Creativity May Not Be What You Think It Is

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Creativity is a word that sometimes scares people. Many of us have this self-limiting view of the subject and believe we aren’t gifted in that way. If that describes you, then it is important to understand what it means to be creative. 

What is Creativity?

It does not have to be anything to do with painting, writing, sculpting or any of the things we usually think of as being creative. Rather it is seeing the familiar in a different light. It is the desire to work on something because it’s interesting, exciting, satisfying, or personally challenging. It is about expressing what is uniquely you. It is being unconventional when needed, or part of a team when that is required. It involves being driven to find an answer. 

We use creativity every day in every aspect of our lives. Our creativity is evident in the clothes we wear or the style of our hair. Creativity is expressed in the way we talk to others or write a report. It is exhibited in our ability to play sports or dance or perform yoga movements. Creativity is happening when you understand your own feelings or those of others.

One of the problems people have in seeing themselves as creative is the fear of not being perfect, to do something well right from the start. That holds us back and keeps us from expressing ourselves fully. I am a prime example of someone with a severe case of “beginners”  syndrome: I hate not being good from the get-go. 

The Core of All Creativity

The core of creativity is a sense of curiosity. Without wondering how things work,  how something is made, or how to improve something, creativity isn’t needed. Curiosity is what pushes you to learn something new or try a different way of solving a problem. It can be as simple as wondering what would happen if you added rosemary and salsa to the recipe or tried to grow a tomato in a pot on the porch. It could be as as complicated as building a kiln and learning how to fire pottery. It could be as mundane as finding a new way to organize your daily chores so you finish sooner.

The point is, creativity covers virtually every aspect of our life. Only when we construct a comfort zone and place a wall around our ideas does creativity stop. Then you meet no new people, you experience no new sensations, you try no new way to solve a problem. At that point what happens is your life begins to die just a little every day.

Author Jordan Ayan in his book, Aha! uses a strong image to describe the curiosity that is the driving force behind creativity. He says to think of a funnel. Through the hole at the bottom of the funnel flows what you know. The main body of the funnel holds what you know you don’t know. Then above the top of the funnel lies what you don’t know you don’t know. That is what you explore when you become curious.

The Characteristics of Curiosity

There are several characteristics a curious person possesses. The first is openness. This is the willingness to respect something new and accept a different way of doing something. It is being open to new people, thoughts, and things.

Another important characteristic is the ability to accept ambiguity. If an answer to a problem or a fresh idea isn’t immediately available, a curious person is OK with that. The lack of certainty is the opening for creativity to begin.

The acceptance of risk is important. This isn’t the type of risk involved in betting everything on a spin of the roulette wheel, or jumping out of a third story window to see what happens. It means being OK with failure. It means risking that you might look less than perfect. It also means taking the risk that you will discover something new and exciting.

Another quality of the curious is energy. Mr. Ayan talks about not just the physical energy to work at a task. There is the mental energy to think through a problem or confront something unknown. There is the energy of passion that drives you forward.

Optimism is a characteristic that I believe to be essential. This is the belief that whatever is being done will ultimately pay off. While failure may happen again and again as new ideas are explored, that is OK. Each wrong approach gets you closer to the right one. Even if the entire experience does not end in the result you want, the process was still rewarding. That is optimism.

The exciting thing about discovering your own creativity is once you start it is almost impossible to stop. Each new discovery opens up a new inspiration or approach. Each step forward makes it easier to take the step after that. Creativity begins to feed on itself. Sounds great, doesn’t it. But, how exactly does one tap into this flow of creativity? If we all have this ability, how do we use it to enhance our life?

Questions for you: Tell us about a time when you discovered a creative answer to a problem. Have you been ever startled by an idea that just suddenly popped into your head?

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