Arts & Culture · Lifestyle

Molly Fisk: Creativity

6758284261_306d3b3a74_zPhoto by Lauren Finkel via Flickr (Creative Commons)

One of the things that happens when you’re a poet is that people come up to you at silent auctions and board meetings, or in line at the movies — anywhere you might be standing around — and ask you strange questions about your work. The questions themselves are sort of incoherent, and not that important, it’s what’s behind them that’s interesting. Almost every time, what they want to know is how I learned to be so creative, and how they can learn, too.

Little kids would never think to ask me this, because they’re still bursting with creativity, it’s completely natural to them. But somewhere along the road to socialization, via high school, college, paychecks, smog tests, mortgages, and all the other responsibilities of modern life, creativity tends to get lost and we have to find it again.

Luckily, it’s not that hard. Creativity is about your essence, whether you express it in poems, paintings, dance, fiddle-music, really great lasagne, or perfectly timed wisecracks at the water cooler. The way to become creative is to start being yourself as deeply as possible.

This distillation is a life-long process, but it’s easy to begin. Walk around your town and have opinions about things. What do you think of that wrought-iron fence, this billboard, those climbing roses? Don’t say anything out loud — you don’t want to be mean. I would never tell someone that his socks were a terrible color…well, actually, I might, but only if we were already friends. The reason to do this is to find out who you are. Do you like the window display in the bookstore? The smell wafting out of that café? Why? Why not? What do you like most, and least?

Color matters enormously to me, and I love the proportions of 18th and 19th century buildings, the gingerbread and mullions. That big white house at the top of Broad St. pleases my eye, and I think the government complex off Highway 49 is hideous.

Maybe you’re someone who could care less about houses and color but can identify motorcycles by make and year just hearing them chug up a hill. Go ahead, leave your desk and walk around for half an hour, finishing this sentence over and over: “I am a person who . . . dot, dot, dot . . .” Do you hate contrived exercises like this? Are you someone who’d rather gaze into a computer screen than take a walk? Do you like numbers? Do you like snakes? What bores you? Who are you? The more you can find out about yourself, the more creativity will start to churn in your brain.

Me, I like standing under trees and looking up through the leaves at flickering shards of sunlight. I like the sound of water better than the way it looks. I hate comedy but love wit and cleverness and wordplay. I hate liverwurst and licorice and muggy weather. Hugs make me secretly very uncomfortable, but I like kissing. I could kiss for days.


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  • Karen Donaldson June 11, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    I avidly read everything you write, Molly, and find your choice of words as well as the subject matter of your essays to be worth every minute. I was surprised by your use of “could care less” in the penultimate paragraph. I know this has become common usage, but I find myself adhering to the original sentiment that would be, rather, “couldn’t care less.” Hmmm…

    Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your view of the world. It is heartening to this reader.

  • Amy Hughes May 23, 2016 at 8:16 am

    I love this generous view of creativity! I live with someone who absolutely can recognize a vehicle by the sound. And the last paragraph resonated with me: when my daughter was a baby, she loved staring up through the leaves from underneath a tree. It would instantaneously soothe her or make her smile and kick. I’ve got to ask her whether it still does the trick. Thanks for this!

  • Molly Fisk May 21, 2016 at 8:35 pm

    Thank you!

  • Deborah Harkins May 21, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    What a lovely essay, Molly!