Opinions, Column

Creativity: Bottomless Well or a Needy Garden

I wish creativity existed within me like a bottomless well. 

It’s a rather odd confession to make, but I must say I’ve reached the point in my semester where I am starting to regret that my creativity is not boundless. Now, I participate in a number of commitments, which require my constant creative output. As a dance team captain, social media content manager, and a writer, I have lately found myself racking my brain for any last drop of that special creative juice. 

I admit this with a sort of wistfulness. After all, creativity is not the sort of thing you should have to wrung out of a sponge. Forcing creativity seems counterintuitive to its spontaneous nature. In my buoyant and joyous childhood, I remember how my creativity existed like a box of ideas floating above my head, always present for me to reach up and grab from when I wished. Being creative served as more of a personal leisure activity, not something I employed for others. I would use my creativity to write fanfiction and other original works, invent imaginary worlds to explore during recess time, and dance to songs with choreography that only I seemed to understand.

You see, my childhood self claimed my creativity. I would only ever use it for my own pleasure. And now, I wish I had the ability to take ownership of it as an adult.

Given how fast modern life moves due to technological innovation, more work, effort, and attention are demanded from young people every day. Whether in college or the workforce, society desires youthful innovation for new ideas to implement, inventions that can improve efficiency, and visions no one has dared to dream yet. In short, the world’s desire for creative output is at an all-time high. I have noticed this trend in my classes (where creative project ideas or discussion contributions are highly rewarded), in my job (where fresh ideas are the most celebrated), and in my extracurriculars (where the reinvention of past events and programs is constantly sought). 

This thirst for creativity is truly everywhere, and it makes me feel … tired.

I have relished the opportunity to push my creativity to its limits and uncover what I am truly capable of, but I feel this uphill battle has come at a cost: By dedicating my creativity to the organizations I belong to, I have lost ownership over my creations. I do not interact with my creativity the way my child self used to: carefree and for leisure purposes. Instead, my creativity has become the finite gasoline that allows me to carry out my daily obligations. I no longer treat it as a sacred possession, but I look at it more like something I must extract from the natural landscape of my mind.

After all this commentary on the role of creativity in my life, I wish I could say that I have a solution to creative burnout. Unfortunately, though, the societal advancements that keep the world moving fast aren’t stopping anytime soon. 

I do have one piece of advice: It is never too late to reclaim your creativity. There is nothing preventing you from using some of your creativity on yourself, whether you plan a spectacular outing for yourself, take 20 minutes out of your day to sketch a nearby object, or put together a new outfit. As exhausting as it may get to constantly give away your creativity to school, work, or extracurriculars, you can choose, at any point, to pour it back into yourself.

I have made a pact with myself to do one activity everyday that allows me to reclaim my creativity. While some days are better than others in this respect, I have found this practice allowed me to heal some of my creative burnout. In the process, I found that my creativity is not the bottomless well I had hoped for—it turned out to be a needy garden that requires upkeep and care. Though my creativity may not always be at my fingertips in an instant, it will never fully run out as long as I take care in properly tending to it.

March 26, 2023