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You will never hear a child say, “I’m just not creative.” That declaration is reserved entirely for adults. Why? I don’t think we really mean we are incapable of imagining or making something new. But sometimes it is hard to separate being creative from how others will perceive our creations. The older we get, the more we feel the pressure of measuring up, and the weight of such expectation can stop us in our tracks.

I am certainly not immune — if anything, it might be the opposite. I have always been the artsy type, but I still have to make a deliberate decision to be creative. It gives me pause every time I am about to hit the “publish” button on this blog or show someone my most recent painting. I can do it only when I remember that, for me, the value of creativity is found in processing, sharing, and encouraging, of putting joy above judgement. (If I had named this blog “created for success,” it would probably be empty. :)

And I still have so much to learn… the little tree pictured above is proof of that. It is made out of humble materials — a toilet paper tube, copy paper, a bit of recycled gift wrap and some glitter glue — but it is such a mighty statement about the power of creativity. It was made by an inmate named Shannon at the Tennessee Prison for Women. It encourages me so much to know she found a way to be creative with limited resources, in the midst of circumstances that could easily foster only anger and despair.

Shannon believes passionately in the hope and possibility that come from creativity, and she pursues that passion and encourages others in it, despite where she is. What a beautiful reminder that being creative is not about showing off, it’s about showing up. Shannon’s art proves that imagination and inspiration exist outside of our imperfection, and I am so grateful for that.