I first met Hannah Twining when she showed up for her first day of work at COSI. I had worked there for a few years at that point and was always excited by a new addition to our team, but when Hannah showed up, there was immediately something different about her. Her energy was a bright light that no one could seem to take their attention away from. She was warm, hilarious, creative, humble and so, so smart. Hannah could entertain a room for hours with stories and silly SNL like skits. If you ask anyone who knows her they would agree, this girl is capital S, SPECIAL.
Working with Hannah (or Twining as we called her (not twinning, TWINE-ning)), was a joy. To watch her inspire kiddos through laughter and curiosity was watching a master at play. But, my real luck was when Hannah decided, off the cuff, to accompany me to Europe (I had bought tickets to see the Harry Potter play alone in London, and eventually turned this trip into an epic girls trip – a story for another time!)
Hannah jumped in head first to this trip and we had such a blast traveling together. She made airports fun, songs up for us while we walked, silly games to play and all around just created an atmosphere that I have never experienced on any trip since. She has since moved away from us here in Columbus to work educating the public about theater, but when I get to see her, it is always a good day. I asked Hannah to show us all how we can be a bit more creative in our day-to-day lives, as she has inspired this in me all along. As always, in her post below, she made me laugh, she made me want to try new things, she left me feeling full of her big, bright energy. I hope you enjoy learning how to stay creative, even when it feels like a chore from Hannah Twining!
Hello friends! My name is Hannah and I have the great pleasure of being the Outreach Coordinator for an outstanding performing arts center located in Cleveland, Ohio. Landing in the world of the performing arts may seem odd on paper, especially since I went to school to be a physical therapist, but it is crystal clear in practice. When I was very little I would use our RCA TV (the one that was 5 feet deep and had a rounded screen) as my studio mirror and my Fisher Price (not a sponsor) cassette player to create and perform life-changing choreography to the hottest classical music. When I got older I performed in plays and musicals, most notably, you can catch me on my mom’s VHS recording of a 3rd grade Christmas musical called “A Star is Born.” I played Sophia Spaghetti- an homage to Sophia Loren. I puked on the way to the dress rehearsal and still performed that evening, but that’s a legendary tale for another time.
In college I blended my passion for performance with my love of sports. I did play-by-play and color commentary of the women’s sporting events for my university’s radio station. In that season of my life I coined the phrase, “HOLY CANOLI GUACAMOLE,” in response to a close volleyball set. (Sports commentating has never been the same) After college, I found my way to the best gig I’ve had to date, working with some of the most talented educators I’ve ever witnessed at a science center in Columbus, Ohio. I performed science assemblies for crowds as large as 500 to as small as 30 Kindergartners making dust angels on the floor and calling me Mr. Anna. I now have the pleasure of overseeing and implementing performing arts programming for students all across Northeast Ohio. Working with some of the most gifted actors and artists has taught me a few things I’d like to share with you in this moment where being creative can often feel like a chore.
We are all creative. For some of us that creativity results in a painting for others it results in a one-of-a-kind ice skating jump. Some people use their creativity to solve real world problems and some use their creative to bring people joy. There is no prescribed way to be creative- that’s why kids are so good at it! They’re so new to the game and there’s nothing blocking their view of what’s possible. Have you ever had a toddler “read” you a book? They don’t know how to read! But the stories they tell are often times better than the actual book (sorry Doc Seuss). Being creative is good for the mind, body and soul. However, it may feel difficult to reach that creative part of ourselves and there’s a reason for that. Our tanks are often empty. Our cups, many times, are dry. We’re completely out of steam. Whichever, metaphor you subscribe to- we feel like we don’t have it in us because so much is happening around us. So how do we combat that? How do we stay creative? Here’s what your pseudo doctor-scientist-artist (me) would prescribe:
Sure, you can try actually pivoting, it’s a favorite of some choreographers, but what I mean is pivot your perspective. I’ll give a few examples, of which there are thousands. Maybe you love fashion, but you are tapped out and can’t create new and interesting outfits. Have you ever considered how you might facilitate a quick change? A quick change requires costume designers to adapt costumes so that a character can look completely different in a matter of seconds. If you use your favorite internet search engine, you can watch some amazing transformations both on and off stage. You might also determine how much sequin is palatable versus how much is offensive. A question that philosophers have been asking for ages.
