What does it mean to you? Perhaps you consider yourself a “creative type”, committed to the continual pursuit of pathways that allow you to express the music within. Or perhaps the word “creativity” conjures up feelings of awkwardness and a strong urge to run for the hills any time it is mentioned. Maybe you just don’t see yourself as a “creative type”.
Oddly enough, few of us would have felt either of the last two options when we were, say, 5 or 6 years old. My young nieces and nephews jump at the opportunity to pick up their coloured pencils or paints and get busy creating. So what happens as we get older? Where does this enthusiasm for creativity go? Why as we age do we suddenly have to start defining ourselves as either the “creative type” or not?
For some, there is a defining moment in life where creative confidence is lost. It might have been that kid sitting next to you in year 4 who looked at your self portrait drawing and laughed at you. Or perhaps it was your teacher, constantly saying in their best patronizing tone “It’s ok that you’re not great at painting. You’re really good at maths!”
For others it is what Dean Riek (2010) refers to as a “fear of failure”. As adults, we are much more self-critical and have developed an inbuilt need to succeed. The result is that some of us give up creativity out of a fear that we may not be good enough; that we may be judged as creative failures. Or, it may simply be that we’ve decided creativity is best left to the great inventors and artists; that there’s no place for it in ordinary adult life.
For most of us, this loss of creativity doesn’t coincide with departure from school. David Straker, business consultant, researcher and author, explains that at age 5 we’re using around 80% of our creative potential but by age 12 for most of us, this usage drops dramatically and hovers permanently at around 2%.
So what’s the big deal? Does it really matter that as we age, we become less creative? That we lose that desire to put pencil to paper or say goodbye creative playtime?
The research suggests that it does. Creativity has been identified as a key strength that leads to a happier, more fulfilled life. Benefits of participating regularly in creative activities include increases in general happiness, increases in confidence, development of empathy, more engagement in learning processes, opportunities to safely practise risk-taking, and strengthening of meaningful relationships and human connections (Taylor & Murphy, 2013). The world around us is also rapidly changing, and more and more we will see the need for increased creative and innovative thinking in every day work environments. It is predicted that by 2050, the jobs we have today will no longer exist. As technology advances, and complex systems evolve, creative minds are essential to solve emerging societal and business challenges.
Embracing this knowledge, authors of “Creative Confidence”, Tom and David Kelley have spent the last 3 decades dedicated to the pursuit of re-installing creative confidence in human beings. They maintain, “we all have far more creative potential waiting to be untapped” (2013). They suggest that “creative confidence” is like a muscle – with a little nurturing and training, we can build back our creative potential (check out David’s TEDTalk here).
But some of you are still probably sitting there in disbelief, thinking back to that last drawing you did that looked nothing like the landscape you were trying to capture. Or that sculpture in high school art that looked more like a lump of clay than anything else. If so, let’s look at the true definition of creativity, according to Oxford dictionary:
Einstein’s definition goes along the lines of “seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought.” Wikipedia states, “Creativity is the ability to generate innovative ideas and manifest them from thought into reality”. You will notice that none of these definitions even make mention to the skill of drawing, or painting, or any other specifically “artistic” endeavor. The focus, rather, is on the “new”. Coming up with something a little different to what already exists. For too long, society has equated “creativity” with “artistry”. The Kelley brothers have found that many of us see creativity as a “fixed trait” – like brown eyes or blonde hair. But the truth is that most of us are probably already being quite creative in our everyday lives. So now, we are challenging you to recognize and celebrate these flairs. Whether it’s that personal touch that you added to your favourite recipe, or the idea you came up with in a brainstorming session – these are examples of everyday creativity.
We don’t need to be the next Michelangelo or Picasso but we do need to start embracing creativity back into our lives – for our personal well-being and for the well-being of the world around us.
So let’s solidify that challenge.
Before you move on with the rest of your day, gather up all of those negative emotions and thoughts you have bottled up about creativity and your supposed lack thereof, put them in a mental box, and throw them out. Celebrate the smallest of creative thoughts, dare to embrace your inner creative-being, and go back into the world with that innocent creative confidence you naturally had as a young child. Find a way to think or act creatively once a day. Nurture that muscle, because you need it, and so do we.
If you’re keen to embrace more creativity in your life, your school, workplace or local community but not sure where to start, we can help you out! Contact us to discuss your needs and we’ll work with you to tailor a workshop or program to suit your desired outcomes.