When you think about the word “creativity”, what comes to your mind? Do you consider yourself a creative person?
I used to attribute this word to those artists I had always admired — those who paint oil paintings, play instruments, write poetries, design dresses or houses. They are the creative ones. Not me, for I didn’t have any creative work to show.
From 2007 to 2014, I worked in ministry full-time with an international organisation. I travelled frequently, led mission trips, did one-on-one coaching, made beds for the guest speakers, cooked in the industrious kitchens, and translated for conferences and schools.
Among the various kinds of jobs I did in ministry, I was very clumsy at some, like logistics and networking, but proficient at others, like translating– I was a fluent, sought-after translator (Chinese and English).
However, after years of repeating those tasks, I started to feel drained. I no longer could find the motivation to staff another school or interpret for another event, even though I would be doing what I was good at and beneficial to others.
People kept asking for my skills and service, but my soul became more and more empty. I wondered why I felt so tired and purposeless. After all, I was a missionary who religiously had “quiet time” with God every day. Shouldn’t I be full of life and joy and passion for discipleship and the lost souls?
I eventually left that organisation, and it was a good decision. However, it took me years to figure out why I couldn’t stay. It comes down to creativity.
Like I said earlier, I didn’t consider myself as creative mainly because I didn’t have any creative work to show. But the truth is, I’m a creative being who had hardly invested any time to nourish my creativity by working on anything that felt creative to me!
Back in those years in ministry, the tasks I did, as meaningful as they were, didn’t require much of my creativity as for my skills and proficiency.
When we failed to nurture our creativity, we failed to nourish our soul. And often, when our soul is malnourished, we feel stuck and lacking purpose. How can we serve others well if our soul hasn’t been well-fed?
Before you second-guess yourself, let me assure you, you are creative. You may not be a painter, musician, or poet, but it doesn’t diminish your intrinsic nature as a creative.
Think about the diversity and beauty of the world we live in for a moment — the same God who made the earth, and the universe made you and me in His image. Creativity, the ability to create something beautiful and valuable, is your birthright.
However, we are all different and have different ways to express our creativity. It’s our responsibility to identify our creative outlets.
In my case, identifying creative outlets almost equals defining my purpose. Could it be true in your case too?
I want to share what I’ve learned in the journey of identifying my creative outlets and nurturing my creativity, which ultimately uncovered my purpose. My hope and prayer are that you will find encouragement and inspiration to discover your own path.
- Take the Hint from Childhood
It resonated deeply with me when I read, “What brought you to life as a preteen is connect to what will awaken you now. It may play out in a different form, but there is gold in mining the dreams of your youth.” (Rebekah Lyons, Rhythms of Renewal p. 228)
Though I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my life at that time, I certainly knew what I loved doing as a child. That girl of my youth loved reading a book or daydreaming in a sun-toasted corner and also loved making up stories in her journal and drawing her favourite characters from the books she read. And she was good at it.
However, because the gifts of writing and drawing came to me so naturally as a child, even with my article published on students’ publications and paintings on exhibition, I treated them carelessly. I had thought everyone else could write and draw as well and probably were better than me.
Although I took journalism as my university major and gained a bachelor’s degree, I did almost nothing about it after graduating. The irony was that while I kept searching everywhere for my purpose throughout my 20s and came up with nothing, my gifts and childhood passions had been collecting dust in the dark.
What did you love and good at doing when you were a child? Name them. Write them down! They are the inklings and insight into how you are designed and what you are meant to do. In whatever field you set your feet in, use your gifts, my friend!
2. Stop Waiting for the “Right Time”
When I first took writing seriously by investing in an online writer’s membership called Hope*Writers, I was nine months pregnant with our second child. I knew my days ahead would be very intense with a newborn and a toddler and had no idea if I could find any time to write, but that small, still voice inside told me to give it a go.
I had many good reasons to persuade myself out of making that decision at that time. I could have waited for a less busy season to start pursuing this creative endeavour. But we both know the truth is life keeps happening. We may keep waiting, and the “right time” may never come.
Is it time, my friend, to open your laptop, take out that camera, sharpen those pencils or register for that class now?
3. Embrace the Abundance Mindset
One month after giving birth to our baby girl, I started to write on my blog every week.
Every Wednesday morning, I would block three hours, leave the kids to my husband, go out to a nearby cafe and write. Sometimes I could finish writing one blog post in one morning; other times, I couldn’t. I would always find some crack time to finish the post within the day and publish it. So every Wednesday, there would be a new post on my blog.
Was it easy for me to be consistent? No. It was especially hard in the beginning because I didn’t fully believe that I could do it.
Some mornings, I was so tired from the previous night’s breastfeeding and didn’t want to get out of my cozy bed.
Sometimes, I stared at the blank page for precious 15 minutes, and not a single word came out.
There had been a few times after finally finishing a hard-won piece, instead of sharing it freely on my blog, I was tempted to keep it for some imaginary publication someday to gain a return because who knew if I could write anything better again.
However, I knew in my gut that dedicating one day a week to writing on my blog was the right thing to do. I prayed for God’s grace and help. And I believed in His abundance— I will have enough energy and inspiration to do the things I’m called to do, whether it’s writing for my blog readers or other readers one day.
My baby girl is 16-month-old now and just started to walk. I’m still writing on my blog every week, and it has been one of my favourite things to do.
I’ve tasted and bought in this beautiful mystery— The more we show up and give what we have, the more will be given to us. The more we create out of authenticity, the more creative we will become.
4. Hold on to the Big WHY
If anything, the Pandemic has taught us that life is unpredictable and short. Each day we have is a gift. And we don’t take glances of every sunrise and sunset for granted.
In this short life, I want to offer all that I have to my Creator, whether it is my ability to write in English or my drawings. It may not be much, and it may not be even that good in some people’s eyes, but it’s my offering to God and my big WHY.
What is your WHY for doing what you are doing or aspiring to do in the future? Is it big and deep enough to motivate you to keep showing up even when there is no applause or recognition in return?
Dear friend, I hope my story has encouraged you to pick up at least one of your creative outlets and start to work on it if you haven’t already. I believe it will be soul-nourishing and life-giving for you as it has been for me.