a note to "non-artists": creativity is for you, too

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In my yoga practice this morning (with the lovely Ashley Turner on MyYogaOnline), the teacher included intention-setting. Despite having read a fair amount about intention-setting and listening to Jess Lively's inspirational perspective on intention on her weekly podcast, I'll be honest -- intention-setting still makes me a little anxious, especially when I feel like I'm "supposed to" pick just one intention. I often tell my clients, "You can't be all things to all people, all the time. Keep it *super* simple." But of course my ego voice still says, "You really need to pick 'patience.' No, 'compassion' is better. No, what you really need is 'focus.' Why is this so hard??" I am trying to just be gentle with myself and recognize that ego voice for what it is, and also allow myself to choose more than one intention (without having to feel like I have to name 50 every day and feel overwhelmed). It ain't all black-and-white, is it? This morning, however, one word quickly came to me: creativity. It's a word/concept that I've struggled with a lot in the past, because I have never considered myself an artist. My grandmother is an artist by trade, and my mom has always succeeded with any artistic medium she's dabbled in over the years. So I have it on both sides of the family, but definitely did not inherit that gene.

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I do have a knack for writing, but the thought of true "creative writing" (poems, stories) gives me hives. I've been writing some songs recently with the band, though still have a whisper of that impostor voice because "I don't do creative writing!"

So historically, at least since junior high, I really haven't viewed myself as a "creative" person. That word was reserved for the "real" artists -- the painters, sculptors, poets, novelists, chefs, songwriters, musicians. Even in my marketing job, I often feared not being creative enough because I never felt like I had enough "outside the box" ideas to get my clients the kind of coverage they wanted (when in reality, the kind of coverage they wanted was more often just not realistic with what they had to pitch and the budget they had to do it.)

Of course, by trusty Merriam-Webster's definition of "creative," any breathing human would qualify as creative ("having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas; using the ability to make or think of new things : involving the process by which new ideas, stories, etc., are created.") It wasn't until the past couple of years, though, that my personal definition of creativity has finally shifted.

Before I got into the field of social work and psychotherapy, I never would have thought it necessitated the level of creativity that it does. Especially in the setting I work in, where we're encouraged to use experiential therapy techniques (which requires lots of creativity and spontaneity!) to help clients get out of their heads and into their bodies. In the beginning, this scared the crap out of me. The voice was loud: "What?? I didn't sign up for this! I'm just not creative, so I'm going to suck at this. I'm not an artist for a reason!" Whoa Nellie. It was a definitely a learning curve. But over the past couple of years, I've gotten more comfortable going out on a limb and getting creative in my work with clients, and embracing that part of my spirit in other areas of life, too. And here's what I've really started to believe:

Creativity does not require innate artistic talent. 

It does require taking risks with vulnerability and uncertain outcomes.

"Being a creative person" just means that you are willing to take those risks, again and again. 

Like most internal processes, creativity is a muscle that has to be strengthened and stretched with regular use. 

Creativity usually does not just happen on its own. You have to have the intention to cultivate it, and then follow through.

With many creative processes, two minds (or three or four) are better than one. 

Bringing the element of creativity into simple everyday activities can breathe new life into previously mundane tasks. (How can you get creative with your skincare, with your commute, with your nighttime routine?) 

Despite what you've told yourself, creativity is for you. It's for me. 

And creativity -- in big ways and tiny ways -- is how the world benefits from the unique light that only you possess. 

So get out there and shine.

How will you set the intention to bring more of your creative spirit into the world? What inspired action can you take today? I'd love to hear about it.

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.