Creativity is not just about having some deep, instilled, amazing artistic talent [read: sculpting, painting, making paper-mache robots] or some angst-driven, emotional turbo-drive that forces you to express yourself in imaginative, deep, meaningful ways.
Not that those particular expressions of creativity are bad, it’s just that they are particular expressions. Unique versions. Your version of creativity, and how you live a creative life, will be your own. Should be your own.
Seriously: what is less creative than copying some other creative person’s mode and method of creativity? (Though imitation does have its place in the creative process… but it’s a place, not the foundation.)
Creativity, as we might have mentioned before, is simple. It’s creating: making something, not necessarily from scratch. None of us really start “from scratch,” which means “from nothing.” We all start with something, raw materials of some kind or another. Look, here’s a little table I made to show you, because I get a kick out of making tables.
Actually, I take that back slightly. There are some creative things that start from nothing physical. When you write a novel, for example, you’re creating a new thing (a story, in book form) from nothing but the ideas and words and images in your head. Of course, we could make the argument that those things in your head were created, influenced, and formed by all the input you’ve had in your life… which would be true. But at some point you have to stop back-tracking.
And yourself – your brain, your fingers, your abilities – those are always part of the tools and materials used in creating something. That’s why creative acts and created products are unique to the creator. And that’s exactly why they’re special, because you give them part of yourself in the process of creation. You imprint them, and when you create something – whether it’s a pie or a pie chart, a clay pinch pot or a marble statue, a painting or a poem or a patio – you create something that has never been created before. Ever.
Where’d that table go? Oh, right, here we are:
|Product||Tools||Raw Materials Used|
|This table, a digital file||Evernote||Table template in Evernote|
|Cherry pie||Pie plate, rolling pin, oven||Flour, butter, sugar, salt, cherries…|
|Pie chart||Word processor||Template, data|
|Clay pinch pot||Your own two hands||Clay|
|Marble statue||Chisel, hammer||Hunk of marble|
|Painting||Paintbrushes, palette||Paint, canvas|
|Poem||Pen, paper||Words & ideas in your head|
|Patio||Drill, hammer, saw, etc.||Wood, concrete, nails…|
|Business||People, machines, biz plan||Time, money, talent|
We can take it a little further, even.
A clean house is a product of you using your cleaning tools (mop, broom, and so on) and your raw materials (time, energy, dirty house) and creating a clean, cozy, comfortable space.
A shelf of freshly folded laundry is a product of your using your tools (washer and dryer) and your raw materials (dirty laundry) and creating fresh, folded clothing out of a pile of dirty, nasty, wrinkled laundry.
Did you create something from nothing? No. But nobody really ever does that. Even the writer or the painter starts with something. Creating digitally actually comes a lot closer to creating from scratch, but even those pixels and bits have existed before, you’re just turning them into a new type of digital output.
All that to say this: we need to get over our boxed-in concept of creativity as a thing that works for certain people, and we need to start building lives that are creative, in many ways, on purpose.
- Creative people have more fun.
- Creative people are more empathetic.
- Creative people are good problem-solvers.
- Creative people are interesting.
- Creative people are interested and curious about the world.
- Creative people are always learning.
- Creative people are never bored.
- Creative people are inspiring to others.
- Creative people help us save resources.
- Creative people help us see beauty.
- Creative people come up with new ideas, new uses, new methods.
- Creative people shake up the status quo.
- Creative people inspire changes.
Is that enough for you?