Since the dawn of time, man has revered creative people! (Giant musical underscore here.) All right, that's a bit over the top. But the sentiment is true. Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, people have been in awe of, given deep respect to and made excuses for the creative types in the world. We've grown so enamored of those who possess even a modicum of creativity that in the workplace, we've created an entirely new category for these workers titled simply "creatives."
Since the dawn of time, man has revered creative people! (Giant musical underscore here.)
All right, that's a bit over the top. But the sentiment is true. Since the time of the Ancient Greeks, people have been in awe of, given deep respect to and made excuses for the creative types in the world. We've grown so enamored of those who possess even a modicum of creativity that in the workplace, we've created an entirely new category for these workers titled simply "creatives."
We've all stood in front of the mirror wearing leopard skin underwear, with a hairbrush pretending we're Bowie or some other creative rock 'n roller. Or … was that just me?
Artists, actors, painters, dancers, web designers, and people with creative drive, focus, and gifts have always been considered special and people we want to emulate. How fun.
We've been taught to believe that creativity is some kind of magic that only a select few have been blessed with. Because of that, we often let people behave badly and avoid questioning their work ethic if they have the elusive creativity in them. If you're creative, you can work as much or as little as you like; you're special.
A Message from the Reality Sheriff
Howdy folks, reality Sheriff here, and I just want you all to know, that's pure, unadulterated horse pucky.
Here's the thing, if you're looking to have a creative life and do your very best creative work, which is all any of us want, then you need to siddle up to the bar and have a shot of truth. Although being creative is essential to the world, business, and society, it ain't the be-all-end-all we've been told it is.
If you want to have a healthy, productive, creative career, you need to embrace these truths. Not easy truths, but truths nonetheless. So, strap in and brace yourself because here are some brutal truths about creativity, For your own good and well-being.
You Are Original; Your Ideas Are Not
Odd truth, there is no such thing as a new idea.
We have grown and progressed s a species because we have an innate ability to build on each other's ideas. We tweak and reconfigure, adjust, amend, add, and subtract until we have the perfect thing that works for the situation.
Innovation always stands on the shoulders or microchips of old invention. That's the way it works.
So, you are original; you are the only one of you out there, even if you're an identical twin. This means your ideas are important, maybe even groundbreaking; however, they are not "original."
Now, you have a choice, get all fututzed about that and die on the hill of originality, or accept it and remove that pressure from your creative life to be original.
Inspiration Is a Mythical Beast
That moment when you're in the shower, singing show tunes and lathering up when suddenly, the answer to a creative problem comes to you. Out of the blue! Lightning from the sky. A gift from the Gods. Yay! You've been inspired!
Only, you haven't.
Inspiration is not a magical mystery doled out to the worthy in quick, mind-shaking strikes. This sudden answer that comes to you in the middle of your morning ablutions is just your brain making connections—doing the work the brain does when it has been fed a good amount of information and has been employed in working on a problem for a while. When showering, you're not thinking directly about the problem, which allows your brain some free time on its own to make connections.
Dr. Shelly H. Carson, a Harvard researcher, calls this the "incubation period." This incubation happens when you're engaged in what's known as divergent thinking. This is when you're distracted from the problem at hand and allowing your brain to do its work.
Because of this divergent thinking, the answer to your creative problem may seem random or even a gift from the Gods. However, it is the way the brain works. While you shower, your brain is consciously working on other things, like the mechanics of shaving your legs, but your subconscious is busy working on the creative problem. All while you do not realize it and thus, you feel "inspired."
But you're not.
You Ain't Special, Everyone is Creative
Creativity isn't a special gift that you alone were blessed with. It's something that all humans are born with. It is a human quality.
What you do with that is what matters. If you work at it, you can develop your creative muscles, just as speed skaters develop those insanely muscular thighs. So, it's not some mysterious gift, it's an ability we all have, but some choose to focus on it and work at it.
You could have the talent of Hieronymus Bosch or Paul Simon, but who cares if you're not working at it or improving on it? Then who cares. It's not a gift but a skill that needs time, attention, work, and development.
Everyone is creative; not everyone makes the choices to develop it.
No, You Were Not Born This Way
Creativity is not something you are born with. You may have an aptitude for it and may like it and work hard to develop it, but it's not something you're born with.
Creativity is taught in colleges and universities all over the world. These creativity classes help people understand creativity and how to access it. And, there is the fact that if you work hard, you can develop creative skills or be better at the creative endeavors you want to pursue. With time and effort, you can focus more on your creativity and produce more. You can learn it.
If we were just born with it, no one would develop their skills or need to. But they do, and we do.
Being Vulnerable = Being Great
You may achieve some level of proficiency, but you will never be great unless you are vulnerable.
Vulnerability is a reality and a necessity if you're going to do great creative work. We are all aware of this; when a piece of art hits us in the gut, we know there is something special about it. What makes that special is a vulnerable artist.
When a creative person is open and vulnerable to the pains and the struggles, the joys and the sorrows that have moved them to put a piece of work on canvas, stage, or film, that vulnerability permeates the piece. It raises it to a level above "cheeseburger" art.
Cheeseburger art is work that has no effect on you. You see it, and all you can say is, I'm hungry, anyone want to grab a cheeseburger?
When art is filled with vulnerability, it crucifies you to the wall; it takes your breath away, stops you in your tracks, and, above all, it makes you feel. Deeply.
When you're ready to drop your guard, stop posing, stop pretending, and embrace your vulnerability, you're on your way to great creative work.
Fear is Good
I have never understood that whole 'no fear' campaign. Fear is a good thing; it keeps us safe, engages the fight or flight response, and keeps us from trying to have honey sandwiches with those adorable grizzly bears. Fear is your body's way of protecting you from physical and mental harm.
Fro creatives, fear is your friend. Fear and vulnerability go hand in hand. When you're working, if you suddenly get afraid in your creative journey, that signals that you're getting into profound truth and possibly painful emotional states. This is also a signal that you are reaching into your vulnerable core.
In terms of creativity, when you feel fear, do not run, do not shy away, and do not find ways to deflect. Embrace the fear, trust you will survive, and allow it to take you to new heights.
This Ain't Easy
Suppose your idea of being creative is a cocktail, a cigarette in a long holder, a blank canvas in a well-lit room that you suddenly, effortlessly, with the stroke of the brush, fill with the most amazing art. In that case, you're watching too many Merchant/Ivory films.
If you hit a point in your creative endeavor where the frustrations with the progress or the direction make you quit, STOP! Frustration is a part of the true creative process.
Anything worth your time and vulnerability is going to be complicated. If it were easy, we'd have art studios next to drive-through burger clown heads dispensing canvases with chicken nuggets.
Fight, argue, howl, slam, kick, and get it all out because creating isn't easy, and the frustration needs to be embraced as part of the process.
Nope, It Does Not Get Easier
It just doesn't.
Over time you learn more, and you understand your process more, so you know when to break it and when to lean into it. You feel more at home in it, but it never gets easier. Dry spells and writer's block still abound, and you have to get over them.
The fears don't magically disappear, and you are not suddenly free of insecurities. The same old hopes, dreams, worries, and frustrations are still by your side.
You may understand things a bit more and feel more at ease in your creative skin, but it will still be hard to create. You must stick it out, stay in the game and push yourself further daily.
But it's worth it, isn't it?