Creative Freedom - Happy 4th of July from!

Creative Freedom - Happy 4th of July from

US Flag - protecting and encouraging creative freedom

Today, the day of this posting is Independence Day in the USA. July 4th, 2016. It is the 240th anniversary of our country's founding. It seems appropriate to take this occasion to explore the meaning of freedom as it relates to creativity. We'll look at a few different benefits creative freedom provides.

Creative freedom, as in the First Amendment

I was standing in line to vote in the early hours of a Presidential Election. The lines were very long. People were quietly standing with an intense, serious determination. One man walked along the long line, trying to find the end. In an attempt to lighten the mood he said, "Wow, they must be giving away something for FREE!" As he disappeared I couldn't help think about how wrong he was. You could argue that the cost of our freedom to to what we were there to do, may not have cost him anything. But it certainly wasn't FREE. In our marvelous, resilient country, and in other free countries around the world, we have a huge blessing to be able to build, write, create, explore and try things without fear of a governmental entity silencing us.

It is incredible when you stop to ponder how many options we have at any moment. Most of us have dozens or even hundreds of food options available for our next meal. Most of us at any moment we choose, could leave where we are right now and drive one hundred miles in any direction, crossing state lines and geographic conditions. Most of us could share our opinions or news to several hundred friends with a few clicks or taps on an electronic device without fear of censorship or repercussion. Most of us could exercise our creative freedom by pursuing a new opportunity. We can take real action to fulfill a specific dream by just focusing our time, attention and a relatively small portion of our income on it.

Creative freedom, as self-determination

I hinted at the ending of the previous paragraph, that we have the freedom to make new things happen. Many people don't see this. It isn't the guv'ment or the man holding them back. Most people who feel trapped or held down are doing it to themselves. We have the ability to study nearly any subject, often for no cost to us. Our libraries and the Internet provide us so much quality content and information that we should never feel stifled or bored.

Either-Or Thinking is another trap we put ourselves in. So many people say, "well, I can either pay to fix the car or buy a new one." Or "I can quit my job to and start a new business or suffer here in this one for the next twenty years." Thinking you only have two options and there are no other choices or considerations lulls us into a stupor of weakness, victim mentality and compliance imposed my someone else, (or often no one else.)

Words like free-time, leisure-activities, discretionary spending, hobbies, binge watching, general interests... even sport, travel, arts and crafts are flags that point to flexible, adjustable areas that people who feel they lack creativity could put to use. Those words point to non-essential things, certainly things that might be pleasurable things to you. But things that represent places you could tap when you feel like you are limited to too few options.

Next time you feel trapped, look for these potential areas for easy adjustments that you can make. If you get serious about making something new, or reaching to become something new, you can! I've heard several people, including Dave Ramsey, compare it to baking a cake. Your cake keeps coming out the same way because you keep doing the same thing. To get a different output, you have to vary the recipe! So don't ever feel trapped if you can spot those key words in your life. Take a leisure activity or free time and aim at something new. Read a book about something new that interests you, visit a museum, take a factory tour, draw something, outline a plot for YOUR new book. Try to move the needle from beginner in the direction of being slightly more experienced.

Creative freedom, as financial freedom

I've mentioned in previous articles that I coordinate Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. As of this post, we have our next FPU class coming up August 21st. One of the disciplines taught in FPU is to build an emergency fund. Many people teach about the benefit of having an emergency fund. What an emergency fund gives you is freedom. Freedom from urgency during an interruption in regular cashflow. A full emergency fund is what makes it more likely for a person to make the shift from working because you have to, to working in the area where you want to work.

You still need to be a productive responsible member of society. I'm not telling anyone to build up cash and then live like a lottery winner. The majority of lottery winners are very unhappy in a few months. Idleness is the opposite of creativity. You can sit around feeling poetic, but if you don't produce, you are still just sitting around.

In his book The Four-hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss talks about a slight variation on the use of this freedom. He describes the mini-retirement. Many people have a goal that they want to go somewhere very different, somewhere exotic when they retire. What Tim points out is that it isn't that difficult to accelerate that process. You can better ensure you get to live those dreams by learning exactly what it would take and then putting a plan in motion to make it happen in the very near future. For example, if you said you want to go live in South America someday. If the exchange rate is favorable, you may be able to disengage from your normal life and go live there for 6 months of a year for less than what many people spend on a new car or even just the price of a nice used car. Recognizing how attainable that is opens your eyes to the whole world of options we all have.

Discipline and responsibility

Another startling thing I learned about our great country is how easy it is to take a thing like margin for granted. In the US, our freeway system has wide margins. We have disciplined ourselves to leave wide grassy medians between different directions of travel on freeways. The sides are also designed with wide spaces and fences and guardrails to help ensure that the only thing going on here is driving, at a fairly high rate of speed, in one direction.

Compare that with Mexico. I went a little distance South of the US/Mexico border into the city of Monterrey. One of the differences that startled me most, was that the freeways had little to no margin. There were places, near the transition between highway and city, where children and pets could play right along the edge of the freeway. We were driving at freeway speeds, pretty close to normal for US driving, but computed in metric km/hr. There were metal half-sphere speed bumps and about 10-20 feet from kids playing! I suppose you could argue that what they have there means less restriction. But I think the freedom gained by disciplining ourselves when we design our freeways in the US is setting up a greater margin for safety and even future potential growth. Think how hard it would be to add a third lane in one direction when you have residences in the way instead of a large clear grassy area.

Restraint v. constraint

I also don't want this to be confused with my earlier post on constraints. A constraint is self-imposed to help us focus. A restraint is a limitation set by an external force. One can be hindered by uncontrolled freedom. Think about the hours you've spent cruising the web or scrolling along Facebook. If you set a constraint, you may choose to shut off email so you can write the first draft of a short story. You might choose to sit in a quiet secluded place where you can read a book. You're giving up outside input, but your will gain by your focus. Color palette's are a restriction from using the full color spectrum. In music, the key a song is played is a constraint on which notes will be played. You can shift a constraint up and down, like transposing a piece into a different key.

In our society the work "discriminate" has a very negative connotation. Certainly when a person is filtered for qualities different than their true, deserved merit because of a prejudice, that's a bad thing. But the classic definition is to recognize a distinction; differentiate. In my words, to make a choice. Hopefully now you are armed with those flags to watch for. Next time you're feeling limited, like your options are few, look at all the flexible areas within your control. Give yourself permission to discriminate among your options. Exercise your creative freedom by setting aside something that is not bringing you joy and replacing it with some action that stretches you toward the person you want to become. Here are some suggested statements:

  • I choose to take a week off of playing games on my phone. I'm going to put that downtime toward sketching our a story of a short story.
  • Instead of diving into that next season of the show I've been watching on Prime or Netflix, I'm going to read a classic book.
  • I studied __________ in college and have never used it. Instead of reading email or Facebook on my phone while my kids are at practice, I'm going to ask that other parent who works in that field about life at their company and if they are hiring new associates.

>> Those are just a few suggested statements. In the comments either share a story of a time when you grew by giving up something. Or, the bolder move, write your own commitment to exercise your creative freedom in the coming week or two. Create the life you want by following a new recipe.

Photo credit: Ian Matchett, Creative Commons - some cropping and color enhancement by blog author.

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