Unused Creativity is Not Benign

“Unused creativity is not benign. It metastasizes and turns into grief and shame and judgement and hard things. Because someone did not put value on our work, does not change the worthiness of that work or us. So the stories we make up about our creativity are very dangerous.” -Brene Brown in Rising Strong as a Spiritual Practice

Unused creativity is not benign

Unused creativity is not benign

Unused creativity is not benign

Maybe that week of irritability had nothing to do with PMS, maybe that month of feeling empty wasn’t clinical depression. Maybe that mini identity crisis and sudden impulse to reevaluate everything in life wasn’t… insanity. 

Maybe, it had been too long since I did nothing deemed “productive.” Maybe, when weighed against this appointment and that ‘necessary’ reorganization of every closet, the little ol’ art project could barely stay on the scale. Maybe, I forgot that creating isn’t a hobby. It’s human; it’s life.

“...It metastasizes and turns into grief and shame…”

Grief? Choosing dishes over photography can cause me GRIEF? Wha...how?

Her research shows that there are three things inherent to humans that can not be changed, tampered with, or lost: 

  • We are inherently loveable

  • We are inherently Divine

  • We are inherently creative

Would removing a third of my insides cause me a little grief? Likely.


So you mean to tell me that the span of 3 days where I felt like I should create a little cave for myself and stay in it until everyone forgot about me, could have something to do with the fact that I essentially quit doing 99% of the things that filled me up in an unalterable way? Yet still, I was certain that I had fallen down the shame spiral simply because I hadn’t been accomplishing enough in “key” areas of life. In fact, all of my keys were missing.

If I am inherently creative, my body, my heart, my mind have an actual NEED to make new things that didn’t exist before I got there. When I do that, even if it never sees the light of day- especially if it doesn’t see the light of day-- I am reminding myself of my divinity and my loveability. When I feel loveable, I feel a greater desire to create. When I am clear on my Divine nature, it’s nearly impossible to believe the lie of being unloveable. 

Inherent: existing in something as a permanent, essential, or characteristic attribute.




When you go to create and then don’t, what stops you?

When it comes to writing for public consumption, I realized the only thing that stops me is whether or not I have courage that day.

My skills stay the same. My desire to share is the same. The fulfillment I get from getting what’s inside put on the outside is the same.

The only difference is that on one day I care a lot about what you’ll think, and on another day I don’t. The day I don’t is the day I create. It’s just courage. It’s just how many craps I give, really.

Why would I weigh those days differently? Why when I don’t feel brave enough, do I not say, “There is another version of you who gives no craps (for the wrong audience). She could show up tomorrow! Might as well just welcome her in today and just write the damn thing.”

When I watch a standup comedian, I think about the number of times that person heard crickets after they told a joke in order for them to be standing in front of me that day- especially if they’re on TV.

Those comedians give me guts. I don’t want people to tell me I can do it, I should do it, to just do it. 

I need people to do it. Show me how it’s done. Show me how you can give no craps, or, how to give some but still show up. Because somewhere along the line of the last few years, my creativity and my courage left me in the hands of productivity and practicality, and the results are in. Increased self-judgement, increased shame in the form of self-doubt, and grief over the countless works of art that will never see the light of day.

It is no wonder that in the LDS faith, the belief is that Satan’s first order of business was to take away our essential individuality, crushing our ability to create. Look what it can do to our hearts. 


“Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just show. Don’t promise, just prove.” —The Internet

And the Internet is never wrong.

How do I go from THIS, to "Classy Older Lady?"

I’ve thought a lot about my ideal 65 year old self. What she likes to do, who she spends her time with, what qualities she possesses.

Graceful is a word that comes to mind, almost as a long shot, “who, me?” I could be graceful, right? What would need to happen today to make for a graceful 65 year old Kate?

But classy, that’s a good word for an aging lady. She’s so classy; she shows up to every home with a thoughtful gift and remembers the dog’s name and always sends the nicest card within a matter of days.

