Knowing Your Real Creative Self

I came out of the womb fully formed, at least for destiny’s purposes. Storycatcher. Teacher. Consultant. I will no doubt go to my grave as such, trying to fix things on the other side in much the same way as I do in this one.

Every job I’ve held over the years contained aspects of all three. But other than being my calling, where did these skills come from? I credit my parents for nurturing these tools, though I don’t think they overtly knew that’s what they were doing. I took it from there and ran with that sense of purpose, rarely slowing my pace.

When I was young, color television was “new”. (Yes, I realize I’m dating myself…) But in our household, watching it was a treat, not the norm. Instead, Dad would bring home big shipping boxes from the manufacturing plant where he was a mechanical engineer, and Mom gave us old sheets. “Go make something up,” they’d say. And that’s what I did.

Adventures, people, places I read about in books from the library – all fed my overactive imagination. I could be a sailor on an ocean one day, and building a city the next. Dad brought home marionettes from his business trips, and my sister and I made up puppet shows. Mom shared pictures of herself singing in operas and gave us her old dresses, and we pretended we were from other eras.

Years later, as a financial analyst and accountant, I needed to help non-financial people understand the numbers. How did I do this? I made up stories about their inter-relatedness, as a way to communicate the message. Being able to craft examples made the material accessible, and many managers could even explain figures themselves with time (mine) and patience (theirs).

This continued on when I became a consultant. Explaining the story behind a problem, along with the impact of potential solutions, is what consultants do. Teaching people how to take the first steps of analysis themselves empowered them. And as a university professor, I needed those same skills so that my students could understand concepts and complexities in new topics.

It has never disappeared, this need of mine to teach people through stories. But now I get to do this in a different enjoyable way. I love it when someone tells me that my stories helped them believe in love again, or that they fell in love with characters and couldn’t stop thinking about them. The stories already exist, whether they are in the fabric of real lives or in the gray matter of my mind. I simply need to catch them.

It all comes back to the things I’ve been doing all my life. In fact, I don’t know how NOT to do them! I have to rein myself in when I explain something because my tendency is to craft a story to help someone understand. Good, if you’re telling someone how you planned your new garden. Bad, when they only want to know the easiest route to a destination. They might not care about what interesting history they pass along the way.

But then again, they might!

What aspects of your real self do you carry with you throughout your life? How have they influenced your choices of jobs and hobbies? I’d love to hear from you!

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