Last month, I participated in the 30 days of creativity challenge — in retrospect, an enormously difficult undertaking on my part.
The goal of #30Doc is simple: create one creative thing, every day, for the month of June.
Problem is though, I am not an artist, designer or even that creative of a person.
What I am however, is curious and a firm believer in the power of trying things I know I will not be good at, in order to enrich the activities in which I excel.
As designer Milton Glaser so eloquently put it…
I think at that moment in my life, I found a peculiar path: To continually discard a lot of the things that I knew how to do in favor of finding out what I didn’t. I think this is the way you stay alive professionally.
So I gave the 30 Day challenge a try. (You can see all 30 of my posts on my #30Doc board on Pinterest.)
During the course of those 30 days, I learned a number of simple truths, (some of which I suspect you already know too, but, like me, may have forgotten over time) and some hard lessons (for example, I’m not a great photographer. Apps like Camera+ helped with that.)
On Day 7, I was walking through the woods and saw a small teepee made out of sticks far back from the path. I had noticed it before but never took the time to really stop and check it out. So, that day, I decided to change that — I stepped off the path, crept into the quiet woods and took a few pictures.
The picture is not amazing and the subject matter is not breathtaking, but what’s important is, the next day when I returned to that spot, the teepee had been destroyed.
This shot is a small memorial to an interesting little structure that I only truly saw on that day, at that time. It was an excellent reminder not to live our lives blindly assuming that the world will stand still and wait for us to notice it.
On Day 22, I was totally exhausted and annoyed by the 30 day challenge. I went for a walk in the late afternoon, completely absorbed in my thoughts: “What in the world am I going to do for the project today?” “How come I can never think of anything creative?”
Then, out of the corner my eye, I noticed I had nearly walked right past a man who had assembled and was walking on a tight rope in the middle of the woods.
What a magical, amazing and random thing to see out of the blue. And I had nearly missed it because I was so absorbed in trying to think of something amazing.
Again, the picture is not beautiful. But the moment and the man was (I asked him if I could take his picture and he said yes, but that he could not promise me he wouldn’t fall first.) The lesson on that day reminded me to be fully being present in the moment and really see the world that surrounds me.
At first I thought there must be a leak in the roof. But, when I got up to investigate, I found an epic battle underway in one of our kitchen windows between a small spider and a large beetle.
The spider was quietly winning the war, while the beetle clicked its wings together incessantly (and loudly) and fought against the sticky web.
It was a fight that is probably waged in nature every second of the day but, because of its scale, most of us never see it.
But on this day, it was my gift to be able to sit and watch the battle and the beetle succumb to its tiny foe, (to whom I whispered my congratulations.) I would have missed the whole thing had I not followed my curiosity and my ears.
On Day 13, I realized that the world “out there” calls to me often, but sadly, I usually ignore it, pretending instead that a Facebook post or a funny video or a random tweet is as important (if not more important) than the beauty of nature, the power of serendipity or the grace of the living, breathing humans who surround me. And that is just plain ridiculous.
Yes, I often used technology to create my creative submission each day during the challenge, but I used the world around, and in front, of me to observe, cull and capture those moments, first. I need to remember to maintain that balance in my life moving forward.
Creativity is less about magic, and far more about the powers of observation, curiosity and connection — listening to the voice inside you and letting yourself be pulled in the direction it tells you to go.
That voice exists even for us non-creative types. Never stop listening to it.