We all know it when we see it. We all want a little more of it… but what exactly is creativity anyway? Tom Wujec, creative thinking guru, hits the problem on the mark in his book Five Star Mind:
“Creativity is a familiar stranger. Trying to define it is like trying to capture a puff of smoke with your fingertips.”
How can it be that Creativity is at once so familiar–we recognize it in others all the time–and yet so strange and slippery when we try to pin it down for ourselves? We come to believe that Creativity is some sort of mystical super power with which only the select creative geniuses among us have been so fortunately graced. While they receive visions, the rest of us ordinary people dig around in the mud hoping to strike creative gold. And dang, it’s hard work!
If only there were some 5-step process to awakening your inner creative genius! If only you could be as creative as _____ (fill in the blank: that writer who seems to strike gold every time they breath)! If only…
If I’m honest with myself, those “If only” thoughts require a vast amount of energy. Energy that might be converted into…I dunno… creative thinking? Because when it comes down to it, Creativity might be indefinable, but it is not unattainable.
I want to argue that you already have creativity. You are a creative person.
And no, you don’t just need to squeeze your eyes shut and recite the mantra “I am creative!” until you magically pop out a bestseller. I’m not talking about deluding yourself into thinking you’re creative, or even faking it until you make it. I’m suggesting that everybody’s got the ability to be creative.
Having said that, your Creativity won’t look like mine. Just think about it: we are each of us created uniquely. Doesn’t it make sense that what we create and how we create will be equally unique to each of us? What inspires you to create might not do beans for me. And now, finally, we begin to get closer to why Creativity evades definition: it is by nature always adapting, evolving, developing along with us, individually & uniquely.
Ok. So the closest we can get to defining Creativity is to accept that it defies definition–it looks different for each one us. But we still haven’t resolved how we can maximize our creative energy, whatever that means!
Well in Parts II & III of “Got Creativity”, I’ll give you some tried-&-true tools for shaking that Creative muscle awake & getting it buzzing again.
But just for now, here a couple of questions to help you determine whether you’re nourishing your own Creativity… or suffocating it.
Are you giving yourself the space & time to be Creative?
When it comes to stimulating Creativity, the problem is often not too little but too much. How often, in a quiet moment alone, do you savour a bit of mindless musing rather than reach for your smartphone & start flicking? How often do you sit back & stare out the window on long journeys or your daily commute rather than clicking on the radio/ipod/news app/etc.?
Psychologists tell us that when our brain is in information processing mode (ie. flicking through our phones or surfing the web for “inspiration”), we virtually shut down our ability to create. However, when our brains are in task negative or “boredom” mode, it’s like those creative neurons can finally clear the floor & get their dancing shoes on!
When it comes to Creativity, boredom is your friend. It’s a dying art. Letting your mind wander without any external stimulation might even intimidate you. But making that space & time for musing is the vital first step to waking up your own Creativity.
Be brave! Give it a go!
*(Creative photographers Phillip & Eileen Blume talk about the goods & evils of modern technology for Creative thought in this inspirational TedX Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOPVLuopnV0)
Are you bogged down trying to write for the Market?
As a budding writer, it’s all too easy to try and catch whatever winds the market is blowing to fill your creative sails. But don’t be caught out. Trying to perform for an ever-changing market will soon leave you in the creative doldrums.
One of the key ingredients of Creativity is passion. That’s why your creativity looks different to mine! The thing you’re passionate about, the thing that energizes & excites you, that’s the fuel for your creative fire. So keep a weather eye on the Market if you must, but don’t fret over it. Keep a journal & jot down ideas that excite you. Write what you are passionate about. Because chances are, there’s an audience out there that’s passionate about the very same thing!
Are you an Explorer?
More on this in Part III, but suffice it to say for now, Creativity happens when our minds are allowed to wonder, to inquire, to explore… No wonder kids seem to have Creativity coming out their ears!
Remember those good ol’ days as a kid, mixing up mud pies with whatever ingredients you could find in the garden? Sure, to Mum or Dad it might have looked like you were picking berries, tearing leaves and digging up earthworms. But in actuality, you were gathering mundane ingredients together to make something new & wonderfully disgusting. But that is the essence of Creativity! Like a mud pie chef, as writers we gather together our plot, our characters, our settings… we toss in a bit of our favourite books, a pinch of life experience, and… voila! Something totally new results!
So dare to take a second look at the world around you. What others see as mud you may come to see as a scrumptious pie.
Do you learn from hiccups?
Creative writing is quite a lot like cooking (& not just mud pies). You throw together the ingredients you’ve gathered, hoping to make a delicious, harmonious stew. Not every ingredient will blend & enhance as you hoped. That’s ok! The key is to let your creative ideas simmer. It takes time, trial & error. Sometimes it takes getting it wrong before you know how to set it right.
Remember, Creativity grows with you. It’s a journey, and a right fun one if you’ll except the hiccups as all part of it!