Cultivating creativity

I’ve already discussed on my life advice website that I am a huge fan of Brene Brown and I’ve been following her “Ten Guideposts for Wholehearted Living.” One of those guideposts is cultivating creativity in your life. 

I will admit that I had not properly appreciated the importance of being creative, before I learned this from Brene Brown. Now, I’m not saying that I did not enjoy being creative. I did. And in fact, now that I look back, some of my favorite activities that I did as a professor related to expressing creativity or encouraging others to do the same.

For example, when I taught undergraduate cell biology, I offered an optional extra credit project for students, to create some sort of creative interpretation of a cell biological concept, whether it be a song, music video, or animation. I LOVED these creations. LOVED THEM. Watching them, even now, years later, fills my heart with warmth. That these beautiful human beings were showing their creative brilliance and bravery and originality in coming up with new modified lyrics to popular songs but showcasing cell biology. These works of art amazed me. And in fact, I have recently created a website (creativecellbiology.com) that showcases the songs and music videos that were created. I’m still working on it, and I’m still in the process of obtaining permission from the students to post the songs. (If you happen to be a former student of mine who created a song/video and I haven’t contacted you yet, but you would let me showcase your creation, please do contact me to let me know!) Once I finish the site, I’m going to share it with my cell bio professor colleagues across the country, in the hopes that some might use them in their cell bio classes. 

That wasn’t the only way I would infuse my work with creativity. In my lab, I used to require my students to give their scientific journal club presentation in some sort of non-traditional creative format. And I also spent significant time on my own creative cartoon illustrations and animations for the scientific talks that I would give.  

Thus, in retrospect, it is clear that I did value creativity. But again, I did not fully appreciate that having a creative outlet not only enriches our lives, but it is necessary for us to be healthy. 

It turns out that ALL human beings have an inherent need or drive to be creative. Unused creativity does not simply dissipate. Instead, it turns into rage, grief, shame, judgement, and depression. And so now, I make sure to ask my students that I mentor what they do to express their creativity. Whether it be through painting, baking, cooking, knitting, performing, writing, or anything else, it is important to find a creative outlet and utilize it often. I’ll write more about my main creative outlet these days in a future post. 

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