She has so many unique talents! I mean, can you believe she didn’t start learning the violin until she was 50? And now look! You’d think she’d been doing it all her life.

She’s lived such a fascinating life but seems so down to earth about it. She raised her kids and then spent 15 years immersing herself in other cultures and countries, but at the same time, she prefers to be in her cozy home in…(don’t know how to predict this one yet)?

I love that she can interact with so many people in their native languages. Can you imagine how much work it would take to learn that many languages in 20 years?

Speaking of her home! Have you ever seen a place so lovely? Beautifully designed, sized to fit she and her husband with plenty of rooms for guests, but not so many that the rooms collect dust in the waiting. Not like they ever wait long; hers is a revolving door of visitors, each counting their stay at her place among the highlights of their trip.

It’s always so welcoming and has the best smell, right? Not to mention the eclectic collection of designs from all over the world. Did you see her own original artwork throughout? The sculptures and photography? Where did she find the time to learn that? My favorites were the handwoven rugs and the mural on the back patio.

Each time I visit, I grab another volume from her vast, impeccably organized library. And sometimes, I even take one from the shelf full of her own writing.

But the best part of visiting 65 year old Kate is the way you feel when you’re there. Like she has been waiting for you, and you alone, to arrive. After traveling all day to get there, you’re welcomed with a tasty array of warm pastry and refreshing beverages. You prop yourself up on one of the many plush seating options, wrap up in the always fresh, always fluffy throws, and tell her all about your journey as she nods and listens intently.

Talking to her feels as warm as the blanket around your shoulders, and you feel a little pang already thinking of having to leave tomorrow. No where else do you feel so accepted, seen, loved.

So, maybe it’s a tall order for this woman to be carved out of the crude piece of marble that is my 34 year old self. But a girl can aim for a masterpiece!

Whenever I find myself coasting through life, I ask myself what needs to happen between now and then. What are the kinds of things that 65 year old woman was doing when she was my age?

Did she spend time perfecting her scrolling finger? How much TV did she watch?

I’m convinced my current self would need to master a devotion to time. Almost setting it apart as holy, so precious that I wouldn’t dare swipe or tap it away. Not seeking to manipulate or squeeze the most productivity out of it, but treating it like a valued friend I may not see again. Or won’t see again.

That level of refinement would require a vigilance toward consumption I am so far from today! What did she consume? What types of media, food, ideas, conversation...were allowed in? Cotton candy? Or nutrient-dense-superfood-level everything?

What time would she have woken up to learn that many languages and write all those books?

What was she learning alongside her children? Did they travel to far off lands? Practice their listening skills across the dinner table? Honor books over screens, people over books?

When faced with the decision of whether to visit the neighbor or do another load of laundry in her few free hours, which became the habit? How did she actively love?

When life broke her heart, what was her approach? How much self-pity took up residence? How many temper-tantrums? How often did she seek optimism, faith, and patience against the pull of despair and blame?

Could that be where all that compassion came from? How did she learn to understand her loved one’s deepest pain, fears, challenges? How does she always remember their favorite meal, his closest friend, her deepest passion? How does she manage to make everyone who crosses her threshold feel like the one she loves most?

Contrary to what I believed as a child, one doesn’t just reach “oldness” and POOF! Wisdom, warmth, people skills.

I’m thinking a quick litmus test of how my 65 year old self will treat her guests is how I treat the family I see every day.

To be a spiritual giant leaning on an ever-evolving faith, that requires I step up my study and consideration of spiritual things, today.

If I want a steady flow of happy guests then, the seeds of trusting relationships need to be planted and carefully nurtured now.

And certainly, to achieve such an abundant life, I would have needed to treat myself with abundance. Abundant respect. Abundant care. Abundant grace.

There it is. Grace. It isn’t how her body moves through the world, it’s how her heart does.