A Creative Life: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?
The expression “a creative life” can seem wonderful and romantic, but can also seem far away from our own real lives. Why is living a creative life important?
To answer that question, we probably need to look first at what a creative life is. That may require us to put aside some preconceptions. For many of us, the first place we go when we hear the phrase “a creative life” is to think of the lives of great artists, or other individuals who have performed great, culturally recognized acts of creativity. Perhaps we think of Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, or even the Beatles! Yet, it might be important to give that idea a second look.
Is creating a major work of art the only way to live “a creative life”? Moreover, is it even the most important thing to do to live a creative life? In fact, if we think about some of the creators of major works of art, we start to realize that their actual daily lives were pretty desolate, characterized by depression and substance abuse. Is that what we mean by living “a creative life”? Or is there something different, and very important for us, that we’re trying to move towards?.
Just What Is a Creative Life?
Jung offers us a different perspective. As he states,
The creative mind plays with the object it loves. Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of the imagination is incalculable. But, if you have nothing at all to create, then perhaps you create yourself [Italics mine].
I think that the last part of this quotation is perhaps the most important. I would read it in the sense that the most important and fundamental thing that you have to create is yourself. Jung is encouraging us to bring our imagination to ourselves, and to imagine possibilities for ourselves. He sees this as the most fundamental form of creativity, and the heart of leading a creative life.
Opening the Door of Possibility
Jung stresses that without play and fantasy there is no possibility of any kind of creative work. So what does it mean if we think about being creative with our lives? Can we bring play and fantasy to bear on what our lives might look like?
There is probably a part of each of us for whom the answer to that question is “No!” “Are you kidding?” that part might tell us, “Look at my life! Look at my responsibilities! I have kids! I have a mortgage! I have bills! How can I possibly be creative or playful about that?” And in fact, there are many people whose outlook is probably dominated by the view, held consciously or unconsciously, that “my life is just the way it is”. Or as John Lennon simply and eloquently put it, “Nothing’s gonna change my world.” There may well be elements of anxiety and depression that keep us locked in such an outlook.
For many of us, it’s easy to feel that our lives are driven and determined by external forces. At this point in North America, many people, including both younger and older adults, feel that way about their career or work life. For many, career determines their daily schedule, consumes the vast majority of their energy, seems to establish what is possible and impossible, and, in many cases, leaves people feeling that they are living with a high level of uncertainty about their future. Others may feel similarly about the economy, about family issues or many other things.
Unconscious Wisdom and a Creative Life
We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.
Yet, is there a possibility of playfully imagining something different in our lives? For instance, as a starting place, is it possible to imagine what we would like our lives to look like, or imagine if something in our lives changed? Is there some step, even a small one, that we can take toward “creating ourselves”, as Jung urges? Such a thing might initially seem very hard. Often, a supportive connection such as a Jungian /a-midlife-transition can begin to open some doors that might have seemed unavoidably closed.
The unconscious mind is often more aware of our playful, creative and soulful elements than the conscious mind. Do you ever wonder about the creative elements in you, and where they might lead you in your life? Or, do you ever feel “stuck”? Maybe now is the time to get better acquainted with your creative self.
With very best wishes for your personal journey,
© 2023 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario