Thursday, December 18, 2014

Creativity and the Joy of the Shared Experience

I'm an only child, so I've spent lots of time alone. I've had good insights in solitude, both then and now. But my best and most memorable experiences have always been shared.

Growing up, I spent the end of every August in Provincetown, Cape Cod. The second we arrived, I would jump out of my parents' car before it had even fully rolled to a stop, and immediately hunt down my friend who lived year-round next door to the place where we stayed. 

We had a series of "traditions" we HAD to do every summer: put on plays for our families; make spaghetti carbonara; shop for penny candy and cheap souvenirs; share a Peanut Buster Parfait at the Dairy Queen; collect hermit crabs in a bucket at low tide, turn them loose, and watch them scatter; trek up impossibly high sand dunes and leap down them as fast as we could.

Each of these things would have been perfectly fun to do alone. But there is a big difference between doing something and experiencing it. The reason these things were experiences, and not just things to do, is because they were shared with a beloved friend who created the fiber of their memory.

The same thing is true of creativity in general, at least for me: it's best when shared. An artist friend laughed when her mom suggested that she simplify her life by making less art for awhile. Her work was routinely displayed, sold, and given to others. "That's like asking me to stop breathing or eating," she remarked. It struck me then that humans are creative both for ourselves and to nurture ourselves, but we also create to make an impact on others.

That's how I feel about writing generally, and writing this blog in particular. I do it for myself, my own ego, and my own need to create something. But I also do it for others, who in reading it hopefully realize they are not alone. And in hearing reactions to some of what I say, I realize that I'm not alone, either. 

Whether it's creating a painting, a song, a delicious meal, a quilt, or a silly blog post, it's better when it's a shared give and take. I've even had the same feeling working on and creating intense and difficult work projects with colleagues.

So in the end, it's not just what we do, but who we do it with--and for--that brings depth and joy to the things we do, transforming them from just "things" into creations and experiences.

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