Creativity can be found just about anywhere in life. Art is life; life is art. But creativity is more than art. It’s ubiquitous. It’s using our imagination to solve problems.

Think of that chair you’re sitting in right now or perhaps the electronic device you’re reading this on. Did you ever stop to think that someone at some point had a vision and then used their creativity to turn that chair or computer screen into reality?

Creativity exists in each and every one of us. It’s not a special talent gifted to certain people. We are all creative in our own way, and we have been since the day we were born. So what happened along the way to make us feel that we aren’t creative? Think back to when you were a child. Perhaps you have a child of your own. Children are naturally creative. They can take a handful of crayons, a plain old cardboard box, and some household items and turn them into a half robot, half dinosaur thingamabob from outer space named Charlie. It’s fascinating.

As we grow older, however, we become “educated” and taught to follow society’s rules and regulations. We become stuck in our boxes of conformity, surrounded by barriers and walls of what the world tells us we should be. I’m not here to tell you that you can learn to be creative; I’m here to show you and remind you that it’s been there all along.

OK, so now you’re thinking, “What the heck is this guy talking about, and what does it have to do with blackout poetry?” That’s a good question. The truth is I like to talk…a lot. Fun fact: when I am with a group of friends and the words “long story short” come out of my mouth, it’s already too late. I’m a people person — Libra and ENFJ. (We’ll just leave it at that.)

So, where were we again? Right! You. Creativity. Blackout poetry. Life. What does that mean to me? What can it mean for you? Let me tell you a little story (don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it short)…

About seven years ago I was leading the pretty standard life. I had a great career as an art director/graphic designer/web designer, a beautiful house and wife, and I was surrounded with plenty of friends, singing in a band on the side and just loving life. But life rarely goes as planned. I can’t narrow it down to a particular moment, it just seemed that one day my stress and anxiety had started to rise. Overloaded at work, marital issues began to surface and other personal matters were starting to take their toll. Pretty soon, I was in the middle of a divorce, lost my dream house, and ended up at my dad’s for a while because my other house (which wasn’t selling) was being rented out (got screwed out of that), and a huge ripple effect began. I found myself in the middle of a deep depression, my anxiety was through the roof, and my OCD tendencies, which I felt worked to my advantage, spiraled out of control. I couldn’t focus and concentrate at work and, as a result, was eventually let go. I was absolutely devastated.

After being on unemployment for about a month, I realized that I was in no shape to be working. I needed to sort things out. I applied for disability for mental health reasons and started going to counseling and a psychiatrist. I was diagnosed with Major Clinical Depression, severe Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and severe OCD. Suddenly I found myself at rock bottom. Family strife entered the mix. I lost some close friends and a girl who, despite being the best friend and relationship I ever had, decided to leave me. This wasn’t just rock bottom. It was rock bottom’s basement. I literally couldn’t function. Suicide was seemingly a viable option to end the pain and suffering. And after a couple failed attempts, I was at the lowest point in my life. Even writing this right now is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

So, long story short (yeah, right)…enter blackout poetry!

One day as I was browsing the Web, I stumbled across an image of a blackout poem. I found it so fascinating that I immediately ran out and bought a book and a sharpie marker. I thought I would give it a try and hope that it would hold my attention for at least a couple of weeks. I did a few blackout poems and posted them on my personal Instagram account with the hashtag “#blackoutpoetry.”

All of a sudden, I started getting some likes and comments on them. I thought to myself, “Who the heck are these people?” As it turns out, there is an entire community out there revolving around blackout poetry! Not only was this community kind and encouraging, but they also gave me the courage to start a separate account for my work. It was as if I finally had a breakthrough. The universe had intervened.

Over time I grew into the community, and the support and work turned out to be truly amazing. Most of these people, from all over the world, ended up becoming my good friends. It was incredible. Blackout poetry changed my life. It gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. Honestly, it SAVED my life. It enabled me to start over.

Reenergized, I decided that I wanted to shift my life focus to helping and encouraging others. I wanted to share my love for blackout poetry with everyone — most important, with those suffering from mental health illness or having just a rough time in general. That is what blackout poetry means to me. It is a vehicle of love passing on from one person to the next. It’s about inspiring others and being inspired by others through art and words, and through finding stories of hope, love, and determination. When you get right down to it, it’s therapy.

It’s about finding light in the darkness.

I hope you’re inspired by my story about blackout poetry and that it reminds you that you can be as creative as you want. You have no limitations. I believe in you! Please join me on this journey and find out what blackout poetry can mean to you!

With much love,