The Correlation Between Creativity and Vulnerability

It was interesting to watch an interview with Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino), who seems to be trending heavily right now, Issa Rae and other writers who were speaking about creativity and how they have cultivated their creative expression. What I found to be the most intriguing had been all of their mention of the correlation between creativity and vulnerability!

Much of the conversation revolved around the writing of their shows and movies, and how improvisational acting was completely different. They spoke about how improv acting is completely raw so it requires a NEED to be vulnerable or you will fail.

When you think about what improv is, it makes sense. Improvisational acting is unscripted, and instead, actors work off of the unanticipated dialogue between other actors and their energies. As Glover expressed, to be creative and succeed in improv, you need to be vulnerable and not think about how you look, how you should, act or what you should say. Rather, you need to get into a space where the mind is free to accept and work off of the energies of those performing with you.

He speaks of the writing he does for Atlanta, where he encourages many of his actors to perform improvisational scenes. He claims he provides two scenarios for the actors to work off of, and come time for the scene he encourages them to spontaneously choose to take the scene in one direction or another to create an unexpected need for improvising with the other participating actors.

As a result, Glover believes this vulnerability, this freedom to be expressive forced by the unanticipated conditions of a situation and the accepting of one another’s’ energies, creates for a more real and interesting portrayal of a scene. Issa Rae had then expressed she does something similar in her show, Insecure, which I happen to be a watcher of, so it makes a lot of sense when I found out that improv is also a critical component in her narrative. Much of the conversations, expressions and situations in the show seem so free-flowing and real-life, and it is because oftentimes they are.

Understanding the correlation between creativity and vulnerability sent me into one of those rabbit-hole thoughts, I so often mentioned. I thought about how such a high percentage of us with creative talent, and I do believe everyone has some sort of creativity within them, end up never expressing our talent because we refuse to be vulnerable. School teaches us to be invulnerable, to acquire a degree, leading us in a direction of obtaining a stable job and following all of the rules to lead a “secure” life.

Essentially, this conditioning is killing creativity everywhere. We doubt our talents and our capabilities. We not only want a parachute when we jump out of the plane, but we also need it to land exactly 100 yards away from our house or we don’t want to do it at all. As a result of this conditioning, we hide our vulnerabilities and, in turn, our creativity, some of which will be hidden away forever for no one to see… EVER.

If you are willing to be vulnerable, perhaps you will be able to discover a creativity you never believed to be there or perhaps it will give you the courage to express the creativity you always knew you had. I don’t think its matter of who is and who is not creative, it who is willing to be vulnerable enough to express new ideas and show themselves to others who will probably judge them. Many of us, myself included, rather not most of the time. But, let’s break though this conditioning and get creative! Woo!

The Expression of Joy

I have done a lot of thinking about “expressing joy.” In Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability (which I feel I need to give a second listen to), she speaks of expressing JOY and the fulfillment of happiness this brings. She speaks of a story of a man who lives his entire life like everything is just ok, not really getting overly excited or enthused about much. Then one day his wife of 25 years passes away, and he is regretful of never truly expressing the joy he had all of these years of life with her. From the day on, this man vowed to actively express joy every single day. I may have paraphrased that story a bit, but the lesson is conclusive:

Actively express joy for everything in life, big or small.

It is easier said than done mostly because life is so distracting and sometimes we do not truly see a moment as an opportunity for joy, rather, we may just see it as just another ordinary moment.

If you are anything like me, vacations or promotions were always things I was appreciative and grateful for but did not necessarily induce excitement. Perhaps it is due to a modest upbringing or not wanting to come off as arrogant or haughty, but the converse of not expressing joy, is just as poor… We SHOULD be excited and be joyous for these small pleasures in life.

This thoughts has then led to my attempt in better defining “joy,” and also finding a way to intentionally express it every single day.

First, my definition of “joy” is essentially gratitude + excitement.

Gratitude is the expression of things in life that we are appreciative and thankful for but does not necessarily induce that explosive expression of how I (at least) visualize “joy.” The visual that comes to mind when I think of joy is then sun shining, beaming on my back as I skip through a field of daisies, wearing a great big grin. That is the visual I need to live up to in my mind.

So, in order to have that visual come closer to life, the second piece of this definition is then excitement! This is an action we prompt have to prompt for ourselves. We can choose to be excited about those moments in life we are grateful for. Ever hear the old saying, “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”? It might be a motto you may hear at a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking workshop, but nonetheless, whether in public speaking, business or in life, we act the way we want to feel, more simply. I believe this intentional expression of excitement paired with this appreciation for moments big and small, helps us to feel JOY.

As a matter of practice, every day I do express gratitude but to further express joy, this morning I ask myself a simple question:

What am I excited for today?

Now, for the record, today is an ordinary working money, I do not have anything particularly unique going on, yet still I found moments to be excited about.

  • Excited to go to work.
  • Excited to finish my tasks for my project.
  • Excited to talk to partner about his day later.
  • Excited to go to the gym.
  • Excited to have dinner with my family.
  • Excited to read my book.
  • Excited to have my bean soup for lunch.

It sounds silly but we deserve to be joyous about all facets of life. Otherwise, why bother waking up, right?

Answer this question for yourself today and feel your mood change. I promise. That is joy.

