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Column | Everyday Elegance

Alicia Woodward: The elegance of creativity

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Alicia Woodward

Alicia Woodward

My husband has rekindled his hobby of making stained glass art. It has been a joy to watch him set up his work space, assemble his supplies, tinker for hours with his designs, and hang the finished products in the window for sunshine to bring them to life. Mike's creativity had been lying dormant like a seed just below the surface, ready to emerge when the time was right.

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His inspiration was refueled a few weeks ago when we visited a friend's garage art studio. As Mindy showed us her work area filled with her collection of beautiful handmade jewelry and pottery, my husband's blue eyes lit up like fire in a kiln. The tipping point was our friend's casual comment, "I make art as a creative release, and it makes me happy." And just like that, my husband was an artist again.

In his book "The Courage to Create," Rollo May wrote, "We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel to being." May believed creativity is an essential component of a successful and fulfilling life. We were created to create.

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Our desire to create is seen in the popularity of television programs featuring ordinary people being creative. Watching other people bake cakes, plant gardens, and build tree houses makes for good television, but it doesn't garner the same positive benefits as rolling up our sleeves and doing it ourselves.

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There's something innately elegant about being thoroughly engrossed in making something. When we're creating, our personal problems melt away along with the cares of the world. We fall into a rhythm psychologists refer to as flow, defined as a mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and utter enjoyment.

Minutes flow into happy hours as Mike grinds pieces of glass, as Mindy shapes clay, as my mother-in-law stitches a quilt, as my neighbor decorates sugar cookies. Psychologist  said during the state of flow, "The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost."

Even if you haven't made anything since that diorama for your seventh grade English class, you are creative. Boldly answer your call to create. Paint. Dance. Weave. Sing. Bake. Carve. Invent. Cook. Design. Sculpt. Fix. Plant. Film. Decorate, Sew. Draw. Write. Act. Quilt. Build.

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So what stops us from exploring our creativity? Here are my top excuses and what I tell myself in response.

1. I don't know how. You're smart; you'll figure it out. Take advantage of resources at the library, bookstore, and the Internet. Remember, we learn by doing.

2. What if I'm not good at it? At first, you probably won't be. Create for creativity's sake. If it turns out great, that's just a bonus.

3. I'm not inspired. Go outside. Nature holds all of the inspiration we ever need. Hang out with other creatives. Become a patron of the arts.

Tonight will be the coldest night of the season so far for Central and Southern Illinois. Chief Meteorologist Matt Holiner tells us how cold it will get.

Alicia Woodward is a retired language arts teacher and empty-nester. She and her husband recently moved back to their hometown of Mt. Vernon. She writes a weekly blog called The Simple Swan. Visit her blog at www.thesimpleswan.com. Email her at Alicia@thesimpleswan.com.

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