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Let’s Clarify Creativity

Let’s talk about being creative, something near and dear to my heart. I could retire if I had a nickel from every person I spoke with who falsely assumed creativity was a gift from the gods….as though the lucky charms we ate as a child (or this morning) fueled our brain’s ability to imagine.

Yes, I will concede that there are people in this world who are more artistically inclined than others – be them painters, writers, filmmakers, etc. But notice what I said there: artistically inclined. I didn’t say creatively inclined. Candidly, I’m a person who has some artistry skills… some in graphic design, some in photography, some in word-smithing… I’ve now been a Creative Director now for longer in my career than I haven’t. Before that I was an art director, and before that a designer. But I have never once considered myself an artist. I’m too logical. Too practical. Too technical.

So how did I bridge the delta? Fundamentally, it’s because I never believed creativity and artistry were the same.

Now, that statement may be seen as controversial. I get it. And look, maybe that perspective isn’t 100% wrong. But lets get into the fundamentals about what creativity really is before we make a conclusive statement.

Creativity is invention. It’s the act of finding inspiration and applying it. It’s solely what fueled humanity to be what it is today. Not every form of creativity is artistic in the traditional sense. In fact, more have nothing to do with artistry than ones that do.

Put differently, creativity is the fundamental task of inventing a solution to any given problem.

In Plato’s ‘Republic’, this is discussed with rigor in the Theory of Forms. They use the metaphor of a chair maker. Is the true artist the chair maker? Or the one that formed the idea of a chair-like contraption? Further, isn’t every new chair created just another clone of its predecessor, modified to make it easier, stronger, more comfortable?

Or let’s put this idea even differently; isn’t the process of creating something new simply that of seeing a form, and attempting to improve upon it’s perceived weaknesses?

And thus we’ve arrived and what I find as the defining trait of being creative. Creativity is no less a function of the artist than it is the accountant. We’re all beings programmed to absorb stimulus, and make calculated responses. Creativity is simply the act of putting that to work to solve a problem.

Think about it. Have you ever jig-rigged something? Created a life-hack? Put together a cute outfit? Planned a perfect date?

Perhaps your problem could be solved by designing a logo. Or by writing music. It could be inventing the wheel. It could be sending humankind to mars.

So let’s stop praising creativity as being something unattainable. You may not be as artistically inclined in your creativity as some people you admire. But you already are creative in ways they no nothing about. Embrace it.

Also published on Medium.

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