The Power of Conversation

We all tend to underestimate the power of conversation. Conversation, though is sounds simple, is no easy task. It comes back to the concept of being vulnerable. Conversation whether it is in regards to a trivial matter as small as asking the waiter for more ketchup, or a more serious matter in discussing your emotions with your partner, in both cases we are setting ourselves up for rejection or potential conflict. As a result, many of us choose to avoid conversation all together. This is our comfort zone, being non-confrontational and closed-off in fear of being “difficult.”

However, something we underestimate is the immense progress and joy we can gain from conversation because, guess what, much of the time that rejection or conflict you fear NEVER HAPPENS. Or, at least it doesn’t happen as dramatically as you might have imagined.

Let’s take the simple example of asking the waiter for more ketchup. Now, if you are anything like me, though I do want more ketchup, I probably would hesitate to ask the waiter with the thought that I would be pestering him. Yes, I know…. Silly. What is the worst that can happen? He doesn’t get me ketchup? He thinks I am a bother? It is unlikely he would come back with a new bottle and hit me with it or something because I suppose that would be the unrealistic and utterly worst case scenario. Conversely, if the conversation was breached and request was asked… Guess what? You might just get what you were asking for no problem, no big deal. Doesn’t that feel better? You got your ketchup free of any injuries to report back home about.

Now, for two more serious examples illustrating the power of conversation we will talk about conversation in work and relationships.

First, let’s consider discussing a promotion with your manager. It is no doubt easier to come into work and perform your typically job day in and day out than to challenge your position and breach conversation with your manager to discuss promotional opportunities. It’s scary! I know. However, in not taking the chance to beginning conversation about opportunities, you will miss out on them. How would your manager ever know what you are interested in doing? What if they just thought you weren’t interested so that is the reason you have not been offered new positions? They are your manager, not a mind-reader afterall. Plus, worst case scenario, again, you will most likely go back to working in your current position, so it sounds like there is not much to lose (Unless your manager is a [Insert your explicit here]). Anyway, the conclusion is that conversations alone can open up opportunities you may not have realized were even there!

In the second scenario, let’s consider discussing a certain way you are feeling with your partner. This can be a feeling that is really not even about them but perhaps it is something difficult in your family that you are dealing with, something at work, something about your current circumstance that is causing you uneasiness, and ultimately, may be influencing your relationship to some degree. Of course, it is easy to get caught up in the thought, “Oh, he doesn’t want to hear about this. I can handle it on my own.” “Oh, I don’t want him to take the way I am feeling the wrong way, so I rather not say.” “Oh, he’s better off not knowing because then he will think I am CRAZY.” We all are. It’s ok. Yes, we will have all of these concerns about sharing out emotions with our partner, but the sad truth is that when things are left unsaid, no matter how minor the issue, it will metastasize until it is something that cannot be so easily repaired. It is sort of similar to that leaky roof you knew needed to be fixed two years ago when it was just a small hole, but now two years and three terrible snow storms later, the damage is more severe and is going to cost much more money than had you have gotten it repaired two years ago. Fix the leaky roof now!! NOW is the time when it is no big deal, it is fixable, manageable, LATER is when it might be too late and may find yourself paying a premium for it. One conversation. It may be all it takes. As a result, you may well find relief, joy and sheer happiness in this expression. You may feel as though a world has been lifted off of your shoulder. After all, that is what a partner is for. To be there for you. Let’s trust that.

Let’s not underestimate the power of conversation going forward. We do not know that we do not know. If you are questioning whether to have an important discussion with someone in your life today, have it! You will feel better that you did, regardless. Good luck!

“What is Love? Baby Don’t Hurt Me…”

Ahh, the classic question posed by a 90s one-hit-wonder, along with the rest of humanity.

Throughout our lives, many of us are both hexed and fortunate to experience love. Recently, for myself I have been experiencing love for the first time and it truly is unlike any other emotion. It is ambiguous, cannot be understood nor described.

If you’re anything like me, you might have previously thought, “I’m so fine with being the cool single aunt the rest of my life,” set on doing everything on your own, not feeling like you need anyone because of your independence. Well, let me tell you, if you come to find someone who challenges all of those inclinations, please give it a shot. It is easy to stay in your comfortable world where you only have to worry about you and there is no need to ever be vulnerable. Plus, the word “vulnerable” alone probably makes you sick. So, rather just avoid it, right? I get it.

However, at the same time (I have learned and am still learning) vulnerability is both critical to wholly love and it is beautiful. To be further sickened by the thought, listen to Brene Brown’s –Power of Vulnerability or read her book, Daring Greatly—(Listed in ‘Books’). Both of these journals have opened my eyes to the importance of vulnerability and also made me realize how much I unknowingly avoid it. The way Brene Brown describes, “Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.”

How beautiful is that? To share your thoughts and emotions with someone and allow them to accept them without judgement. Talk about being naked! Sheesh. Meanwhile, all this time I thought my biggest fear was physically being naked?! I don’t know. It sounds like no contest compared to the deep expression of vulnerability.

Honestly, love has no definition because everyone is different, every relationship is different, which is why so many of us go on 100+ dates in our lives to find no one who clicks. Yet, that same guy who showed up 20 minutes late in ripped jeans and a baseball hat on your first date found the love of his life a week later!

We are not all compatible, so we cannot expect love to be an apples to apples experience for everyone. It is unrealistic. All we can strive to do is embrace love, let love in, love love but most importantly love yourself. And, to quote Brene Brown one more time, tell yourself, “I am enough.”

So, what is love? Well… You’ll have to find out for yourself.