The word "creativity" comes up in my world so often that yesterday I was reminded how much I take it for granted. I was on the phone, helping a high-school-era friend work out a web-related struggle. She'd been asked to update a website without having been giving any tools or training at all, and told "This should be simple. You can handle it with no problem." I was trying to help her get through this bind. In all truthfulness, I was giving her a long-distance tutorial in the most basic of website maintenance tasks.
After I'd copied one of the pages from the site in question, I quickly typed in a paragraph of text, then emailed her the html document so she'd have something to work in. I then suggested she type her own text in the space I'd created for the second paragraph. Once I'd guided her through the process for uploading that web page, I'd decided, it might be more meaningful if she saw the direct relationship between the text she'd typed in the page of code, and what she saw in her web browser on the screen in front of her.
"I don't know what to write. You're good at stuff like that; I'm not!" I almost didn't have a response, her words took me so off-guard. Certainly the compliment was nice, but that you have to be "good at stuff like that" wasn't something I'd given much thought to before. I mean, the whole thing was completely made up! Nobody was ever going to see what either of us wrote. It's just gibberish. So I coaxed her, we had a little laugh over what she might write, and a half hour later when we hung up, I hoped she'd feel confident in her newfound skills at making simple website changes. But I'm still thinking about her words. About how just as we're all good at different things, there are ways of approaching those things that we're good at that are inherently different, too.
It was a good lesson for me. I often coach others in their attempts to convey their messages creatively. I sometimes forget to step back and realize just how foreign "the ways of my people" are to those who don't identify themselves as creative. I'm putting this little tidbit closer to the top of my list in my mental toolbox. It was helpful to be reminded again to start with a simple statement about creativity: To be creative, you have to be willing to just make something up. It doesn't have to be good. It just has to be something. Then you take that something and make it better. And better. Maybe it's letting go of the fear of trial-and-error that helps us tap into our creativity. Turns out my friend left me with a lot more to ponder than she realized. Good stuff, that.