When I asked for new topics for this blog in the post, Where Does This Retirement Blog Go From Here?, a few suggested more about creativity. I'd venture to guess that few concepts are as misunderstood as creativity. So, let's see if I can clear up some misconceptions as well as provide a way to satisfy your desire to be more creative.
Wikipedia defines creativity as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. To most of us that means the ability to paint or sculpt, play or compose music, sew unique clothing, build a beautiful wooden bookcase, write a novel or a book of poetry. The key part of the definition we latch onto is the phrase, "especially in the production of an artistic work."
Certainly, the examples listed above are creative. Each involves a specific talent, either one we are born with, or one we study and perfect. Most of us think of being creative as a full time pursuit. A good musician, writer, painter, or chef doesn't spend 30 minutes a few times a week to at their skill. Rather, maybe a few hours a day are required.
That's great for those of us driven to carry a certain type of creativity to its full potential. But, what about the rest of us? We don't have those skills or abilities. So creativity isn't for us, right?
Not so fast.
Read this explanation of creativity from the web site, Creative Something, written several years ago by Tanner Christensen:
"Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective. Being creative means taking risks and ignoring doubt and facing fears. It means breaking with routine and doing something different for the sake of doing something different. It means mapping out a thousand different routes to reach one destination. It means challenging yourself every day. Being creative means searching for inspiration in even the most mundane places."
The author of this inspiring piece argues that creativity is not restricted to certain activities or certain skill sets. If I am reading his thoughts correctly, creativity can involve virtually any part of anyone's life.
You substitute or add an ingredient to a favorite recipe just to see what will happen. You find a new place to leave your car keys so you are less likely to forget them. You re-purpose an old bookcase into an entryway display case with a mirror. You find a quicker way to a favorite bookstore. You fix a broken lampshade with clear tape and a few decals to cover the split.
Each of those examples, and thousands more we could think of show a type of thinking that certainly qualifies as creative. They describe someone solving a problem in a new way, or breaking with routine. No Frank Lloyd Wright, Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollack, Picasso, or Ella Fitzgerald talent required.
Rather, the ability to solve a problem comes from allowing your mind to try a different path. It isn't necessarily coming up with something brand new. Rather, creativity is often just combining experience and what is known to trigger a new way to solve a problem or generate a fresh approach to something.
Huffpost had a fascinating article, Ways To Be More Creative, that should give you plenty of ideas to try. Among some of the suggestions: generate ideas based on everyday tasks, think of unusual uses for everyday items, engage with people who are different from you, become a beginner at something.
I found Creative Something to be a tremendous resource for all sort of ideas and motivation on the subject of creativity. There are hundreds of blog posts on all aspects of creativity that should inspire you to look for a new way of doing something, a new way of satisfying yourself.
I will leave you with one thought: every single one of us is creative, in hundreds of different ways. Even if you don't think of yourself this way, if you have ever figured out how to get a broken light bulb out of a lamp, found a substitute for Cumin in a recipe, used a staple remover to add something to a key ring, a bread clip to identify various cables to your audio or TV setup, put together a costume for your grandkid's school play, or figured out how to poach an egg without overcooking it, you are creative.
The engine of creativity is always working in your life. All you must do is allow it to push you to look for a new solution to an old problem, decide to perform a routine task differently, and not be afraid to experiment.
Give it a try. I think you will be surprised at how creative you really are.