Friday, February 18, 2011

The Great Create

This week, in a fit of being broke, bored and emotionally off-kilter - a menstrual period and a full moon in the same seven days? Universe, you can test my patience a little - I wandered into a bookstore just to see the sights. I had already been to one earlier in the week, a discount warehouse that's great for synergistic deals (sometimes, you don't know you need some Buddhist meditations until you're standing in the aisles of your favourite wordery, giving your best thousand-yard stare as your soul flops like a fish on a dock), but I stopped into an actual bookstore, one that sells non-remaindered books, and sort of breathed the air there for a while.

Much like libraries, bookstores are a place of possibility for me. I really like writing this blog, and one day dream of catapulting myself out of the entry-level jobs I've been taking for the past few years and into something a little more, shall we say, creatively-oriented. Writing makes me happy, in a way that solving paper jams in the 400-pound printer does not. Being in a bookstore helps to reawaken those desires, held off and on since high school, to become a Real Live Writer Person.

I'm both lucky and cursed, because I have friends and acquaintances who are out there, writing for actual publications like The Walrus and The Globe and Mail. It makes me smile those weird smiles where your teeth hurt. You know? Where your genuine happiness is edged with grief and jealousy, so the happiness is all corroded and shitty? Yeah. I love my friends, and I'm happy for them, and part of me recognizes that I don't really want those particular bylines (journalism elicits a big fat "naaaaah" out of me, although my friends who have j-school degrees are all doing very well), but some of me is just in agony. I guess part of being a writer-type person is learning how to deal with gut-destroying jealousy, in the same way that nurses get really adept at getting blood clots off their white shoes.

Humans need creative outlets, even if we don't end up being professionally creative. The preponderance of mommy-blogs, crafting magazines, scrapbook clubs, amateur theatre groups, adult choir groups, and other creative niches just goes to show that we, as a species, need a creative outlet. My ex managed to leapfrog from Guitar Hero to member of actual band. A pal of mine collages and makes gorgeous, bizarre paper cutouts. Other folks I know quilt and sew and knit, busying their hands with productive crafts. I write this here blog. I'm not sure if it will ever level-up and I'll get any money for producing words, but that's a question for the Ghost of Bloggers Future.

Creativity is encouraged in childhood: how many classrooms used arts and crafts to teach lessons? I'm thinking about dioramas depicting WWI invasions, or Thanksgiving turkeys made out of brown and yellow construction paper. Kids also naturally engage in creative play, like coming up with imaginary friends. Sending your children to go "play outside," often seen as a desperate last resort for harried parents, opens them up to a world where they make up the characters and the narrative. A dress-up box, a toy truck, a blank sheet of paper: all tools to make sure kids get the kind of make-believe play they need for cognitive development and socialization.

But as we trudge towards adulthood, our creative impulses become curbed, and we're often encouraged to bring creativity to the workplace, where our neural firings make someone else's paycheck. "Think outside the box"? Please. Not that there's anything wrong with being a creative person on the clock, but it often feels like all our talents and creative impulses should be harnessed in order to make some money. Sometimes, a girl just wants to collage.

As I wandered the bookstores this week, it occurred to me that my job doesn't really have any creative component, and that is a bit of an issue. I need balance, as I think most people do: while totally unstructured time leaves me slack-jawed in front of Facebook for nine hours straight, devoting all my energy to rote job functions isn't good, but in a different way. In my next life, I'm going to make creativity in the workplace number one with a bullet, because let's face it: I need it. We all do, really.

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