Many years ago, I found myself in a tan cubicle, surrounded by a sea of tan. I sat in a 6-foot cube, staring into the large, boxy monitor while listening to the whirr of my desktop computer. It was the mid-1990s, and corporate life meant living in a cube farm.
My group was a team of web coders, graphic artists, and programmers. We were one of the creative groups, and expected to come up with the look and feel of websites and web-based applications. Our task, as a “Creative Group” clashed strongly with tan cubes. Endless tan cubes.
In the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball, author Gordon MacKenzie visited schools to demonstrate steel sculpting. He would meet with each grade separately and invariably asked each group of students how many were artists. In the younger grades, children enthusiastically proclaimed themselves to be artists, leaping from their chairs and waving their hands wildly. By third grade, only a third would tentatively raise their hands. By sixth grade, only one or two would respond.
Where did all the artists go? Did they, as the author joked, transfer out to art school? Or did they just learn to fit in, be normal, and suppress their creativity?
The best artists learn to break with convention, rise above the obstacles, and be creative in spite of their surroundings. Some hide the tan walls by decorating their cubes with pictures. (One of my enterprising team members covered her walls with an underwater scene.) Others add knickknacks, photos, and sculptures to their work environments. It might be something small, like changing your computer desktop background to something inspiring or filling your bookshelves with inspirational material.
To be creative, you don’t have to be an artist. It’s about letting go of “normal” and not worrying about what others think. We can all do with a bit of creativity in our lives, whether we are artists, programmers, instructional designers, or stay-at-home moms and dads. Being creative is about an attitude and an approach to life.
Being creative in a cubicle-filled world means one sees past the cubicle, finds color in the shades of tan, and discovers the magic of everyday life. We are all artists inside. Don’t be afraid to let it out!