Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | August 25, 2012

Creativity Quotient?

Creativity’s had a rebirth in the business world since the economy tanked.  What else can possibly pull us out of the quagmire but the minds of creative people?  All kinds of books and blogs claim to have ways of teaching us how to be more creative.  I suppose anything can be learned if you’re motivated enough…  but I wonder how much of our creativity is innate.  Is there a Creativity Quotient?

I think it’s a combination of nature and nurture, like most everything human.  Something tells me I’m hard-wired for creativity, primarily the artistic kind.  Looking back on my 50-odd years, I see a checkerboard of arts and crafts that indicates it’s not any particular pursuit that has driven me.  It’s the creativity itself.


I came to this conclusion after thinking about my life through the lens of my artistic pursuits.  I’m not overly talented in any of them, but I’ve enjoyed them all equally and found the process of creating is what I love.  That and sharing, with the hope of giving someone else a little moment of joy or beauty or peace.

My earliest memories are of seeking out beauty or finding ways to create it.  My mother loved music and flowers, so maybe she instilled this in me — or maybe it’s shared DNA.  She acquired for us 2 wooden school desks with flip-up lids, and my sister Jan and I spent HOURS of our childhood seated in them with coloring books, colored pencils, Spirograph wheels, paint-by-number sets, Elmer’s glue and scissors.  I took Arts & Crafts classes through the Park District and learned how to use decoupage and papier mache.  No matter what I created, I loved to look at it afterward and marvel that I had made something out of nothing — had formed a beautiful and enjoyable thing from simple resources.

In junior high we had to take courses each year in cooking, sewing and art.  Cooking was never a favorite, but I loved art class and got to be pretty good with the sewing machine, too.  One year my friends and I made a whole set of Brady Bunch marionettes (mine was Cindy) and put on a little show.  Another year we turned cardboard boxes into over-sized replicas of food items.  Mine was a 2-foot-long Nestles Crunch Bar, which sat on a shelf in my bedroom for years afterward.

Mom was a great seamstress, having made many of our clothes when we were little, so she was excited to mentor me as I struck out and began creating unique shirts, blouses and skirts for myself.  The year after she died, I stood up in my sister’s wedding wearing an intricate dress in royal blue, patterned to mirror Jan’s bridal gown.  It still hangs in my closet.

By high school I’d discovered drawing and used to enjoy copying in pencil some of the more interesting album covers I’d collected, like the trippy “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.”  I also turned to fabric crafts in my later teen years, creating miniature patchwork Christmas ornaments, which still hang on my tree each year, and some kit-based crewelry works that I framed and gave as gifts — a unicorn for my boyfriend, a rural scene for Mom, a woodsy creation for a friend’s wedding gift.  College took a toll on my free time, but I stayed up late each fall crafting my own Christmas cards.

All through school I was also drawn to the performing arts, namely theater and music.  Every year I was in a school play or two and especially enjoyed the musicals, which seemed magical to me — the lights, orchestra, synchronized dances, costumes and make-up all transporting us kids into another world, and taking the audience along with us.  I never did learn to read music, but with friends I taught myself to strum a guitar and — thanks to my parents’ bequeathing me a decent ear and voice — I could hit the notes.  With various groups of friends I participated in variety shows and took choir classes and voice lessons as well.  One year the dancing bug hit, and I joined Orchesis.  Speech Team took up my Saturdays, where I tried story-telling, poetry reading, some original oratory, and all the acting categories.  During the summers in college I came home and jumped into community theater productions, thirsty for the stage after months of hitting the books.

I fully believe one reason I felt compelled to leave my marriage was because of how stifling it was not to have a creative outlet, living with someone who was not in the least bit artistic. (What was I thinking??)  Those 13 years were the nadir of my creative life, and I can remember sitting alone in our study, sobbing for the want of artistic expression.  This was when I began to dabble a bit with poetry, though more in fun than as anything focused or serious.  As soon as I was on my own again, I dove into karaoke, and it was singing that healed my spirit and led me to a new group of friends — who are still very important to me.

Then, ten years ago, I fell in love with words.

Teaching A. P. Literature as I entered my 40s, I began to appreciate good writing with the same intensity I’d experienced visual arts as a child and performing as a teenager.  I’d always loved reading, but I’d never seen books through the eyes of the author — as an artist.  Words became my new paints and glues, and I discovered that I loved to manipulate them into poems and personal essays alike.  My passion for the power of words has fed my teaching, reinvigorating me in my final years in the classroom and giving me yet another new life as an artist.

Teaching requires a lot of creative ability, and so for the last 27 years, from August through May I’ve been kept afloat artistically with the act of lesson planning and trying to keep my classroom lively.  But once summer comes, I dive back into whatever art I’m craving — with true joy.  This summer I also enjoyed redecorating several rooms of my house, and I noticed that I didn’t write as much because of it.  The redecorating filled the need for artistic expression.

So what’s next?  Who knows!  Maybe I’ll write a novel or memoir or another book of poems… or maybe not.  Maybe I’ll learn to play the piano at long last, or take up a paint brush and  begin to fill my walls, or head back to the stage to play the role of some crazy mother or aging neighbor lady.

Only this is sure:  one art or another will be a huge part of my life until my body or mind loses the ability to create.  And for now, I also have this blog.


  1. Lovely, lovely, Kate. I’m going to link this on Twitter, so others may read.

    • I agree, although nature determines your intellectual capacity and your talents your environment plays an important role in stimulating and advancing these qualities. You may be born with high intellectual capacity but if you’re not exposed or taught new things what is the use. Your environment helps activate these qualities some which are negative. It’s said to be true that criminal behavior is part of your genetics, this may be true but the type of environment you are surrounded by tends to highlight these genetic features. As well as being artistic, it may be nature to you to be artistic but as is any talent the more you are taught and the more you are exposed the better you will be. Therefore showing nature and nurture both play a role in behaviors.

      • I agree completely! Thanks for adding to the conversation!

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