12 Most Pervasive Lies About Creativity
I wish I was creative as that guy. I could never be as creative as her. I’m not creative.
These are statements heard around the world on any given day. But what does it actually mean to be creative or have creativity? What does the word “creativity” mean?
The masses have marginalized this word into a crystal goblet for the chosen few. Creativity is not a crystal goblet. This is a lie.
Here are 12 more lies about creativity:
1. Creativity only happens in the arts
The idea that creativity is segregated to only one area is the biggest lie of them all. The dictionary defines creativity as “the ability to think new things or have new ideas.”
To be creative is to do a task differently, to look at a problem with new eyes, to take on the familiar in a new way. Creativity is everywhere and can happen in every job. The scientist is creative, the teacher who devises a new lesson plan is creative, the mom who doesn’t use a recipe to cook is creative as is the accountant who comes up with a new payroll system.
2. Creativity only happens to special people
“Creativity is not the possession of some special talent. It’s about the willingness to play.”~ John Cleese
Not only is creativity everywhere, it is in everyone. Everyone has the capacity to solve problems or to take on a task in a different way. Unfortunately, that’s not the common perception. Many people say, “I don’t think like a creative person.” This just isn’t true. It is a commonly thought that creativity happens in a special part of the brain. But does it? New evidence suggests that right- and left-brain thinking is bunk.
3. Creativity only occurs in flashes of spectacular light
An idea shoots from the sky in a brilliant spectacle of color and light producing a wonder of creativity. Creativity does not burst forth like fireworks.
I speak from personal experience on this: The act of creativity, in my case writing, comes from habit and consistency, not flash happenstance. If you ask a writer how long it takes to finish a draft, the answer will come back as anywhere from six months to a year. Perhaps two years or even more. Writing is a “creative” act. So why does it take so long?
My creativity occurs through a practical drawn out process that involves multiple rewrites, questions, and edits. No flashes here.
4. You must wait for creativity to hit
There is a perception that creativity requires inspiration. You must wait for inspiration and only then can you create. Some believe this so firmly they’ll wait forever, which makes them wail “I’m not creative!”
Think of creativity as a muscle. Marathoners don’t wait to be able to run, they work at it consistently. Work the creativity muscle on a regular basis and it will hit on a regular basis. For example, write down ten ideas every day. Don’t worry about the quality. Just get in the habit of using the muscle. By the end of the month your brain will know how to create ideas on a consistent basis. You’ll have at least 300 ideas to choose from; some good, some bad, some wonderful.
5. Creative people don’t fail
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better. “~ Samuel Beckett
Another lie is that creativity is a product. Creativity is a process. To think new things or create ideas does not mean you get it right with the first attempt. You try and fail over and over again. You come up with 300 ideas some of which are good, some of which are awful.
Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, a highly creative act. He also failed to get it right thousands of times. Walt Disney went bankrupt at twenty-two, five years before he created Mickey Mouse. Steve Jobs was turned down by Atari and Hewlett Packard before starting Apple.
6. Creativity can’t be taught
If you reframe your definition of creativity (think new things) and view creativity as a muscle that must be worked habitually, you can take the next step. Creativity is not a genetic trait, it is a skill. You can’t change your height but you can develop a skill. If you can learn a skill, you can also teach it.
7. Creativity is not welcome in the workplace
Companies want creative workers, in the sense that they want people who take on tasks in new ways and are able to solve problems. Creative thinking has been defined as a 21st century skill, which are the skills students need to learn to prepare them for the workforce. The further we get into the 21st century, the more important creativity will become as a job skill.
8. Creativity is welcome in the workplace
Of course, the opposite is true and can’t be ignored. Just because companies say they welcome creativity in the workplace doesn’t mean it’s actually happening. A 2012 Adobe study called State of Create showed that while 8 in 10 believe creativity is critical to economic growth, 75% felt pressure to be productive rather than creative at work. This factory-driven mentality still rules in many companies.
And just because educators recognize creative thinking as a necessary skill does not mean it’s being taught in the classroom. Standardized testing comes from a factory-driven mentality — be productive rather than creative. Is it possible to shift the massive entity that is the corporate capitalistic structure to uniformly welcome creativity in the workplace?
9. Your child is creative
Ask a young child any question and they will come up with the most imaginative answer possible. They can create fantastic worlds with their minds, complete with specific details and characters you couldn’t dream of. This activity does not make a child creative. It makes a child normal. Creativity is not unique to special children, it’s a muscle they use on a regular basis.
Every child can easily access their imagination. creatingminds.org says that we use 80% of our creative potential at the age of five.
10. Creativity dooms your child to a life of poverty
This is what the average parent fears. “My child will not be able to make a living and will suffer.”
This fear stems from the notion that creativity only occurs in the arts and the arts are not a viable career. Many parents will stifle any creative impulse in their child in order to prevent this perceived life of poverty.
As an arts educator, I’ve had many conversations with students who have been removed from drama in order to take extra math or science courses. Pushing a child to science, for example, doesn’t necessarily prevent poverty. Are there actually jobs for science grads?
11. Creativity never leaves you
Creativity is a muscle. That muscle will atrophy if you don’t maintain a habit of creativity (as with our physical muscles).
creatingminds.org offers a second depressing statistic: by the age of twelve, we’re only using 2% of our creative potential. And that’s where it stays for the rest of our lives.
So it’s easy to say “I’m not creative” and believe it if you never establish and maintain a habit of creative work.
12. You are not creative
“The truth is that everyone has great capacities but not everyone develops them.” ~ Ken Robinson
I am not creative. This statement is repeated over and over again. And it is believed. And it is a lie. It’s an easy lie to believe and it’s an easy lie to perpetuate. It takes work to be creative — it takes time and effort to be creative. For most, it’s easier to live the lie than do the work.
Do you tell yourself you’re not creative? Do you believe you’re not creative? What, if anything would change your mind? Let me know in the comments section.
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