Why we should read, write, and create together — as if our humanity depended on it.
What if THE problem of our time is a crisis of creativity?
Maybe it’s time to ask ourselves that small question that is the beginning of any creative endeavor:
What if we became the kind of people who take time to sit with a problem, are willing to think past the first solutions that come to mind, who know how to reach out to others and create something new.
Maybe the times simply demand our creativity — and its twin sister: meaning.
Creativity and your quest for meaning
Here I am, going out on a limb and saying you’re on a quest for meaning. Is that presumptuous?
Maybe I’m assuming things about you. I’ve got no data to back this up. I haven’t conducted a survey or looked at the research. This is just a blend of hunch, intuition…and my predawn musings with my coffee. And yet…
I know so many people who are searching for meaning. If you hang around here, there’s a good chance you’re one of them.
Truth be told, lately, I’ve had this little voice in the back of my mind. Whispering something faint and simple.
What if meaning is not something you seek and find but something you create?
What if it’s something we create together?
You and the creative act of reading
What are these adventures of the written word that we undertake? A chance to create something new — an opportunity to collaborate with the author, to tell a story together and to weave meaning from words.
I’m currently reading Proust and the Squid — a book on the history, evolution, and importance of reading, where author Maryanne Wolfe asks us to
“ponder the profoundly creative quality at the heart of reading words.”
In a passage that moved me, Wolfe compares writing by Proust and painting by Monet — works where the artists hint at what they’re trying to capture without giving us all the details.
How does it feel? To have the artist inviting you to tell the story yourself, or paint that picture?
“By using indirect approaches, Proust and Monet force their readers and viewers to contribute actively to the constructions themselves, and in the process to experience them more directly.
— Maryanne Wolfe
We read, not because we’re searching for meaning, but because we’re willing to create it — with the writer, and maybe also as a community.
Reading communities — creating meaning together.
Of course, the creativity of reading doesn’t stop at the collaboration between the reader, the writer, and the story.
Reading is something you may do alone, but anyone who has participated in a book club or a book chat understands this:
When you discuss a story with others, you partake in the creation of something new.
You find yourself with something that exists because you engaged in the creative act of spending time with others who are also making meaning out of those words.
Reading is a creative act. It’s a collaboration. It’s you and I creating meaning and inventing something new.
Writing is just the logical next step.
Writing — another chance to create…together.
Have you ever seen this TED Talk by Author Andrew Solomon?
It’s the kind of thing I love to revisit.
Watch it (or re-watch it) on a day when you’re not sure how to react to the world around you.
Keep this with you for a day when you need to step back and start the creative process of taking the cards you were dealt and, rather than accepting them, turning them into a new form of art:
“As a student of adversity, I’ve been struck over the years by how some people with major challenges seem to draw strength from them. And I’ve heard the popular wisdom that that has to do with finding meaning. And for a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found. But over time, I’ve come to feel that the truth is irrelevant. We call it “finding meaning,” but we might better call it “forging meaning.””
— Andrew Solomon
Who are you to tell a story?
Are you thinking that creating meaning is somehow only for prize-winning authors, the Andrew Solomons among us? The people who write best-sellers and turn the world on its head?
Can I ask you to rethink that idea? Or at least to hold it out and examine it.
And ask yourself ‘What if?’
Because, at heart, I don’t think we create to become successful — or because we think we’re brilliant.
We create because it’s how we find meaning, because we can’t help it, because we’re human.
If you’re already engaging in the creative act of reading. The creative act of writing is just the flip side of the coin.
And here’s my conviction: the world would be a better place if we took creating seriously. If more people read, if more people told their stories. If we seized the opportunities we have to create meaning — together.
Here I go again, making a claim I can support with research or authority. Call it a hunch, an intuition, a ‘what if?’
A conviction I hold in my heart and am sharing with you.
Thanks for being part of this community of thinkers, creators and co-conspirators.
If you’re lucky enough to participate in a community where writing, stories and ideas are exchanged — where writers and readers overlap and meet, then congratulations — you’ve found a wonderful chance to create meaning with others.
If you prefer to write on your own and let your reader construct her own meaning, I understand too.
And if you’re a little afraid to start. Well, join the club.
Want to read short bursts of fiction and write a story of your own? A story inspired by your life? Want an invitation to a small community of readers and writers — where we create meaning together? Sign up for the Short Story Series.