We’re excited to have Hum Creative’s Shirley Hendrickson speaking on the theme “Broken” for our June 10th CreativeMornings Seattle at The Impact Hub. Be sure to register for your tickets here.
How do you define creativity and apply it in your career?
To me, creativity is the outcome of an innate, relentless desire for change, for newness, for a solution that leaves the world better off than before. Slightly more beautiful, more true, more meaningful. Being creative is a way of saying thank you to the miracle of our own existence—the fact that we humans get a chance to create, to put something new out into the universe, as we spin around temporarily in its endlessness, is a gift.
The key word is “outcome”. To use an unromantic term, creativity is a product. Ideas aren’t creativity. Think about the root word—"create". Something has to get made from all those crazy synapses firing inside of you. You have to do something with your ideas. I used to overthink everything, agonizing over making my ideas perfect before making them real. Now, I try to remember that making creative work is really an exercise in part fearless mind-barf, most part ruthless editing and crafting. Get it out, however painfully and imperfectly you can. Then you can worry about how to make the barf into something pretty and amazing.
Where do you find your best creative inspiration?
Creative symbiosis. Surrounding myself with brilliant people who are much smarter and more talented, soaking in their experience and their secrets, and doing whatever I can to return the favor so they’ll let me stick around. I love reading biographies and learning the stories, and specifically the processes, of great creative people—the people who have actually done the work to turn their crazy ideas into the things that have changed our lives.
What’s the one creative advice or tip you wish you’d known as a young person?
Growing up, I was the kid who was always drawing things, making things, starting businesses, teaching myself new techniques. When I got to college, there was no other path I’d considered—it was all art, all the way. I was accepted into a good design program, but two years later, I quit. I was debilitated by intimidation. I was surrounded by other art kids who were far better than me, and I choked. I thought I had no ideas anymore.
I would have told myself to quit it already with the jealousy. Jealousy is the death of creativity. It’s petty, it’s not a good look, and it kills what makes you different. I would have said, “Little Shirley, there is plenty of room in the world for their ideas and your ideas. In fact, let their ideas inspire you and motivate you. Steal their secrets. Don’t run away. Also, don’t take yourself so fucking seriously. Jeez.”
Who would you like to hear speak at CreativeMornings?
Polymaths really interest me. Beautiful, sexy, unapologetic polymaths. Beyoncé has been constantly creating since she was 8, exploring endless personas, genres, media, businesses—and has never felt the need to choose, to let herself be labeled as one thing or another, or to do things the way people tell her it should be done. She’s a woman who’s built her life creating on her own terms, and she continues to put out her ideas without looking back. She has a clear vision, and she surrounds herself with mind-blowing talent to help her realize it. In the case you can’t get in touch with Bey, there’s a creative force of nature here in Seattle named Linda Derschang (of Linda’s, Tallulah’s, Smith, Oddfellows, etc.), who’s like our Beyoncé of hip-as-heck restaurants. Linda is the shit. What are you reading these days?
At any given time, I’ve got five or six books I rotate through. I’m currently reading and underlining every page of 99U’s series (Managing Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark), which I enthusiastically recommend to every creative professional. Also, A Short History of Nearly Everything by the ingenious Bill Bryson, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (his language is mind-blowing), The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar by Roald Dahl (for the hundredth time; it’s my favorite short story), Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth (she’s the poet responsible for the incredible spoken-word interludes in Beyoncé’s Lemonade), Lindy West’s Shrill, and probably a handful more that I’m forgetting. Is book ADHD a medical condition? There’s got to be a book on it.
What’s the most recent thing you learned (big or small)?
Facts about the universe and existence never cease to explode my brain to pieces—if I could go back, I’d be an astrophysicist. Recently, I learned a fantastic description of how recent and lucky human history is, from Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Here goes:
Stretch your arms out as far as you can. Imagine your arm span as the timeline for the entire 4.5-million year history of planet Earth. From the fingertips of your left hand to the wrist of your right, that’s the Precambrian—the time before complex life. Complex life is your right hand. And with the single stroke of a nail file, you would eradicate human history.