Creativity and the Comfort Zone

Creativity can be a scary word for some people. They tend to think they aren’t creative because they can’t draw, or sing, or be witty. But that’s not what creativity is. Creativity is honestly nothing more than solving problems in your own special way. Your brain is a place of memories and ideas that are unique to you. Creativity is just how your unique life experiences form ideas and ways to solve problems. Some people see an empty canvas and solve that problem with a beautiful painting, others get an idea of a melody and write a hit song, but still others notice they are having trouble making ends meet so they start a side business. That’s creativity, too. Working with numbers is creative, even if no one would buy a ticket to watch you do your taxes. What do you think music is? It’s just math.

Creativity allows us to be vulnerable to the world. That might sound scary, but it’s the key to healing. It’s the key to humanity. No man is an island, as they say, and vulnerability is how we connect to others. Keeping your memories and ideas to yourself is a sure-fire way to psychological distress. When we are creative, we open ourselves to the world. When we step on stage to sing, we are vulnerable. When we write a blog post, we open ourselves up to criticism. When we share an idea with a loved one about how we should raise our children, we are sharing an intimate part of ourselves that might get hurt. It’s a scary thing, because no one wants to get hurt. It doesn’t feel good. It’s uncomfortable.

I have a drink coaster on my desk that says, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Sounds great! But in practice, it’s ridiculously difficult. I love my comfort zone. Who doesn’t? Where else can you curl up on the couch with a soft blanket, a soft cat, and a warm cup of coffee and read a novel that transports you to another dimension? The comfort zone feels amazingly easy. The discomfort zone seems scary and big and dark and unknown. I don’t want to go there, I want to stay here with the purring cat. But if I stay here under this blanket, then what? Just escapism all day, every day? What kind of life is that? Stepping into the unknown is not my favorite thing to do, but it’s how I grow, how I learn, and how I become more “me” than I was before.

That’s what creativity is: it’s the stepping out of your comfort zone into the unknown of the rest of the world. And it can be terrifying, paralyzing. What will people think of me? Will they make fun? Will they reject me? You only find the answers to those questions when you make yourself vulnerable and assert your creativity on the world. And you might stumble at first. It takes a while to learn to walk, but how else do you learn to run, learn to soar? As a friend of mine says, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

Open your mind to your own creativity. It’s there, even if you don’t believe it. Maybe it’s hidden away in the dustiest corners of your comfort zone. Grab a broom, and sweep away those creative cobwebs, and put your vulnerability out into the world. It’s scary but it’s healing. It’s where real growth happens.

“If you’re paralyzed by a voice in your head, it’s the standing still that should be scaring you instead. Go on and do it anyway.” –Ben Folds Five, Do It Anyway

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