Sorry My Creativity Offended You

Once I was part of a social organisation that was heavily involved in community projects, including outreach programmes and hosting regular entertainment events. I thought I might have something to contribute. I spoke to one of the leaders of the social club – the lady in charge of the creativity team as well as community outreach.

The conversation went like this:

Me: I’m creative. I write. But I can’t sing, I can’t dance. I don’t do drama. {I can do drama, but not that sort!}

Her: Creative? Can you draw?

M: No

H: Paint?

M: No.

H: But what do you write, apart from your blog, I mean?

M: (I told her about the projects I’m working on. I would tell you but that’s not how it works.)

H: Huh. So you more think creatively rather than do creative things.

So basically, because my creativity is not performance-based, because you can’t stick it on the wall and call it pretty, it doesn’t count. Leastways, not to her and her social club. I am sorry that my creativity wasn’t good enough for her. I’m sorry that she thought my creativity didn’t warrant inclusion into her little club of all-singing all-dancing-ness. I am sorry that my creativity offended.

But not for the reasons you think.

When you get offended, when you decide that such-a-such is not good enough, or not worth it, when you dismiss somebody’s effort or talent as trivial or unimportant, you rob yourself. Sure, sometimes you rob the other person, but they still have the talent, and the capacity within. You’ve lost out. You’ve let the talent get away. You will never know what you and that person could have achieved together.

And worse yet, by denying my offer of my talents, such as they are, that leader narrowed her definition of creativity even further. The next time a writer turns up, she’ll say no to them too. And more than that, she’ll be teaching her followers that creativity consists predominantly (if not solely) of the performing arts and painting. The great irony? She’s a (song)writer. She sings. She should know the power of words.

Still, she was right about one thing. I am a creative thinker, and writing is just one of the ways that I express that creative thinking. The conversation ended too soon, because she was dismissive of “creative thinking”. (A leader that is dismissive of creative thinking is less a leader and more a manager in my opinion, but that is a topic for another post.) My “brand” of creativity didn’t mesh with her “brand”. I was the cheap knock-off, while she had the real thing. I was the pretender, but she was the one getting on the stage and singing her heart out and showing what real creativity was all about. My creativity offended.

I’m sorry, because I was looking to express my creativity in a meaningful way that would contribute to the greater good not just of that social club, but the community at large. I wanted to help people tell their stories, to write encouraging notes, maybe even write scripts or songs or come up with random ways to interact with the community. I wanted to apply my creativity to their systems and help them do better, help more people with less effort. I wanted to network with people to enable others to grow their own creative voices.

But I was asked “how does your creativity fit in with the way we do creativity here?” instead of “how can we use your creativity to do what we are trying to do?”

She denied my creativity, and stifled an avenue where it could have been expressed. How many people are now living a poorer life because I was unable (not unwilling, but unable) to share some consequence of my creative thinking with them? That is why I am sorry my creativity offended. Not because of the cruel lesson I have learned, but because of the lost opportunity.

Let’s not be quick to judge because somebody is different. Let’s look at people who don’t fit into our definitions as an opportunity to expand our horizons, instead of an identity to be denied.

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2 thoughts on “Sorry My Creativity Offended You

  1. A bit ironic that someone seeking out creativity, was so closed-minded! Writing absolutely requires mass amounts of creativity.. I’m shocked that anyone thinks otherwise. It’s her loss!

    – Kate.

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    1. I think the irony was what saved me in the end. After all, I found her position so unfathomable that I had to just laugh it off when it happened.
      Still, it remains a lesson to me on a very personal level not to judge others by my own measure because the consequences extend further than just my own life.

      Like

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