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.

Image from http://www.americanflagimages.info

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The paradoxes of change

20 12 2009

I was amazed at how relevant this 1997 article  is today.  It argues that what you fear, or what you/your family/your organisation instinctually avoid, becomes a useful marker of the direction of the most powerful change that you could encounter. 

In modern parlance, the comfort zone is enemy territory.

This, however, clashes with our instinct for order and our desire to make sense of the world.  We cannot measure what we cannot define.  We need boundaries, frameworks, taxonomies and systems to exert control over the entropic world we inhabit. 

Predictability = safety, security, power.  And yet, the pace of change outstrips our ability to comprehend or compute it.  Surely it’s high time we accept the fact that quickfire change is here to stay and, the better we’re able to adapt to and thrive amidst it, the more we can function, contribute and excel.

As 2010 beckons and we look ahead to its untold possibilities, what are your current attitudes toward change?

1) Do you naturally seek order or invite uncertainty?

2) Do you move toward or away from what you instinctually fear?

3) Do your New Years’ resolutions change or remain constant over the years?  Why?

4) How do friends/family influence the changes you do or don’t make in life?

5) If you desire change, do you know what direction to take?

Let’s begin the beguine of change.