This morning I started reading Brene Brown's Braving the Wilderness. And I was crying right from the first story. And I was reading while on the treadmill doing intervals, so in retrospect this might not have been my best choice. But I found in her stories of not belonging and wanting to belong a parallel map to my own life.
I have always felt like I don't quite fit in. I come from a family that loves to make fun of each other. They think they are doing a friendly teasing thing, but as the kid who always heard how weird I was and how unlike the rest of the family, it really sank in that I didn't quite fit. I spent high school and college and even a bit beyond trying to be "normal" and fit in. Which meant that I passed up chances to do things with the "weird" kids who might really have been my people. But I could never shake my love of horror movies and all things spooky and reading horror and fantasy and sci fi, so I was never quite normal enough.
And now? Not normal enough for most (still don't like romance movies or rom coms or things like that, so I still frequently feel on the outside of conversations at parties, etc.). Not weird enough for the "out there" crowd. But now I also think I'm not actually the only in-betweener. Before,I was so busy trying to fit in someplace that I forgot to look around for the people who are like me. Now I see that I’m not in some isolated wilderness.
So what does this have to do with creativity? So much. It comes down to "be yourself," I guess. But also more. Know yourself. Figure out who you are and what you like, and then learn to spot it when you see it. Also learn to pare away anything that isn't "it." Like what you like. Follow the trends if you love them and they set something ringing inside you. Ignore them if they don't light you up.
It doesn't matter if what you're doing looks or sounds like things others are doing. Yours will always have that component of you-ness to it, especially as you do it more. So don't worry about trying to find your personal thing. Do the things you are drawn to, and your personal thing will emerge.
But the important part, and kind of the hard part, is figuring out if something is for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Did someone suggest this, encourage me to try this, push this at me?
- Did I feel a spark of excitement when I first saw this/heard of this? Do I still feel it when I look at this?
- Do I want to do this but feel like I should be doing or trying something else?
That last one is a big giveaway. If you feel like you should be doing something else even though you really like the thing you're looking at, do the thing you like. Then do it some more. And then some more. Keep doing what you like; keep asking yourself what you like and if you still like it (because likes do change). Follow you and what you love.
*Note: You know this stuff (well, maybe not the part about me feeling like an outsider). We all know this stuff. We just need to remember and look to ourselves for the deepest guidance.