It bothers me when people tell me they are not creative. Creativity, inborn in human beings, comes in so many forms. Just because a person does not identify as a recognizably creative person–artist, decorator, writer, teacher, etc.–that doesn’t mean he or she lacks creativity. We cannot solve problems without engaging our creativity, and most of us solve hundreds of small problems daily. We just tend not to consider those talents as “creative.”
One of my colleagues is a consummate problem-solver. Yet she constantly derides her work: “A monkey could do my job,” she claims. It would have to be one heck of a creative monkey! For years, I’ve been constantly amazed at her creative solutions to problems that students present to her…everything from advising to financial aid to family issues to roommate problems and issues that are once-in-a-career type peculiarities. She always says, “I’ll see what I can do;” 90% of the time, she finds a workable solution.
Another thing that intrigues me about her is the way she uses language. She reminds me of my grandmothers: sensible, smart women born and raised in one region and wedded to certain habits but possessing considerable grit and spunk and … creativity. Including marvelous slips of the tongue or twists on clichés. One of her most charming accidental neologisms is that instead of saying memento, she says “momento.” Educated well–with a Masters degree–she probably spells the word correctly when she writes. But I love hearing her say “momento,” because that’s one way of thinking about the word: a reminder of a moment. So apt! While the etymology of the word derives from the Latin (imperative of meminisse, to remember), the idea of recalling a moment through some sort of small souvenir strikes me as perfect.
Another creative use of language occurs when we are talking rapidly and the standard word or metaphor doesn’t come quickly to mind, so our brains substitute something else. My colleague’s creativity shows up at such times. I tend to stumble and say, “uh…um…” when that happens to me; but her mind comes up with alternatives (which occasionally make me laugh, but which always make me delighted). A recent example: during a freshman student program, there was an unexpected downpour which arrived just as the 18-year-olds were walking from breakfast in the cafeteria to a classroom building some distance away. Of course, none of them had umbrellas or rain jackets.
“Those poor kids!” said my friend. “They were all huddled in their soaked hoodies like wet mice. Like…like little wet mice, trying to get dry!”
I’d have resorted to the common phrase “drowned rats,” but little wet mice wearing soaked hoodies seems so much more vivid and elicits more sympathy. It’s also more creative–don’t you agree?
“About as sharp as a sack of wet mice.” Foghorn Leghorn probably knew my grandparents….