Sunday, January 29, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 29: Anyone Can Learn To Live a Creative Life

Before my research on wholeheartedness (and before the 2007 breakdown spiritual awakening), I was completely disconnected from my creativity. My disconnection took the form of judgment, resentment, and fear:

"A-R-T - how nice. I have a J-O-B - I'm doing real work."

"I'm not the creative type."

"Spending time creating is self-indulgent."

Behind all of these emotions was disconnection. I had the creativity scars that many of us have; the ones that come from not being able to draw a still life in middle school and being told that I better stick with writing and reading.

Today, I'm reconnected with my creativity and it's transforming every part of my life. Creativity brings me joy, helps me stay more grateful, calms me down, and inspires me. It helps me keep my perfectionism in check and has become a powerful way to connect with my family.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, I summarize what I learned from the world of Wholehearted living and loving:

1. “I’m not very creative” doesn’t work. There’s no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t. Unused creativity doesn’t just disappear. It lives within us until it’s expressed, neglected to death, or suffocated by resentment and fear.

2. The only unique contribution that we will ever make in this world will be born of our creativity.

3. If we want to make meaning, we need to make art. Cook, write, draw, doodle, paint, scrapbook, take pictures, collage, knit, rebuild an engine, sculpt, dance, decorate, act, sing—it doesn’t matter. As long as we’re creating, we’re cultivating meaning.

I'm so grateful for what I've learned and for all of you who are creating and sharing your work with the world.

Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. Brené spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

Brené is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR and CNN. Her recent TED Talk on vulnerability struck a nerve with audiences across the globe and has become one of the most shared talks featured on with more than 2 million views.

Brené is the author of The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010), I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy, and Power (Gotham, 2007).

Brené’s current research focuses on authentic leadership and wholeheartedness in families, schools, and organizations.

Brené lives in Houston with her husband, Steve, and their two young children, Ellen and Charlie.


  1. I have struggled for some time with the notion of "enough." In some places, enough is enough for people. And in some places it is not; people demand "more." People demand perfection. I almost died (not physically) in a place that demanded more. It has been a long recovery.

    Now, I am living with enough. And it is enough. And I am learning more about my inner artist. Which is good.

    Thanks, Berné and Katherine.

  2. Hi Brene-Thanks for sharing you work with the world. We all have something to contribute and share and I believe each little piece, no matter how small, is important. Everything is creative if it starts from inside— from our heart—and moves out from there.

  3. Thoughtful and useful insights in this post.

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