programs were developed by the company and approved by the DOD. Then in late 2011 and early 2013 knee replacements stopped me cold. Travelling was too difficult. Regardless, I continued to hang on to LPC license and my AFC credentials in finance, doing occasional short articles on finance, phone counseling, and I even accepted an offer to do active military counseling again.

But I had also discovered a rough draft I had begun in 2008 and began its slow development into my first book: THE MAGIC THEATER: Your Personal Journal, published in 2014. I had my hands back in writing and it was on an aspect of my passion: self-awareness leading to authenticity. I am now completing my second book: MESSAGES FROM THE RIVER.

I finally realized I needed to focus solely on what I loved. I recognized writing is my gift and my love or passion is the topic of how to become a self-actualized, fully functioning. Yes, all my life I had worked in areas that helped a person reach self-actualizing: counseling, finance, and teaching. Now I wanted to apply more of my time to writing about what self-actualization looked like and ways to reach it. My journey included my writing from time to time, but my passion took 42 years to be solidly welded to it. Looking back at those years, I learned so much in the process.

From my own experience I guarantee your gift doesn’t go away. If yours has been boxed up, take it out. Start polishing it again. Start using it. It is never too late. And the longer path can give you additional wisdom and resources when you finally begin to use it with passion.

I tell these two stories because they reflect different ways we find our passion and bring it to life. Apparently my grandson always knew what his passion was, even if he didn’t know the form of expression it would take. His knowing came quickly. It was simple for him. The talent or gift of drawing and his passion to express it were welded together early.

It took me almost forever. I knew I loved writing and found opportunities here and there to write about things of interest. I didn’t know what I loved writing about, yet I always felt intrigued by people surmounting the odds, the uniqueness of an event, or the sacred beauty of a place. These were always what I automatically chose to write about: The bluebird trail in Montana, the struggles of the Ursuline nuns as they settled in the then wilderness of Montana, a woman who took a medicine cabinet’s worth of prescriptions, yet found time and energy to volunteer, ways to save money or get out of debt, how to handle stress, communicate better, or deal with anger.

I had signs of the combination I was to create, but not the eyes to see or the ears to hear. Or perhaps the problem was more that I didn’t yet have the mind and spirit to understand. A dream over 35 years ago instructed me to put a bridge between my islands and not keep flying between them. I didn’t understand what was meant by a bridge or how to do it. I wasn’t sure what my islands even were. I do now. My gift of writing is a bridge, perhaps I even have the gift of teaching that I trained in. The islands represented areas I knew well, places I had unwittingly used both my gifts and passion. The islands are the aspects we, as human, must tackle to become a self-actualized man. The passion is to help others become more balance, happier, authentic.

One word of caution here. Do not consider one gift or the form of a gift greater than another. All forms and all gifts are equal. All add and enrich in life. The only measurement you have to consider is your passion. If you love tattooing more than painting in oil, watercolor or any other of its media, for heaven’s sake don’t try to replace the one you love with one you feel is more valuable. It is the passion you place in the wor6k you do that makes the creation most valuable. And linking your passion and gift brings it to the forefront. What have you been doing that contains both ingredients?

And remember Grandmother Moses started painting when she was in her 70s!

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