By Andrew Wagner-Chazalon

It never ceases to amaze me how many people are afraid of creativity. Particularly in Muskoka, where creativity should be king.

Most of us claim to admire creativity, and we may even aspire to it. But to embrace it, play in it, commit to it? We shuffle our feet and look away.

Perhaps that’s why I so enjoyed touring the cottage we’re featuring this month. It’s not just a lovely cottage – although it certainly is that – it’s a place where creativity has been given reign. The architect, builder and owner worked together as a visionary team to craft a home unlike anything we’ve ever seen – a home that reflects the desires and personality of the owner, a home with a story to tell. It’s such a refreshing relief from the cookie cutters we sometimes see in Muskoka, million-dollar cottages that are almost indistinguishable from the million-dollar cottages across the bay.

This cabin-within-a-cottage isn’t to everyone’s taste, and that’s just fine. In fact, it may be an inevitable result of creativity: when you’re crafting something new, you can be almost certain that not everyone will like it.

It takes commitment and courage to be that innovative with a building. You have to live with the results a long time, and I certainly understand why the familiar is popular when it comes to architecture. What I don’t understand is why so few of us are willing to be creative in other areas. It isn’t just the homes and cottages we live in; it’s our food, our clothing, our hobbies: we mimic and copy, as if we’ve forgotten how to innovate.

Muskoka should be a place where one can escape that.

It certainly is for many, and always has been. From the steel magnates and coal barons of the 1880s to the bankers and insurance presidents of today, there have always been those who have shed more than just their ties when they’ve arrived in Muskoka; they’ve shed their inhibitions. Sober heads of industry in the city, at the cottage they have painted and sung, built rafts and carved totem poles. They become actors and artists and poets, and give voice to someone they thought was buried deep down inside.

At times I fear we’re losing that aspect of cottage living. Time has become a commodity in our busy world, and it’s too precious to invest an afternoon of it whittling a homemade fishing lure or writing a song about the cottage. After all, if the lure fails or the song flops, that time is wasted, isn’t it?

No, it isn’t. Because if we live without creativity, we lose something important.

Sometimes the end result matters – the cottage needs to be livable and enjoyable, after all, but sometimes what really matters is the process. The song may not be memorable; the lure may catch no fish. The experimental marinade may taste dreadful, and the raft may sink. But the person who created it – you – will be richer for the experience.

So step out there this summer. Luxuriate in creativity. Make something just for the sake of making it. Let your spirit fun free.

Andrew Wagner-Chazalon is the editor of Muskoka Life. He can be reached at