A CAPITOL OF CREATIVITY
Editor's Note: This week we begin Issue 007, A Creative Pursuit, and today's journal entry is our fourth from a current congressional staffer. To continue empowering writers in American politics to tell the story of healing through freedom, we are currently running a fundraising campaign through October 31. By giving any amount, you can join our pursuit and become a LIBERATUS Founder.
In my previous article entitled “Work as Restoration” I wrote about Capitol Hill feeling like a massive machine that got stuck on autopilot leaving our work devoid of value or meaning. In my personal life when I feel like I have gone into autopilot, the best way for me to move out of that is to make space for creativity. This could mean taking a different route to work, challenging myself to cook a new meal, or meeting an old friend for a slow cup of tea. In the same sense, I think the answer to the lack of meaning in political work today is to create intentional space for creativity.
What first drew me to politics was the idea of creatively solving big problems facing our world. However, as most would guess Capitol Hill is a far cry from a creative Mecca. Although changing this culture will be a slow process, I am going to highlight a few steps offices can take to encourage creativity and ultimately foster an environment that produces meaningful change within our nation.
Edwin Land, the co-founder of Polaroid, said, “an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” Something I really appreciate about my office is that when I started my boss said just so you know, I don’t punish errors of enthusiasm. In other words if I happen to fall flat on my face while working hard and creatively seeking solutions, it’s okay. In the current political context, flanked by the 24-hour news cycle, there is no room for failure. Although this creates needed accountability within government, it also stifles the opportunity for creative solutions. For this reason, I think a safe place we can begin implementing this concept of not fearing failure is within creative collaboration.
On the Hill, most things are very pigeonholed. For example, each staffer handles specific issues, those are broken up between committees, and the majority of the time that work is done to patch a problem instead of discover a solution. An obvious way I see to fix this is to encourage a collaborative environment. Maybe this means twice a month the legislative team from three offices sit down and discuss the problems they have been facing. It could be as small as processing mail or as big as how to acclimate thousands of Syrian Refugees. These meetings must be an environment where grace is given and innovation is celebrated. Although this is a small change in the grand scheme of things, when this type of collaborative culture takes hold, it will impact the way Congress and ultimately the nation is led.
Lastly, we must take time to renew. Capitol Hill is known for cubicles and long hours. I get to my office at 8:30, stay until at least 6:30 and feel guilty taking any sort of a lunch break. It is no wonder that the Hill is known for quick burn out when our daily environment is filled with stress and unrealistic work expectations. Creative solutions will never come from staring at a screen and refusing to leave your desk. We have to intentionally work to craft an environment where rest is celebrated and seen as a necessary tool to truly produce great work.
This idea of fostering a creative work environment is a millennial driven priority, and it is my hope that as our ideas continue to take root, culture will begin to change. Although these ideas may not be earth shattering, I hope they are tangible ways we can move toward a political culture that seeks liberty through the creative pursuit of truth and beauty.
The writer is a Legislative Correspondent in the U.S. House of Representatives.
ISSUE 007: A CREATIVE PURSUIT, PART 1