Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human. We can all be creative.
Creativity is not a rare gift bestowed upon the select few, but an innate ability we all possess.
Human beings are the most creative animals in nature. We all have the capacity to create new things. Those things can be art, but they can also be solutions to technical problems or any other new creation that wasn’t there before.
We are all creative animals, but some tap more into their inner creativity than others.
In this post, we will look at creativity, its origins, and some of its main misconceptions.
Some common misconceptions about creativity
Creativity is for all of us
We already mentioned the first and most widespread misconception about creativity, and that’s that creativity is only for artists and musicians.
Einstein was a very creative person, for example, and he was a scientist. So are many other people from many walks of life, from sports to finance (tax advisors can be a very creative bunch, for example). You can find creativity in all professions and types of people.
Creativity is a very human characteristic; we all have it.
Creativity is not about being original
Another misconception is that creativity is all about being original.
Creativity and originality are two different things. Creativity is about creating things that weren’t there before. They can be original and unique, and they often are, but other times the new solution we find can be so self-evident and common that we think, “doh, how did nobody think about this before?”
Often the solution is staring at us, and it doesn’t look so original once we have it, but it is creative nonetheless.
Creativity can be learned and improved
The last misconception is a dangerous one: it’s the myth that creativity cannot be learned, improved or cultivated.
Like all human characteristics, creativity can be worked upon and improved. The more you practice and work, the better your chances of being creative and displaying that creativity.
As the painter Henri Matisse famously said: “Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working.”
Creativity is one of the most important skills you can work on when working on your personal growth.
Read more: 6 Practical Tips To Unleash Your Creativity
Where is creativity coming from? A bit of history…
In Ancient Greece, they thought creativity was coming from some deities called the Muses.
There were nine Muses, each dealing with a specific area (poetry, music, dance, history, and the like), and they inspired human beings when required. Words like music and museum come from the Muses.
For Ancient Greeks and Romans, creativity and inspiration came from a divine source. Human beings could tap into it, but it was up to the deities to respond to the requests of the mortals.
Creativity was seen as something external to people; it depended entirely on the wishes of the gods.
During the Middle Ages in Europe, the Muses and similar deities were replaced by God. Creativity had a divine source in many other cultures as well.
There seems to be something magic and divine about the capacity we human beings have to create new things, be them works of art, engineering, science, or any other field.
In the Renaissance and later in the Enlightenment, humankind was put at the centre of everything, and that included creativity too. Creativity stopped being something coming from outside, and it was to be found within ourselves.
The source of creativity is now found in the brain. Its origins are just biochemical, some neurons firing at each other and creating new connections.
Neuroscientists are studying creativity and trying to find where it originates in the brain, but it’s elusive. Creativity comes from all the brain areas and not from one area in particular.
Left or right hemisphere, prefrontal lobe or neocortex… creativity is coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
All brain areas play a role in its origins, and often the connection between these areas is more important than the specific focus from one single area.
Connecting the dots
Arguably the most famous quote about creativity comes from the personification of creative genius himself, Steve Jobs:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things”.
Creativity is really about connecting the dots.
But why do some people connect those dots and others don’t? And why do people connect them in a particular moment and not in others?
It is not surprising that creativity has had a mystic hoe throughout history. The feeling many creative people have is that it comes out of nowhere, from outside ourselves, when we least expect it.
When creativity suddenly appears
In this Ted talk, writer Elizabeth Gilbert talks about a conversation she had with 90 years old poet Ruth Stone about how she got the inspiration for her poems.
She explains the following:
“she told me that when she was growing up in rural Virginia, she would be out working in the fields, and she said she would feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape. And she said it was like a thunderous train of air. And it would come barreling down at her over the landscape. And she felt it coming, because it would shake the earth under her feet.
She knew that she had only one thing to do at that point, and that was to, in her words, “run like hell.” And she would run like hell to the house and she would be getting chased by this poem, and the whole deal was that she had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page.”
Sometimes she wouldn’t get there on time, and the poem would be forever lost, or in Stone’s words, “it would run away looking for another poet”.
In Stone’s interpretation, creative inspiration comes out of nowhere. We know it doesn’t happen this way, but this is the feeling many people have about it.
The Creative Act
Rick Rubin exposes a similar view in his recent book The Creative Act: A Way Of Being, a book I highly recommend.
The book has an esoteric touch. It is a bit “out there”, with Rubin telling us what the Universe wants us to do, creativity being what we are meant to do, the Work of your life, and similar things. Still, it is a great read.
Rubin believes creativity is the most fundamental human characteristic, and we need to answer to our creative calling to live fulfilling and happy lives. He also believes it is coming from outside; it is somehow the Universe talking to us, it is a calling, and we need to listen to that calling.
It is our duty.
Purpose and creativity
As Rubin says, many people question their purpose when creating something.
They ask themselves: why am I doing this? But that’s the wrong question to ask.
Rubin writes, “if we like what we are creating, we don’t have to know why. (…) When we are making things we love, our mission is accomplished. There is nothing at all to figure out.”
I have often written about purpose in this blog, as I believe it is an essential part of our lives that usually doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Creativity and purpose are linked, but I agree with Rubin.
When creating something, we don’t need a higher purpose to do so. The mere act of creation is enough. When making something, you enter into a flow state, connecting with your inner self and what needs to be done.
Creativity helps us be closer to our life purpose, without overthinking it too much or trying to figure out what that purpose is.
Creativity is not an exclusive gift
Creativity is an amazing gift, but it is not an exclusive one.
We are happier and more fulfilled if we let our creativity out, make new things, and have new ideas. This is a gift.
But it is a gift available to all human beings, and that makes it an amazing gift.
We have been sold a myth: that creativity is a talent rather than a skill that can be developed. We need to break this myth and free ourselves from the shackles of suppressed creativity.
As Rubin says in the first few pages of his book:
“Creativity is not a rare ability. It is not difficult to access. Creativity is a fundamental aspect of being human”.
If so, let’s all be more creative, shall we?