9 reasons to rethink how you look at creativity
When I was 20, I put creativity on a pedestal. Now creativity is just another part of my day.
I’ve always thought of myself as a capital-C Creative Person for as long as I remember.
I grew up loving art classes and dabbling a bit in sketching. As I grew older, I found other outlets outside of my engineering studies such as filmmaking, and eventually settled on writing as my main muse.
As a 20-year-old, I put creativity on a pedestal. I thought it was reserved for a select few, followed an ancient process, and could change the world if wielded by the right person.
10 years later, I view creativity through a different lens.
Here’s what’s changed…
Creativity isn’t a magical process
It doesn’t take much to be creative. There are artists and there are great artists, but one thing remains the same for all of them: creativity is a process.
The key is finding the process that works best for you.
Consistency is important, but putting in the work for work’s sake is a recipe for the bland and generic.
Create when you feel like it. Create when you don’t feel like it.
Whatever you choose, don’t expect to feel some magical tingly sensation. You show up, grab your tools, and get to work.
Creativity doesn’t “strike”
Some of your best work doesn’t have those lightning bolt moments.
It slowly comes into place, piece by piece, until one day you step back and think, I kind of like this.
Or, you create your work, nothing happens, you die, and then people say, We kind of like this.
The Muse will never call you. A million-dollar idea will never just “pop” into your head.
Eventually, the thing people will remember you by will be the thing that took years and years of dedication and practice to your craft.
While others see the finished result you’ll see what was once the unpolished version and what it became.
To create is to act. And to act is to take time. Nothing happens in a moment.
Creativity doesn’t require unique life experiences
In your twenties you are a newly minted adult, you haven’t faced life’s tests that will eventually shape you as a person.
As a 20-year-old I was desperate for life experiences to fuel my creativity. Instead, my self-consciousness permeated my creativity, infecting it with anxiety and angst only young people know.
As I’ve grown, I’ve settled into my being. I’m content with my life and the experiences I’ve collected. I am enough.
Trust as a young creative that you’re enough and create from that place. Don’t pretend to be anyone else.
Creativity is not your identity
I used to think my identity was somehow determined by my creative pursuits. But it’s not, I’m a complicated human being with many emotions, desires, fears, insecurities, and identities.
One piece of creative work, heck, a life’s worth of creative work isn’t enough to express one’s own identity. And that’s okay.
Creative isn’t who I am, it’s what I do.
Throw away the unwarranted burden of having to identify with your work and just simply create.
Creativity is never original
Let’s get metaphysical for a second.
The universe is built out of molecules and atoms which are various forms of energy. In other words, the universe is built from the building blocks of energy.
You need something to build something else.
Therefore, never strive to be “original.” It doesn’t exist. Everything is a derivative or a mash-up or a juxtaposition of other created things.
Instead of being original, do what author Neil Gaiman says in his MasterClass and start your own compost heap.
“I think it’s really important for a writer to have a compost heap. Everything you read, things that you write, things that you listen to, people you encounter, they can all go on the compost heap. And they will rot down. And out of them grow beautiful stories.“-Neil Gaiman
Even if you aren’t a writer, keep a small notebook at all times and capture those fleeting thoughts. Let them rot. See what grows.
Creativity serves you first
In my twenties I wanted to change the world.
Now that I’m 30 I want to change me and hope to set an example for the small group of people who choose to be in my life.
Holding onto this altruistic idea that your creativity is going to save mankind is hurting your creativity, not helping it. Because here’s what happens:
- You create something with high expectations
- Those expectations are not met
- Only a few people take notice
- You become discouraged from creating again
We can’t create for the world, we can only create for ourselves and for the few people who truly care.
Creativity isn’t to be judged
Whether your creative output is good or bad is irrelevant. What matters is if you created something worth your time, effort, and essence.
As a young writer, I tracked my views to validate what I was writing was “good.”
Now, I don’t care. I write, I publish, and I move on. I write things I enjoy writing, that’s all that matters to me.
No one can judge your creative output and you shouldn’t either.
Create and move on.
Creativity isn’t economical
I get it, we have bills to pay.
I know when I “churn” out work versus “creating” work. I’ll admit it, I write to make a living. I both love and hate it.
I love it because I get to do what I love doing and make money to support me and my family.
I hate it because sometimes the things I want to write about aren’t economically-viable topics.
Creativity as a profession will always come with antagonizing emotions. Photographers put up with insufferable newly-engaged couples. Writers write copy for products they’ve never tried. Musicians compose jingles.
There’s the creativity to make a living and then there’s the creativity to make work that matters. The goal should always be to find the right balance.
Creativity is human
There are no such things as “creative people.” There is only just people.
Creating things from the world around us is a human act. It’s natural, it’s instinctive, it’s ordinary.
There’s no club to join, or exam to pass, or criteria to hit. To create is to be human.
You don’t need extraordinary abilities or expensive tools. Just a little concentration, a bit of time, and a desire to change.
Now, go. Be creative. Be human.