“You can’t start a fire without a spark” sang Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen.  But equally it only takes a spark to light a big fire.

I’ve been thinking about how my journey to leaving my job started.  It’s funny how a few words can have such a profound effect on your life.


I’ve never really considered myself to be “creative”.  I’d always associated creativity with “doing art”, visual things, physical crafts.   Stuff that I’m generally not good at.

We have some good friends who’ve known me for years, and we’ve had many conversations with them about creativity.  But it was only when they took us out for a meal and brought along two of their friends who we’d only met once before, that a change of mind began.

These two people, who hardly knew me, refused to believe that I was not creative.  I don’t think it was specifically me, they believed in the creativity present in every person.

That conversation was the start of a change in my worldview, my thinking not only about myself, but about everyone.  And the start of a journey that will probably result in huge changes in my life.

Making Stuff

I’ve learned that creativity is not just painting and drawing, or pottery, or making films or music.  Creativity is a more general concept…making stuff.

This knowledge has been incredibly freeing for me, because, the truth is, I love to make stuff.  Not necessarily physical things, but…and yes I know how much of a geek I will sound when I say this…I love to make computer programs!

From little scripts that make repetitive everyday tasks quick and simple to big web applications that store lots of important configuration data.  I thrive on the challenge of solving the logic puzzles of coding and producing tools that make people’s (mine and other’s) jobs and lives easier.

And more recently I’ve had the bonus pleasure of working with some great designers to bring some designs to life as real working websites.  So, though I may not be very visually creative myself, I can feel like I’m making something not just practical, but beautiful too.

Learning Graphics

Things have now come full-circle as well.  Not only do I acknowledge and embrace my creativity, I want to be more creative!  I desire more and different kinds of creativity.  I find myself wanting to be able to design and understand the visually creative process too.

So I’ve been playing with Photoshop and Illustrator, soaking up design blogs and website galleries and praying for the gift of visual creativity.

Where now?

So where has all this lead?  Well, that little conversation in a restaurant with two people I hardly know planted the seeds of change that resulted in me quitting my job – where I don’t get to make stuff – to pursue a career where I do.

And guess what? I’m even finding the process of working out what’s next a creative one too.  I’m not just making “stuff”, I’m making the rest of my life!

4 thoughts on “Sparks

  1. Great post!

    I love the idea that creativity is not necessarily just aesthetic stuff, but anything!

    I find myself in a very similar position to you: I love to make things, but and not great at making things look nice. And then, I am limited by only having open-source software to use, as opposed to expensive but feature-rich software (which would be illegal if I got it for free – I hate piracy!)

    My dilemma is, somehow progress in the actual design of my work, or simply stick to functionality and pair up?

    1. Thanks Rob. I didn’t realise you were reading. To be honest I’m flabberghasted that anyone reads! 🙂

      I never got visual stuff. The spark for me was realising that that’s OK. I’d had years of beating myself up about it. I can’t draw and I can’t visualise things so I can’t create. But it’s not true!

      Code is art. Writing this blog is art. Twitter…cleverly crafting a funny or informative message into 140 characters…is art. Baking (I love to make flapjacks) is art. Taking apart the wheel of my bike and replacing the bearings…is art!

      The software thing is an issue – especially in web design. I’ve invested in Creative Suite because I think my growing business will eventually pay for it, and because so many people were sending me .PSD’s and .AI’s. I almost couldn’t work without it.

      There’s not a lot you can do about it other than save or get a business plan and borrow. But GIMP, InkScape and Paint.NET can get you a long way. Heck, stuff DreamWeaver – I mostly still code in Notepad++!

      I respect your wanting to stay legal. That shows great integrity. You will go far!

  2. Is everyone inherently creative? I don’t know because I’m not everyone, but I know I am and know most people I’ve ever met are – in one way or another. So based on that you’re friends might be on to something. I’m glad you’ve realised it though, because being creative is great.

    I think there are some misconceptions around about artistry and creativity and design. Often the three get talked about as if they are one and the same, but I don’t think they are.

    I believe that creativity and design can be taught and learned by anyone (providing they want to learn it), and neither really have anything to do with art. You certainly don’t need to be Van Gough to be a good designer. I also agree that writing code is AS creative as drawing pictures, writing novels, cooking meals or knitting jumpers.

    1. Hey Aaron, and thanks for reading and commenting. I do think you’re right in all that you say, but I also think there’s something inherent in some people that makes them more


      creative. I can (and want to!) learn the rules and processes of good design, but there’s something that other people have that makes them more able to process visual information, and I think that means they’ll always have the edge over someone like me.

      An example of this is how my wife – who is very visual – and I remember people. We have many conversations along the lines of:

      Wife: “Dave? You know the tall, dark-haired guy who was wearing a pink shirt”.
      Me: “Pink shirt? Don’t remember anyone in a pink shirt. Was he the really quiet guy who did a maths degree?”

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