If you watch any television adverts (as is my very occasional misfortune) you’ll pick up plenty of messages about how you shouldn’t have to trouble yourself with all the nasty, messy little details. Wunderprodukts and gadgets will make your home sparkle. Beautiful food will emerge from packets. Cars will take you to dolphins, and so long as you buy the right things, life will be great.
There’s a persistent, pernicious message here – real work is bad. You don’t want to dirty your hands or have to actually make an effort, you should be comfortable and pandered to. You’ve got far more important things to do than peel carrots or play with your children, you need A Thing.
When and why did we, as a culture, decide that the basic details of living and maintaining a home were jobs to resent and that the people who do them should be ones of lesser status? I suspect an element of gender politics, that this has long been women’s work, and therefore denigrated. But it’s an increasing issue, reaching into traditional male work as well. Why get your hands dirty when you can pay someone else to do it, or better yet purchase A Thing?
I think that to live creatively, it’s necessary to start by questioning every cultural assumption, and all the ‘lifestyle’ marketing. Consumerism pushes us towards being slaves and clones, rather than encouraging creative solutions. It takes work out of our hands, so that we do what? Watch TV, surf the net and put on weight. Life is lived in the details. Every undertaking is an opportunity for creativity. Sure, we might free up our time from ‘domestic drudgery’ to write a novel, create a great piece of art, compose a symphony… but how many of us even get so far as writing a very short poem or stopping to look at the sky?
Creativity doesn’t start with big things. You don’t wake up one morning magically knowing how to create the best sculpture the world has ever seen. Being creative is a skill in itself, and like any other skill, it needs practising. Ordinary, everyday life affords innumerable opportunities to be creative. The trick is not to try and buy tailor made solutions. It’s about seeing life as opportunity.
If I’ve learned anything in the last few years, it’s that creativity is not some kind of aspirational, elevated state that takes you away from what ‘ordinary’ people have to do. Creative people have to live in the real world too. Any aspect of life can be turned into an art form, and we can invest in it to create beauty. Be that simply undertaking to walk with grace and dance our way through the world. In every breath, word and gesture there is room to act creatively, or instead we can rely on cliché, habit and pre-packaged solutions. To be creative, is to choose our own way, to rely on our own vision and to reject assumptions about what we ought to want and do. You can’t buy creativity in a box.