I Was Wrong About Creativity

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(Photo by Jasmology)

I have always thought of creativity as the birthing and formation of something new and never-before-experienced. Because I seem unable to do that, I have never thought of myself as creative. I do not paint. I do not write poetry. I am not a graphic artist. Picasso was creative. Steve Jobs was creative. Even advertising executives are creative. They create something completely new, or reinvent a new way of looking at something ordinary. A new perspective is offered.

More than ever before, technology has been an immense aid in the creative process. GarageBand comes standard on Apple computers. Anyone can start a blog. Instagram is one of the most popular apps in the world. Creativity and artistry seem to close in on us from all angles. How can anyone produce something truly creative when there is so much being produced?

Oftentimes, people are accused of curating rather than creating. With agents like Pinterest and Tumblr, one can reblog and repin something posted by someone else, who did the same thing with someone before them. The original creator of the image or object becomes lost in the shuffle. I have always felt more of a curator than a creator, because I have never produced something new, or so I thought. Designers, poets, chefs, painters and sculptors, those are creative people. They create something from nothing. I was merely a sad copy artist.

It wasn’t until recently that I thought of my own writing as being creative. In the past, if anyone tried to tell me otherwise, I would rebuff them saying, “They’re just my thoughts. There’s nothing special about my thoughts. It’s not making something new, or saying anything special.” But how wrong I was! Just by being who I am, my words are creative. Only I think the crazy way I do. Only I make the bizarre or beautiful connections in the way that I do, and that is creativity. I do not have to paint, or make my own cross-stitch pattern, or think up my own recipe in order to be creative.

I’ve learned that creativity is sharing yourself in whatever way moves you. Words move me more than almost anything else (although food is a close second), and so that is my creative outlet. Some people are best able to express themselves through drawing or writing music. Those may not be my skills, but that doesn’t mean I’m not creative and original. But, I’ve also learned to change my idea of what originality is.  As C.S. Lewis said, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence about how it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

Everyone is influenced by something or someone, whether or not they even know it. We slowly accumulate knowledge and influence throughout our lives, and eventually it comes out of us. The things we love become a part of us, and expressing ourselves is essential to a healthy life. Keeping everything to ourselves is first, lonely, and second, selfish. Why deprive the world of the beautiful things you can give it? Even if no one reads your words, or sees your drawings, or hears your songs, you have taken risk by putting it out into the world. By writing, singing, painting, composing, and articulating emotion, it slowly spreads that creativity throughout the world, making it a better place. What would the world be if only the things deemed “good enough” were put out into the world? We would have far less art and beauty, that is for sure. People are their own worst critics, and it is incredibly risky and vulnerable to put yourself and your creative expression out there for people to criticize.  But as I’ve learned recently, that kind of vulnerability can be extremely liberating. People can be cruel, it’s true, but I’ve been surprised to see that most people are far kinder than I expected them to be. I’ve learned that I need to be creative not for others and their accolades, but for me, because I need it. I need to express myself, unburden myself, share my gifts, be vulnerable. It’s healthy. And liberating.

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