Am I a creative?

Once again, Erica at NWEdible.com has prodded me to think. Usually that is thinking about a cooking technique or garden facts or something, but this time, it is the art of a creative person working in the 9-5 world. By the way, who works 9-5? Every job I’ve ever had was 8-5. Or, I guess, 8-6 at Hawker. I only read the article because she is my favorite blogger, so everything she writes is worth a courtesy glance, even if it doesn’t apply to me. But guess what: I am a creative. I never knew that before.

First, read her article: 4 work problems of creative people and how to solve them

Oh my. I have never known that I am a creative. I am a math geek. A computer programmer. All left sided brain. Logic and reason control my work days.

Yet. Higher math is actually creative. Theoretical algebra, which I got a Master’s in because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, is creative. It isn’t rote memorization, and it isn’t step by step. It is beautiful and mind expanding and it is creative in its own way. Theorems and axioms are the lincoln logs that allow you to build something entirely new, or at least follow in the footsteps of the great thinkers of the past.

Programming also is creative. Sometimes you have to just sit there and think. Let it paint a canvass in your head before you can type it out. I admit, as the only programmer in my company, and self taught, I don’t do waterfalls, I don’t check code in and out, and I could probably do a better job of planning out all the steps instead of just diving in. I can sometimes type and make really good progress for a couple hours in a row. Then, I have to take a break – usually by looking at the internet. I can’t start another project. What I have been working on has to percolate for a while. It has to bounce against all the fragments and half finished ideas and find a way to work together, and then, suddenly, I must flip back to my work screen and out the code comes pouring out again.

If I am doing something the easy way and not the right way, I start taking more and more breaks. Like a lot. I can’t get myself to type anymore. Eventually, I have to say to myself, usually in my head, but sometimes out loud “Fine.” It might mean ripping out a lot of code I have already done, but it will be right and it is the right thing to do.

I work full time coding for my employer, but only 3 days a week at the office and then 2 days a week at home. I get so much done at home. No commute, complete quite, no office jibber jabber and sometimes I’ll be coding and look up and it is 5:30 and I have worked 30 minutes past quitting time.

I am the only one in the company that they allow to do this. No other person gets to work at home consistently 2 days a week. I don’t think anyone else has even asked to do this. It “helps” that I live an hour away. That was a good introduction and sell to let me, but honestly, my work ethic and lack of wanting to do housework (ha! People ask me, don’t you get tempted to do laundry or dishes or something instead of working? Not even a little.) has made it a perfect fit. If they take it away from me, the day they tell me I have to go in all 5 days is the day I look for something else.

I have a flipbook of projects that need to be done. I have to write it down or get an email about it or something, or else I will concentrate on remembering it and won’t get anything else done.

You are right about the bank not caring that you are a creative. We farm and my husband and I are trying to buy (too much) farm ground that has been in the family for 7 generations (my son is the 7th). It is not possible for me to quit and pay the bills and make the land payment. It is barely possible with my job. Luckily I love my job and fit in well. My previous job, at a union-dominated aircraft company was hell for me. No quarter was given. I lived 3 hours away, drove down Monday morning, stayed overnight in a rented room until Thursday night and then came home. Did that for the first year of our marriage (the CIO had told me to talk to him after I got married he would work with me to set a schedule. After I got back from my honeymoon, I brought it up and he had an incredulous look on his face and said “I never said that!”). Worked 10 hour days. Everything was so scripted and regimented and people who were great coders/workers were lumped in with the dead weight and everyone was treated exactly the same. I hated it. The best thing that ever happened to me was being laid off from that awful company.

I think this might explain why either my house looks awesome (because I do my exact specified chores every night) or attains shithole status (I skipped a few days, so I might as well take 2 weeks off). I diet like a banshee, do really well for months at a time, then eat a cookie, which turns into 5, so I might as well have a couple dark beers and some popcorn, hey, how about some thick pieces of raisin bread? Ice cream? Sure. I look up a month later and I have taken great big giant steps backwards. The garden looks great but the backyard is awful. I take on projects and follow through with them, but the other things I don’t even see. I am focused on the things that are important, and if they are not important to me, I literally don’t think to do them unless they are on a list somewhere.

This article opened my eyes to something I have never seen before. I knit, I can, I garden, I sew, I read (a lot), I do a lot of things that would be considered creative, but I am a math geek. Therefore I can’t be creative, can I? I guess I can be.

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