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 and seeing solutions that others couldn’t see. Creativity is sometimes better known as innovation. More importantly, creativity is an attitude and a skill, a practiced state of mind that everyone can develop.

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” (Edward de Bono)

“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.” (Edwin Land)

The more I delve into how creativity is defined, the more creative and varied the definitions become. Regardless of how it shows up in a person’s life, its importance cannot be discounted.

Why is creativity important for everyone?

Every person has constraints they must work within. A scientist bound by the laws of physics and working within these constraints can often breed great creativity. Authors start by learning the constraints that bring structure to their craft before heading into areas that allow them to break outside of those constraints and to even create their own. Dr. Seuss using only 50 words to write Green Eggs and Ham, for example, provides a terrific example of creativity that may not have happened without constraints. Cultivating creativity in any one area also tends to spill into all other areas of life and being creative seems to fulfill 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.

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up.” (Picasso)

Creativity is also important because it allows our intellects to flourish. Its importance 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?

Since creativity is not a predetermined personality trait, it can show up in a myriad of ways in a person’s life. The challenge is to figure out how to get that creativity to show up. The answer? Effort.

“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.” (Milton Glaser)