I had an art teacher in elementary school named Mrs. Barnhorse. Actually that probably wasn’t her name, because Barnhorse? Really? But that’s how I remember it.

She always took great care to explain our next art project, moving methodically through each step, explaining all the details. The only problem was she waited until the end to tell us what the final project was supposed to be.


My sister had the same teacher and now as adults we remember art class in elementary school with no small amount of anxiety – Just tell us what we’re making!! We wanted to know where were supposed to end up before we got started.

To this day, whenever we hear someone give details before they give the big picture, we call them Mrs. Barnhorse.

But maybe Mrs. Barnhorse was on to something good.

The thing about creativity is you don’t always know where you’re going even when you think you know where you’re going.

In art class, it’s annoying or exciting depending on your personality.

But in life, it can be terrifying.

When we first brought twins home from the hospital, I couldn’t believe the doctors and nurses allowed me to take them home. Shouldn’t a responsible grown up be in charge of these little tiny people? But I looked around and my husband did too and all we saw was each other.

There wasn’t a how-to book no matter how much we tried to turn Baby Wise into one. There wasn’t a life map or an insurance plan or any kind of guarantee that we were doing this right no matter how much I wished for one.

When life becomes overwhelming and unpredictable, those are the moments when I am most likely to try to live like a technician rather than an artist.


Creativity isn’t just for art class. In those moments where I recognize my lack of control, choosing creativity often means admitting I don’t have all the answers and I don’t know what’s coming next but I’m going to move ahead into the mystery anyway.

I choose wonder. I choose trust. I choose to live an artful life even in the midst of insecurity.

It doesn’t matter if your art is a relationship, a job, a hobby, or some other desire of your heart, when it comes to doing creative work – whether that means writing a book or parenting with grace – fear of the unknown is part of the package.

I used to think the answer was to get rid of the fear by trying to figure everything out but I know better than that now. When it comes to creativity, fear can be a valuable teacher and I don’t want it to go away. The goal isn’t to push fear away forever, it’s to refuse to be pushed around by fear at all. We have to remember that if we avoid the fear, we miss the art too.

In Mrs. Barnhorse’s class, the word create carried a certain amount of anxiety along with it – I don’t know where I’m supposed to end up! But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. In fact, maybe that’s part of the point.

Today, the writers at Living the Story are excited to give away Emily’s new book, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live to three lucky people who leave a comment. And if you are a blogger, link up your posts on our theme of the month: Create. We’re anxious to read your stories. Book winners will be announced on Friday.



for those who think you need to have creativity all figured out

by Emily P. Freeman time to read: 3 min