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 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 ever been startled by an idea that just suddenly popped into your head?
Things suddenly popping into my head is a major one for me. It happens dozens of times every day. When it does I now race to my computer/desk to scribble it down for a future post at RJsCorner. My three-legged stool of life almost mandates creativity. It is "Question Everything, Think For Yourself, And Never Stop Learning". As long as I remember and practice those words, creativity will come naturally for me. I love being creative, but like you, I have to push myself in some areas to get past the "learner" mode.ReplyDelete
I will get blog ideas at the weirdest times and places. Thank heavens for post-it notes.Delete
Recently, I will find myself looking at a painting I finished a week or two earlier, and decide I want to add something to it. It might be more color, or a few shooting stars in the sky...almost anything after wondering what will happen if I make small aditions.
Even a recent reshuffling of where the potted plants are on the back porch counts as a form of creativity. I guess. I became tired of the same view out the patio door and was looking to freshen things.
Creativity is one of the most versitle words in our vocabulary!
Being left brain oriented, I'm not adept at creative arts or designing anything. My thoughts tend toward logic, numbers and research. About 15 years ago, Alan and I started talking about diversifying income streams as we edged toward retirement. At the time, our projected retirement income would have consisted of a very small pension from Alan's former employer, our IRAs and Social Security. We decided that adding an income stream different from any of those we already had in place would not be a bad idea, and we began considering options. Because we had been avid campers since our 20's, we considered the purchase of a campground,or perhaps a rental property like a mobile home park. In 2009, I attended a Campground Buyers Workshop and learned a LOT about valuing properties like that. We shopped for both campgrounds and mobile home parks in which the tenants owned their homes, That way, we would be dealing with lot rent only and wouldn't have to worry about continually fixing up homes and renting them out. We came "this" close to buying a sweet little RV park in a busy tourist area of the northeast, but the deal fell through when the owners made it nearly impossible to meet their ever increasing demands. In 2012, we stumbled upon a nicely sized mobile home park and purchased it. The concept of operating a commercial property was so far out of our comfort zone that we posted a sign on our refrigerator door that read, "Vision to see, faith to believe, courage to do." (That's the inscription on the sundial outside of Union Station in Los Angeles.) For nearly 10 years, the property we purchased provided us with a dependable income stream, and we recently sold it at a profit. This was a road we never anticipated traveling, but it proved to be an excellent solution to the question of how to diversity our income. And, in case you're interested, I still can't draw anything better than a stick figure.ReplyDelete
That is certainly something I didn't know about you and Alan. Owning a mobile home park is quite a project.Delete
We owned four rental homes for a while, long enough to make money and convince ourselves we were not happy being landlords!
Creativity is in my bone and marrow. I was a nationally known painter and a State of Michigan probation officer, supervising adult felony cases, and doing pre-sentence investigations for judges. I kept going back and forth about which career to give up because they were radically different, mostly using opposite sides of the brain. Finally, I got the idea that I could do both. At the same time I got the idea that I could be a creative probation officer, a job renowned for stay-in-the-box thinking. That was a risk, guaranteeing that I would not fit in with my colleagues.ReplyDelete
For example, instead of wasting so much time waiting in court for my case(s) to be called, I used my sketchbook to sketch the courtroom scene.
I also got the idea that if I were really creative, I could cut my work hours, have more fun, and still do the important work. Consequently, I never worked weekends. I looked for the funniest aspects of my cases and investigations. I even used humor giving testimony in court to the extent that one judge almost fell over laughing. That's the power of creativity. Where is it written that probation officers can't have fun on the job?
My unconventional approach to virtually every aspect of the job resulted in eliminating unnecessary and pointless work, things that would never be missed. My supervisor was puzzled, called me into his office and asked " How could you get the same or better results by going to court twice per month for probation violation hearings when your colleagues average eight times per month? How can your monthly expense vouchers be 60% less than your colleagues? " My reply was one word--"creativity". My creativity saved the taxpayers thousands of dollars.
During retirement, I'm still looking for news ways to look at things. Creativity can't be used up. The more you use, the more you get. It can be applied to everything from marriage to brain surgery. You're right, it may not be what you think it is.
That story of your probation career is a perfect example of using creativity to do your job well, serve your clients, while not letting it consume your life.Delete
I salute you. I could have used your recount as the basis of this post. Creativity is part of all of us whether we call it that or not.
I worked with just-released prisoners for a few years, being their mentor and helping them navigate a system that isn't terribly helpful for just-released folks. I sense that you were a positive influence for those in your care.
Count me as one of those people who thought I wasn't creative because I'm more left-brained than right-brained. The ah-ha! came for me when I read Gene D. Cohen's work on aging and creativity. He identified two basic forms of creativity -- divergent thinking (thinking outside the box) and convergent thinking (being able to connect things in novel ways). I immediately recognized myself as a convergent thinker. One of the things I have valued most about my aging brain is its ability to make faster and more surprising connections.ReplyDelete
I havn't heard those two defintions before, but I certainly fit the convergent creative model. Putting different pieces together to form a new whole is quite satisfying and invigorating.Delete
I love this post! We often talk about curiosity in our No Way Cafe contemplation group. You described it so perfectly. I often think about curiosity as having no preconceived expectations about something, no judgment about good or bad, just open mindedness to explore and, as a friend of mine likes to say, "Let's see what happens."ReplyDelete
"Let's see what happens" is often what a child will say or think before embarking on something. If we could recapture that attitude we would see all the opportunities there are to solve a problem or explore something new., without the prejudgment that tends to stop us in our tracks.Delete
One problem that I felt the need to solve is why some retirees suffer from retirement shock like my father and I did and others don't. It took me years to figure it out but solving it helped me find my purpose in life.ReplyDelete
First, congratulations on your solving the puzzle that is retirement. Each of us approaches this time of life differently, because we are coming from a different starting point. Why do some get a handle on it sooner? Purely a guess, but the attitude of creatively looking at the journey may be part of the answer.Delete
I am creative in an "artsy" way with my home and garden areas. I am constantly moving things in both places to make the visual interest pleasant. I love color. However, my really productive creativity has been in money management. I had years as a single parent on a quite modest salary, and when I remarried it was to someone who also had a modest salary. We never lacked for anything during either of those times. We had vacations, nice clothes, great birthdays, good holidays, movies, etc. etc. It's a huge game to find most of your wants at a bargain price, and it's a game anyone can play. We're well into retirement and still playing it.ReplyDelete
That is a tremendous example of creativity. Making your life as you want it to be given whatever financial constraints exist is a textbook definition of creativity. Those who take the easy path, with serious credit card debt, all sorts of loans, or simply bemoaning their state, are not being creative. They are letting the obvious choices dictate the quality of their life.Delete