What do other people have to do with your creativity and motivation?

I’m supposed to be increasing the salt in my diet (I know…weird), so on a recent flight, I requested tomato juice over the typical water knowing the sodium would be good for me. The young man sitting next to me (and suddenly I sound very middle-aged) ordered the same thing. I kind of joked about him being a copycat, and then he asked me if I was from Indiana. I said yes, and he replied, “Yep. It’s an Indiana thing. My girlfriend doesn’t understand why I like tomato juice so much.” That small commonality opened the window of conversation to lead to other topics, but then I returned to my work and he returned to his sudoku. But now I’m sitting here thinking about that conversation and how it relates to the quote by Anthony Gruppo.

Since it probably seems like a bit of a stretch, let me give you some background. I like to create. I never saw myself as a creative person growing up, but I think that was because my view of what being a “creative” was somewhat limited. I pictured someone artsy who could create wonderful masterpieces out of nothing much but an imagination. As I’ve gotten older, however, I see creativity in a different vein.

I love to cook (when I have the time and energy). I often don’t use a recipe, or I’ll use one as a loose guide. Not to brag, but my culinary creations usually get rave reviews from my husband and kids. Breaking creativity down even further, I love to grow vegetables. I never thought of that as creating before, but it takes some creativity to get those vegetables to grow, and then to figure out all the different ways to use them in dishes the family will eat. (Zucchini is a personal favorite to try and hide in various recipes).

It wasn’t until I had been a teacher for about a decade that I attended a training on writer’s workshop and discovered that I actually enjoy writing. Again, I never had anyone encourage me in my writing endeavors earlier in life, so assumed I wasn’t good at it. And let’s be real, the writing my teachers assigned to me was not fun and there was little choice involved so it didn’t feel like creating but something much more painful.

Since I spend a lot of time on airplanes, that has become my favorite place to write. Sometimes an idea for a writing topic will come into my head and I’ll jot it down to work on later. Other times, I’ll come across a quote that resonates and I put it at the top of a Google doc as a topic starter for my next flight. And that’s where I was today. In the spirit of total transparency, I have been neglecting my writing pretty badly for the last few months (we’ll call it a summer hiatus). And like everything else in life, once you are out of the habit, it’s significantly harder to get back into it again. I recently set a personal goal for myself to write 500 words a day, regardless of topic. That’s a small goal, but one that I think is attainable with a bit of determination.

So, I find myself on an airplane coming home from Texas, with two Google docs open and two different writing ideas to choose from. This quote by Anthony Gruppo, being one of them. It’s one I came across in his Twitter feed months ago, and knew then I wanted to reflect on that (which I do best via writing), and yet it’s been one that I keep pushing aside. I think it’s because I knew it deserved a bit of extra thought. I drank my tomato juice (not as good as freshly-squeezed from my own garden tomatoes, but still satisfactory), had my brief conversation with the Hoosier-turned-Longhorn, and sat here reading the quote again. And asked myself, who has believed in me along the way that led me to be a creator? My mom gave me my first tomato juice as a child as we churned it from the tomatoes picked from her garden. Ruth Ayres, the writing workshop instructor, encouraged me throughout that training when I first tried my hand at writing as an adult. My second-grade students at the time also thought I was a poetry genius. (They also told me that I should be a professional artist and singer, so take that as you will.) My family encourages me in the kitchen to keep coming up with new dishes. And the teachers and administrators I work with believe in my experience, strategies, and practice to allow me to create plans alongside them to further their learning. While I take personal satisfaction in every area in which I create, it’s the fact that people encourage and believe in me that pushes me to continue. Which leads me to wonder, am I doing enough to encourage and believe in those around me? Who knew a simple glass of tomato juice could lead to a reflection on creativity and the power of others’ beliefs? Who are your believers? And how do you create?

 

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