I work in a creative field in the “creative” department. By trade, I fit in an artistic box – which allows any eccentricity on my part to be completely socially accepted. But what I’ve always found strange is the thought that there are those who are creative and those who are not. That life is an awkward 7th grade school dance, where the artists sit on one side of the brain – and the analytical types sit on the other side, divided into neat little spaces by natural gifts and talents (each side enjoying their Fun Dip and Cherry Coke, of course). Sure, I believe we are each born with a specific set of God-given gifts – but creativity is so much more than a specific talent. It is the ability to create something original, unique, inspiring and powerful with your specific talents.
And the funny thing? As children, we are all naturally creative. We are all “artists.”
In this interesting talk by Sir Ken Robinson, he notes:
“[Kids] aren’t frightened of being wrong. Now I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative, but what we do know is that if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong… Picasso once said that we are all born artists. The problem is to remain an artist when we grow up. I believe this passionately: we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.”
His words echo my sentiment. Creativity is not something you’re born with – but more importantly, something you hold on to. It is courage, sillyness and the simple confidence of being OK if people think you’re weird. Nothing stifles creativity more than insecurity. Children are the most creative creatures alive because they don’t know to care about what other people think. Their lives revolve around imagination because nobody has told them otherwise.
This inhibition – this carefree whimsy – is what allows us to see foxes in the sky.
It’s what lets us create oceans out of bedsheets on our livingroom floor.
It is what allows us to build majestic cathedrals out of bricks… and graham crackers.
It is what inspires us to play and make-believe and daydream.
So often, we think that the most creative things are the ones we don’t “get.” As if being especially bizarre to the point of becoming abstruse is what defines true creativity – a skill reserved only for the artistic elite. And so, the “normal” folks – the laundry-doing moms and 9-5 dads and high school math geeks – leave the “creativity” to the true artists with colorful hair and body piercings. But the truth is, all of us are capable of profound creativity if we allow it.
We may not all be eloquent wordsmiths or master painters. We may not all be able to write beautiful symphonies or choreograph elaborate theater productions. But in our own way, woven deeply into our unique talents, we were all given the innate ability to create something profound – something that, small or big, could change the world.
When I was in 3rd grade, I could do incredible cartwheels. I would run with reckless abandon across the freshly watered grass in barefeet, launching myself through the air, and landing fearlessly onto my soft little palms. That loss of control between launching and landing was exhilarating. For not a second did I think about the possibility of falling. Or how awkward I may look. Or if I would sprain something. But now, I really stink at doing cartwheels. They are uncomfortable and cumbersome — and in the rare times that I’ve even tried to do them in my adult life, I’ve chickened out mid-launch. This is how I think many people feel about creativity. As a child, it came natural. But now, it just feels uncomfortable.
But unlike cartwheels, we were made to create. If only we can simply channel our 3rd grade selves…
The small people with big imaginations who run full-on across the fresh-watered grass, throw up their hands… and launch fearlessly into the sky.