Filtering creativity

The Way I See It

Michelle
Michelle Kim/File

I am not original.

I hate to admit it, but it’s true. My creativity is stunted; my ideas are limited and heavily inspired by others. Being incredibly pretentious, it is terribly painful for me to admit to you, dear reader, that I am but a combination of the ideas of others — an eclectic blend of the thoughts of many. I’m that annoying kid in the group of friends who starts to copy everyone else’s catchphrase.

This scares the crap out of me.

It took a while for me to come to terms with my utter lack of creativity. I’ve done art my entire life, I’ve written stories since I was eight and I’ve been in musicals and dramas since I was in the fourth grade. My right brain is what I bank on. Whenever I was compared to my sister, whose major is biology, it was the one redeeming factor that I could brandish like a sword, maniacally screaming, “I’m sorry, family, that I abhor science, that I only like calculus when you get to draw tessellations, that labs make me feel suffocated — but I’m an artist and I make things.” And yes, I always use that obnoxious tone of voice while I brandish my sword.

So recently, attempting to come to terms with my lack of creativity, I began desperately searching for anything, anything that showed a glimpse of originality in myself.

What I came across was the diary I had for the first ten years of my life. Upon finding it in my garage, I sat amidst dusty boxes, flipping through the pages of my childhood thoughts. And oh, what profound thoughts they were.

When I was a kid, I named my diary Stacy, and I would draw pictures of us (Stacy portrayed as a rectangle with wavy appendages sticking out in uncomfortable directions) playing hide-and-go-seek. I would draw a picture of us hiding, and on the next page I would draw me finding Stacy. Human and rectangle-with-squiggly-arms, giggling together, forever.

My God, my social life has thrived since day one, hasn’t it?

My personal favorite was a meager three line entry, hidden in the midst of myriad pages of hide-and-go-seek revelry. It simply read, “Dear Stacy, today, my brother John died. I was sad. I’m going to go drink soymilk now because I like it! See you later!”

Just to be clear, my brother John never died. Wait, scratch that. I never had a brother named John in the first place. And this nonexistent brother never died.

Okay, I was crazy, but this could count as creativity, right? I was fabricating stories and ideas in my little eight-year-old head. Surely this is a reassurance of my right-brain creativity…

But my hopes were once again crushed because even if this could be counted as creativity (which I’m not sure it really can), my “creativity” has ultimately declined.

Somewhere in between age eight and age 19 my deep desires to blend into the crowd and my uncanny ability to act like others had killed any sense of originality. If anything, finding my diary underscored my realization that my originality had deteriorated. Deteriorated. Nobody appreciates knowing that they’ve deteriorated. So in order to console myself, I began to take on the mindset that it’s okay that I’m not creative.

After all, there is more to opinion than just throwing new, innovative ideas out. Some people are amazing at doing that, don’t get me wrong. They talk about politics and what next step officials should take. They talk about improvements that could be made in schools and programs that could be founded in offices.

But when I realized that I may have lost my edge in originality somewhere between age eight and age 19, I began to hone other skills — most notably the skill of observation. I’ve turned my focus and attention outward. My inspiration is you. What I see and write about is you.

For when we see the same event, you will see it in one way, and I will see it in another. I might see it through the filter of an Asian American, a Christian or a girl in a single-parent family. For every person is impacted and influenced by a thousand factors, and the particular set of factors that influence me may help you see things differently. Perhaps I will focus more on the philosophy of it, and you will focus on the chronological effects of it. Perhaps it will cause me to think about its effects on equal rights or feminism, while you see sociological roots. Perhaps I will take it as motivation to join the Peace Corps, while you see it as an obvious reason for an end to a certain governmental policy.

There will be moments, granted, when you will be displeased with the way I see things — but that’s okay. We’re not meant to be the same person, you and I.

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