Maybe you love listening to musicals to inspire your own music creation but you can’t listen to another cast album or you may start to hate them. What if instead, you pivot and listen to film scores? We love the storytelling in musicals but how would you tell a story through a song without lyrics? You may be sitting there thinking, those creative outlets are too artistic, “has this broad lost her marbles?” The answer is, of course, yes! Who hasn’t?! If you enjoy carpentry or wood-working, have you thought about building an obstacle course? If you enjoy cooking have you thought about making soap? Hear me out. It requires ingredients to be measured and mixed. The only difference is that the results cannot be ingested unless you grew up in Toledo, Ohio in the 1990’s and you tried out a new curse word at the dinner table. Taking a look at your creative outlets in a new way will help you appreciate them more and stave off burnout.
Day to day life can be a challenge – especially right now in the midst of 2020. Sometimes waking up and exiting the bed on the opposite side is the most creativity we can muster and that’s OK! This particular suggestion is for those individuals who are motivated by challenges or competitions. I was recently part of an arts conference where a keynote speaker posed this challenge, “take the least creative app on your phone and create something.” Whether that be your calculator app, Venmo or Google Maps, use your creativity. There’s also the classic, “try something new” approach. I love testing new skills but if you don’t have the hottest, new calligraphy set or you don’t have the appropriate glue for a papier-mache sculpture, use what you’ve got. In the same way you work out physically to keep your body healthy, your brain and creativity have to be flexed and sharpened to be the most effective.
I recently got hip to (that’s youthful slang for “became aware of”) a Scottish sports commentator named Andrew Cotter. He has been using his skills of sports casting to commentate on his dog’s everyday lives. It is hilariously entertaining and downright heartwarming. Not only has he pivoted and used his skill and creativity in a new way but he has brought joy to individuals he doesn’t even know. I will eventually have to participate in what my department has deemed “Sharing Thursday” where someone from our team shares an interest or hobby. If you think my share-out won’t be a video of me commentating on Sophie’s daily walks in a poor, Mrs. Doubtfire-like Scottish accent, you have lost YOUR marbles. I would have never thought to do that if I hadn’t explored another person’s creative outlet. We talked about an empty tank/cup/engine. If you are in the phase of feeling like you’re on “E” maybe now is the season for consumption. I know over consumption is a current concern but I would say, as a grown adult, you have control of what you put into your brain and how you use it. Be smart. If it isn’t filling the old cup/engine/tank, maybe try something else. “PIVOT!”- Ross Geller
“But what if I’m a mom and I’ve had to be so creative for the last few months that the cup isn’t only empty, it’s on fire?”
First of all, let me say, thank you moms. You were all Superheroes before recent events but now, you’re Titans. I have limited experience maintaining a small human’s life for more than a day or two but hopefully this story will bring you some hope. Every day I take Sophie for a walk at a local park. A few weeks ago we came across a mom and her young son staring at a trash can in the park. As Sophie and I passed, the little boy broke his concentration from the trash can and beamed all of his love towards Sophie. Before he could sprint to us, his mom did an excellent job of explaining the dynamic of social distancing to her small child. So instead of running at us, this little boy ran several feet in the opposite direction, turned back and yelled, “I think he’s in that one! I think Oscar’s in that one!” I looked at the mother for clarification and she shared that she had run out of ideas for the day but after watching Sesame Street in the morning she told her son they could go to the park and see if Oscar the Grouch was in any of the trash cans. How genius! Did that mom want to watch Sesame Street? Debatable. Did she use what she was consuming to create something magical for her son? YOU BET!
Quick note to moms: If you spent your one moment of free time today reading this, please know I am honored.
Creativity isn’t always about a tangible result. It’s fantastic when your creativity results in the most incredible water color painting or a brand new kitchen but you know what else is creative? Learning! In learning something new you are creating new thoughts and ideas. You are processing new information and creating your opinion about a topic. If you are less excited about big, creative challenges and would simply prefer to lay in bed and read, I raise my glass to you. Educating yourself about a topic you find interesting IS being creative. You are creating those intangible things that make us human.
So, create art, create music, create baked goods that can be easily packaged and sent to my house. To all of these I say HOORAY! Just don’t stop creating. You don’t need to be creative every moment of every day, quite frankly, that would be exhausting. However, the more you use your creativity, the sharper it gets and the less likely you are to feel like it’s a chore. Don’t forget that creativity is easiest with a full cup/tank/engine. If your cup is already full, share with us (especially if it’s filled with wine) and never stop wondering, wandering and being the brightest wildflower you can be. Surround yourself with others who celebrate your creativity and innovation like this community started by the incomparable Chelsie Webster. We’re all in this together. GO CREATE!
by Hannah Twining
Learn more about Hannah Twining and find more from her in our #WoWaWild Women section.