What is creativity?

Let’s start by saying what creativity is not. First, it’s not a talent that some people have and some people do not. It’s also not limited to those in the visual and performing arts or to just one field or activity. Creativity is not a quirky tendency or a genetic trait.

Instead, creativity is simply seeing the world differently than others. It’s solving problems that others seem unable to solve, seeing solutions that others couldn’t see. Today, creativity is better known as innovation. More importantly, creativity is an attitude and a skill, a practiced state of mind that everyone can develop.

In 52 Ways to Get Your Creative Self to Listen, Rachel McNaught defines creativity as “the ability to think beyond what you’ve been taught, to ask questions until you get the answers you need to pull something unique from inside you.”

Why is creativity important for everyone?

Every person has constraints they must work within, a poet who must stick to rhyme or a scientist bound by the laws of physics, and working within these constraints can often breed great creativity. Dr. Seuss writing Green Eggs and ham using only 50 words provides a terrific example of creativity that may not have happened without constraints.

Another benefit is that cultivating creativity in any area tends to spill over into all other areas of life. Not only that, but being creative fulfills a need within all humans to create. Not feeling the creative urge? Many experts believe we’ve been taught to suppress it, and this is why we no longer actively feel the need to create. Picasso expressed this sentiment well when he said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.”

Creativity is also important because it allows our intellects to flourish. If we keep in mind that just as physically and spiritually we are what we eat, our intellects are also the products of what we feed them.

Finally, the importance of creativity shows even more when we realize that our creativity is how we respond to life. Stimulating creativity can potentially lessen negative emotional responses to life’s frustrations and disappointments.

How are you creative?

So knowing that everyone can cultivate creativity and that creativity provides immense benefit, let’s now consider the different ways creativity might show up from one individual to the next.

Since creativity is not a predetermined personality trait, it really can show up in a myriad of ways in a person’s life. The challenge then is to figure out how to get that creativity to show up, and the answer, simply, is effort.

Milton Glaser, legendary graphic designer, fully believes that there are no true creative types “as if creative people can just show up and make stuff up. As if it were that easy. I think people need to be reminded that creativity is a verb, a very time-consuming verb. It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real, and that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. If you’re doing it right, it’s going to feel like work.”

The post How to… Cultivate Your Creativity, Part 2 of 2 discuss suggestions for cultivating creativity with 5 ways to feed your intellect and promote innovation.

DISCUSSION: How do you feel about the status of your creativity? 

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