Creativity has been called the divine spark. How can you resist wanting that in your life? But just how does creativity come to be a steady presence in people’s lives? How can we invite it in to your lives? Well for kids it seems to just come naturally. They tell stories. They play pretend. They color/draw. A kid can make a rocket ship put of a cardboard box and yarn. The make up silly jokes. All kids are creative. Even kids in awful desperate situations are intuitively creative. It is what drives us to learn, to explore, and to grow.
Something seems to happen to adults though. It is as if a flip get switched off and suddenly you are not creative, or that’s the story being told. My favorite example of this is dancing in the US. (Disclaimer I am about to make some sweeping generalizations here if this does not apply to you, just hold tight, it might apply to someone you know.) All kids dance. They hear music and start moving. Period. Sure some folks have more native ability to catch and hold a rhythm, just like some people can pick up a language like they are picking up a sheet of paper. The fact remains I have yet to meet a kid, who does not move when music is on that they like, even kids who are confined to wheelchairs. So why is it that many adults here in the US say, “I can’t dance.”? My personal theory is there is an anti-dance gremlin that sneaks around planting this idea in people’s minds, re-enforcing it with “You look silly”. Pffft! Seems to me across the in 6 contents inhabited by humans that a vast portion of the rest of the world’s people can dance. My theory why: 1) The same inhibitions have not been cemented and 2)there is time and attention paid to dance.
The creative people I know are may, or may not, be artists per say. Yes, some are Artists (and I a blessed to know them) including singer-song writer, a potter, a world-class art french horn player, painters, writers , photographers and naturally dancers. Others though are not including a grade school assistant principal, a conflicts administrator, a small business owner, a banker and an electrical engineer. Here is what I see they have in common with each other: 1) They make regular time to flex their imagination muscles. 2) They do not succumb to the inhibitions or social norms that might be shaping people’s notions about who’s creative or not.
Let me say something again, creative people make regular time to flex their imagination muscles, this seems to be key. This affords them the ability to see beyond the conventions using the 6 elements below.
- Curiosity. Each of these individuals is curious. Their curiosity may be limited only to a narrow scope, or it may a voracious need to tinker. Each honors their individual curiosity by exploring the path it leads them too. A trait shared with scientists. They ask what can and what might? “What can I make with these 4 notes?” “What might an entire series of photos about paperclips look like?”
- Structure is their muse. None of these people wait for inspiration to strike. Each is disciplined, setting aside time in their routine to write, dance, knit, garden, paint or whatever it is they do. This might be a half-day each week, or 4 hours 3 days a week or sometimes only 20 minutes a day. The point is the collective time has a compounding effect.
- Failure is a jumping point. Not everything is going to work. You will fall on the dance floor, trust me, I’ve done it. Or a cake collapses. Something not working is a signal there is more to learn or something better, other to try. Scientists are great at this, they tweak, and tinker until a question is answered. A new improvement is made to an existing gadget. Or an entirely new compound is created.
- Perseverance. These people don’t try for a day or week or even 3 years, they hone their craft over time. When there’s a dry spell, they keep pecking away of the keyboard or working more compost into the soil. Remember manure makes great compost, but it takes some stinky time to get there.
- Embrace ambiguity. Part of creating is not exactly knowing what is going to happen. Yes, you can follow a pattern to knit a sweater. You can even paint by number or lean sequences of dance steps. Patterns are great, they give you a map to get to your destination, but if the sleeve measurements are for someone with arms 2 inches shorter than yours, well your wrists might be a tad cold in January. Why paint by numbers? Finger painting can be spectacular. Life can be planned for but you need to be able to improvise when plans fall flat.
Not one of the 6 elements is magic, a trick or a shortcut. They each are within our individual abilities. The only trick there seems to be is using them yourself to invite creativity into your regular routine. So what are you curious enough about to explore? Will you set aside time to honor and explore this?
Trust me you can dance.