Called to create: Local Catholic author reflects on reigniting creativity

By Mary Potter Kenyon

Special to The Witness

For years I struggled for the solitude and idleness conducive to creativity. As a homeschooling mother of eight children, I immersed myself in a style of mothering that consumed my time and energy, much like my mother before me. Yet, despite raising ten children in poverty, Mom had served an example of incorporating creativity into everything she did, from canning garden produce to creating hand-stitched quilts, wall-hangings and paintings on barn boards and canvas. She was the kind of woman who picked up a chisel at age 42 to carve a piece of wood into a statue.

By the world’s standards, Mom left little of material value behind when she died in November 2010. When my siblings and I divided her things, it was the remaining woodcarvings, paintings, homemade teddy bears, and quilts that each of us ­wanted.

What Mom did leave was a legacy of faith and creativity. After her death, I decided to take my writing seriously. For months that winter I utilized her empty house as a private writing retreat, spending hours writing, praying, and grieving. The following spring, I spoke on creativity to a group of young homeschooling mothers. Later, I did a program for women at the other end of the spectrum, in their seventies and eighties.

The young mothers lamented a lack of time for creative endeavors. The comments from the older group, however, were heart-breaking, ranging from “I don’t have any talent” to “It’s too late for me now.” Those reactions led me to jot down an outline for a future book on the topic. Six years and hundreds of topical research hours later, after quitting a job that was killing my own creativity, I picked up the outline and began writing. “Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity” was released by Familius Publishing Aug. 18.

The idea that creativity is for a chosen few is absurd, considering our Creator designed us in his own image. The same God that created mountain, stream, and desert beauty, who dotted a night sky with a million points of light, endowed each of us with unique gifts. The New Living Translation of Ephesians 2:10 says: “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Whether it means producing a piece of art, writing a short story, or simply bringing beauty into our home or in the lives of others, consider for a moment that we each have the capacity to be creative. The masterpiece, then, is not something we create to hang on our wall, but in ourselves as we fulfill our God-given potential, utilizing the talents he gave us.

Scientific research supports this. According to the latest findings of neuroscience and psychology we are all wired to create, and everyday life presents endless opportunities to express it.

Not only that but creating is good for us. In 2010 the American Journal of Public Health analyzed more than 100 studies, revealing how practicing various forms of art improved medical outcomes and reduced depression, stress, and anxiety.

There will never be a more perfect time to practice creativity than right now. Creativity begets more creativity, seeping into everyday life. Once that happens, our life becomes the masterpiece God intended.

Mary Potter Kenyon lives a creative life in Dubuque with her youngest daughter. She is Program Coordinator for Shalom Spirituality Center. Mary is widely published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies, and the author of seven books, including the newly released “Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity.” Learn more about Mary at www.marypotterkenyon.com.

 Cover image: Mary Potter Kenyon