Creative, or Just Odd?

My mother always told me that I was creative, by which I think she meant peculiar. I couldn’t draw, paint, or dance very well. Lord help me, singing was not my strong suit either. Writing made my hand cramp, my arm forming the awkward spiral common to left-handed children everywhere. I liked to make sculptures but I wasn’t very good at that either, and I showed no real talent for piano nor drums, though I took years of lessons.

My hair was creative, if you can call unintentionally short bangs cut with kitchen shears creative, but if so, they, too, were a failed experiment in creativity. I was very creative with the truth, though my mother didn’t know about that. That aspect of creativity I excelled at.

I was certainly imaginative. I spent hours staring out windows thinking of stories in my head. These weren’t stories I ever considered writing down—mostly about boys or horses or being a princess or a Tolkien-esque warrior-dwarf. Since I never told anyone what I thought about during the looking-out-the-window hours at school or in the car, there’s no way anyone could have evaluated the value or skill of my imagination.

My mother wasn’t the only one who said that I was creative. Teachers always agreed. I wound up feeling as if I were a creativity sham. The kids at school knew the exact words for what I was: weird, different, odd.

I did feel as if I had great art inside me waiting to get out. Some days I shook with it.  In high school I wrote a lot of bad poetry. In my twenties I discovered crafting and though I didn’t consider it art, I found a lot of joy in making fabric-covered boxes, beaded jewelry, and a zillion throw pillows. That wasn’t creative. In my mind, that was just making stuff, and like so many of my ventures, I didn’t do any of it as well as I’d like to.

I didn’t set out to be a writer. During my second pregnancy, I woke up with a dream I couldn’t get out of my head, so I wrote it down. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I wrote story after story—over four hundred pages in four months. My mother read all of it, and cheered me on. I had found my creative thing.

At first, I wasn’t any better at writing than I had been at anything else, but I loved it too much to see how much skill I lacked. I found writing partners and went to workshops and enrolled in college. I got better. I learned enough to know how bad my previous writing was, but this time, I didn’t quit. Instead I read more and wrote more and begged people to give me real feedback instead of platitudes.  I learned to see writing as an evolution, instead a means to produce a static product. I know I may never be world-renown, but that doesn’t matter. I fulfilled the promise my mother saw in me all those years ago, and every now and then, my words resonate with someone else who felt peculiar, odd, or didn’t fit in. That’s enough for today.

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Lara Lillibridge sings off-beat and dances off-key. She writes a lot, and sometimes even likes how it turns out. Her memoir, Girlish, available for preorder on Amazon, is slated for release in February 2018 with Skyhorse Publishing. Lara Lillibridge is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College’s MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. In 2016 she won Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s Prose Contest, and The American Literary Review's Contest in Nonfiction. She has had essays published in Pure Slush Vol. 11, Vandalia, and Polychrome Ink; on the web at Hippocampus, Crab Fat Magazine, Luna Luna, Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, and Airplane Reading, among others. Read her work at www.LaraLillibridge.com