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Bringing Creativity Into the Legislature

Artist, storyteller and podcaster Tricia Rose Burt urges staff to take risks.

By Grace Olson  |  June 3, 2024

Growing up in a traditional Southern household, Tricia Rose Burt always thought there was only one way to go through life: the right way.

That meant going to an elite Southern university, marrying a Southern man and having kids. But as she headed down this path, Burt found herself restless and dissatisfied.

So, she veered off course. Burt was working as a successful communications consultant when she decided to make a drastic change and go to art school. She says she had worked the logical and practical side of her brain to death while she systematically pumped out the same solutions for every client. She realized she had lost her creativity—and something more.

“Being creative reminds us of our humanity,” Burt says during the recent NCSL webinar “Using Creativity: Don’t Just Survive, Thrive!” “It creates community, and it can create common ground among the most unlikely people.”

“Practicing creativity may open your mind to ideas you never considered before.”

After turning her life upside down and taking the leap to becoming a full-time artist, Burt started the “No Time to Be Timid” podcast, where she discusses what she refers to as the “No Time to Be Timid Manifesto.” It outlines the steps anyone can take to abandon conformity and adopt new creative ideas inside and outside of their work, something Burt urged legislative staff to consider.

The manifesto’s first rule: “The riskiest thing you can do is play it safe.”

She says that as a consultant, she presented to one of the top New York radio stations. The radio executive declined her pitch but told her she had a tremendous voice for radio. He asked her to come to the studio to record some demo tapes. Burt turned down the offer because it was so far out of her comfort zone she was scared to say yes.

Burt says to always say yes to any new opportunity because you never know what door it could open.

“It’s been nearly 35 years since I said no to that offer, and I promise you not a year goes by that I don’t wonder what would’ve happened if I’d said yes,” she says.

The manifesto’s second rule: “There is more than one right way in life.”

Burt had two ministers speak on her podcast who had taken up filmmaking and podcasting. Over time, those side hustles became their sole focus. She says they took their talents for preaching and applied them to new creative mediums. Now, they can express themselves in new ways and reach bigger audiences with their messages.

“What continues to define their work is finding things that are unseen or not seen enough and bringing them into the light,” Burt says.

She says the most important rule in her manifesto is this: “Creativity is not a frivolous pursuit.”

While in art school, one of Burt’s first assignments was to just let her creative energy flow on a piece of paper. Having been trained to always think logically, she said this prompt flustered her and she began to cry. Her teacher saw that she was in distress and told her to just make one mark and see what happens. Gradually, one mark after another, Burt found herself freely drawing and watching her creativity unfold.

She suggests following creative pursuits and finding others to join the journey.

“Practicing creativity may open your mind to ideas you never considered before,” Burt says. “We can’t deny the creative people that we are. We need to express ourselves somehow.”

Watch the webinar recording now.

Grace Olson is an intern in NCSL’s Communications Division.

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