Be Create-ive, not Creative

2 08 2011

We often look to the great artists, musicians and writers as being in an untouchable tier above every one else. Those people are creative and the rest of us are not. Their work belongs in museums or deserves to be published but ours does not.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We all have the capacity to create. Perhaps we just need a shift in our mindsets about what being creative actually means.

What Makes Creative so bad?

When we think of the word creative, we most often take it to mean original. Most people’s concept of creative is of something new, something that no one has ever thought of before. Attaching these connotations to the word can have negative effects and can stop people thinking they can be creative or from even trying to create.

Claiming that for a piece of work to be creative, it has to be an original or new idea, puts a lot of pressure on any people in pursuit of creativity. There’s estimated to have been over 100 billion humans over the entire course of history for tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years, trying to do something completely different from all of them is a tough task, even more so considering that among those people were Da Vince, Picasso, Shakespeare, Monet etc. If we get too caught up in being original, in differentiating ourselves and our work, we might lose focus on what’s most important: the simple act of creation.

Creative is typically a word used most often for achievements in the fine arts such as painting, classical music or literature. But doodles on napkins, a batch of cupcakes or a whistled tune are also acts of creation.

Creativity is also seen as a quality that people either have or they don’t. Even from very early on, if a child paints a particularly good painting or tells an imaginative story, they are labeled as creative while others are not.The problem with viewing creativity as an internal and individual quality is that actually everyone is capable of creating and we all do create things quite often. Believing a creative quality is inherent in some but not others is a misused and potentially harmful fallacy. People who are never called creative can be discouraged from even trying to create.

So What Makes Create-ive better?

Focusing on the verb “create” rather than on the thing created or how it compares to what other people are doing helps us refocus on the actual purpose of creating. The reason people love to create, love to build, love to make art or love to cook is because they experience joy and a sense of accomplishment from the process and from the very act of creating.

It’s time we take away this overemphasis on being original. Even the most creative people are influenced by others. All artists are hacks. They borrow, copy or downright steal from one another. What’s more important than being original and what those creative people really did was put a part of themselves in their work. Let yourself shine through in your final product.

By seeing creativity as a quality that is either turned on or off in someone, we devalue any sort of skill or hard work that people put into their creations. It would mean that every piece of art, every song, every monumental novel is due to that quality. The years that artists and craftsmen put into learning, practicing and training are dismissed. Such a view can also act to discourage people from trying to create. If they don’t immediately pick up a new art form or struggle at first with learning a new skill they might think “Well I just may not be creative.”

Which definition of creative is in your dictionary? Want tips on how to be more create-ive? Check in next week for the second part of our Creativity series.

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Making change fun

15 12 2009

There are probably as many behavioural change theories as there are people who want to change.

What bogs most of us down, I think, is that change is often positioned or perceived as something hard, requires large doses of self-discipline and is longdrawn.

It doesn’t always have to be that way.  In this Volkswagen initiative, site creators believe that fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better.

As I reflect on my own recent path through change, I can relate.

I started taking improv lessons a year ago, and to say they’ve been life-changing is a monumental understatement.

The rewards of improvisation extend far beyond its theatrical ability to entertain and captivate.  When done well, the improviser experiences not just a unique sense of ‘flow’ or being ‘in the zone’, but a surreal feel of collaborative storytelling, reminiscent of childhood playground fantasy games.

In a word, good improv is FUN.  For the performers and the audience.

What, then, does all this have to do with change?

One of the first tenets of improv is having the courage to fail and take risks.  If you make a mistake, celebrate, don’t berate.  That barrier is easier said than done to cross, particularly in our structured left-brained dominant world, but reaching the other side is oh-so-sweet.

For when you’re on the other side, things get juicy.  You begin to release your inner child, that openness that makes you want to play and people want to play with you.  You gain more courage to say ‘yes, and’ to offers that come your way (both on- and offstage), instead of the more typical ‘no’ that keeps you in your comfortable risk-free zone.

As you allow this notion of risk-taking to permeate your consciousness, you start making bolder choices in the characters you play and the extremes you go to on stage.  The audience squeals with delight at each choice, fueling you to go further.

Then there are your fellow players.  In a strong and experienced ensemble, this positive risk-taking is multipled manifold.  Each sentence or movement by an improv player is an offer thrown out to the group, bait that the others must repond to so as to advance the story.  And each offer represents the potential to change the scene, a character or the plot.  When the offer is acknowledged and, more importantly, amplified by another player, the audience is thrilled beyond measure.

Change can happen as often as once every 5 seconds in an improvised scene or play.  And, in contrast to most corporate settings or even many personal lives, these changes are accepted with grace and amplified with confidence by one or all on stage.

An improv ensemble is a mystical thing.  To the outsider, it seems as if they’re magicians conjuring up impossibly cogent stories and compelling characters on the fly.  As a recent insider, I’ve come to know that it’s a delightful exercise in creativity and innovation based on making change fun.