young child writing to illustrate reclaiming our creativity in a blogpost by Yang-May Ooi

We have outsourced “creativity” to a select few, says author Yang-May Ooi, and the world is a lesser place for it. In this essay, she invites each of us to see our creative impact at home, at work and in our relationships.

Our creativity touches everything we do

At parties or whenever we meet people, one of the first questions that comes up is “What do you do?” It’s a way for us to get a picture quickly in our minds about who they are and to judge if we have anything in common with them or not. It helps us decide: is this person interesting, good company,  nice, someone that I want to spend the next few moments with?

The glamour of the creative artist

I usually tell people that I’m a writer. And immediately, there is interest in their faces. They want to find out more. They ask questions about me and my books. They want to know me.

Recently, I tell them I’m a writer/ performer and the interest gets even more heightened. Not only a writer but someone who acts on the stage! Wow!

I can see that I’m being put in the box marked: creative, interesting, glamourous.

Value judgments about who is creative

I tried an experiment a little while ago.

When this question came up, I would say, “I trained as a lawyer” or “I’m a security asset manager” or “I work in the City”. Which was all true at the time because while being a writer, I was also working four days a week in a corporate role

And I would see people’s eyes glaze over. They would nod but be at a loss to find follow up questions. Very soon, they would have moved on to someone else at the party.

I was still the same person but they had made a value judgment about me based on that simple statement. As if a lawyer or City type could not be interesting or creative and did not have any depth to them.

Creativity at home and at work

In fact, I know many lawyers and accountants and City types who are fascinating and creative. Outside of their work – a banker plays in a rock band, a lawyer has a knitting circle, a chief executive blogs about fashion, a law partner is producing a play in her local area, a barrister writes novels, numerous others sing in choirs, go to tap class, grow fruit and veg, cook haute cuisine and more. Within their work – they create new financial products, build productive teams, find fresh ways to grow their client base, devise sleeker systems to manage risk, innovate and evolve and develop their businesses in different ways.

I can bet that you’re creative, too, whether or not you have a professional title as writer, artist, musician, actor or other “creative” role. Those types don’t have a monopoly on creativity. Creativity is not just for those who get paid to be creative. Creativity is an innate human talent and living in each one of us. It’s just that we’ve fairly arbitrarily labelled some people and some work creative – and that has blinkered our vision to everyone and everything else.

Beyond the narrow confines of creating art such as books, music, paintings and plays, creativity permeates everything we do.

What is your part in creating your world?

We each have a part in creating the world we live in. Whatever we bring into the physical or mental space around us is our creation.

At home, do we create a space and mood at meal times that brings the family together or pushes them apart? And I mean beyond the food on the table. Do we create an environment of openness, curiosity, acceptance? Or one of hostility, silence and distance?

At work, as managers and bosses, do we allow our staff space to create and innovate? As professionals and other workers, do we take the initiative to create solutions? How do we affect the mood in the office – negatively with our moaning or positively with helpfulness and good cheer?

You are a creative, powerful individual

So when I meet someone for the first time, whatever their job description might be, I see a creative, interesting and powerful individual. Each of us is  the creative artist of our world, glamorous and fascinating in our own right, whether or not we’ve written a book, performed at La Scala, exhibited at the Royal Academy or designated officially creative in some other way.


from, thanks to Daddy-David  (CCL comm)





Author: Yang-May Ooi

Yang-May Ooi is a writer & podcaster. Her creative work includes The Flame Tree and Mindgame (novels), Bound Feet Blues (theatre & family memoir), The Anxiety Advantage and Creative Conversations (podcasts). ¦

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