Relying on Creativity

When I first took the Life Values Inventory, I remember looking down at my results as Dr. Kelly Crace explained that Achievement, Responsibility, and Concern for Others tended to be high burnout values, especially if they are not paired with more restorative practices.

screenshot of Life Values Inventory results showing Responsibility, Achievement, and Concern for others in high priority

My 2013 results


But then Kelly told us that one of the best strategies for living well with our values was to pick one under-attended value and commit to developing it. Here was a challenge my achievement mindset could tackle!

I chose Creativity.

Starting slowly, I bought a writing prompt journal and invested in some simple art supplies. I made hand illustrated cards for friends, tapping into my concern for others. With intention and practice, creativity stopped being just an expression of my other values and became a leading value in my life.

Almost ten years later, my 2021 update to the LVI looks like this.

A screenshot of Life Values Inventory results showing creativity in high priority

You may notice that Achievement doesn’t show up at all — it’s now in my “medium/low priority values,” meaning I continue to rely on it where it serves me but it’s no longer an unhealthy motivator for my actions.

Now I as I reach my work-from-home-pandemic-reality anniversary, I see how creativity has sustained me this past year.

Creativity has given me a place to center myself and pay attention to what’s important to me. Achievement has looked very different this year as so many of my regular programs and opportunities have shifted. Creativity has given me energy to adapt, find joy, and build new things that will hopefully serve us all better going forward.

To mark this last year of challenge and creativity, here are some of my creative works.

three canvases with black abstract shapes covered with many tightly packed curls of rolled paper

I made most of the paper curls in this swirling piece of mixed media while watching Netflix with friends. For me, the finished piece captures the ability to create form and meaning even while feeling out of control.

woman leaned over painting a canvas

The pattern is an homage to medications that keep me healthy.

I painted this large canvas during the week of the Presidential election to give my mind something else to focus on.

cross-stitch of a fox with four floating circles around it

Fox is my maternal family name and my middle name.

My fox friend came to life while I was with my family over Winter Break. As the only people I spent time with last year, it was wonderful to be together. And having spent a year mostly by myself, time together was a little overwhelming. Even just four more people is so much noisier and busier than me and Koko on our own here. Working on this cross-stitch gave me a quiet activity amidst the bustle.

collage of plastic bottle caps Laura Kirk ’23 inspired this piece after I advised her summer research project about environmental art. My consumption during the pandemic has gone way down, but even my regular groceries leave a mark. And with groceries as the only things coming into my house these days, this piece is a colorful reminder of how I have sustained myself.

This last piece I painted during a virtual conference just a week ago with 15 minutes to paint a landscape representing liberation. I was inspired by the movement among tall grasses that are still rooted in the earth.

painting of green tall grass in front of blue sky

In many ways, that’s what the value of creativity has brought to my life, especially during the pandemic. Living creatively has meant I can bend and even occasionally dance in the challenges without becoming fully drained. Every person has their own life values and restorative practices, and I hope in this time of challenge you have been able to cultivate your own.

Categories: Alumni Blogs, Arts & Culture, Faculty & Staff Blogs

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