Where did my creativity go? … and how do I get it back?

Creativity, noun. Stems from the adjective creative. It is common knowledge that creativity describes the ability to produce ideas and items with originality and artistry. Yet, creativity is much easier defined than executed.

Story by: Anna Boystova & Isabelle Wemar

A prime example of this, is that we began this article with a definition of the word creativity, rather than of coming up with a catchy introduction of our own. Not to mention that we have refreshed our social media feeds about three times over since we began writing. Which is either explained by writer’s block, or pure laziness. Regardless, we are certain you can relate this to sitting at lectures, sketching caricatures instead of notes, and wishing you had the time to properly draw something. But once you get home and actually do have the time, you sit with your empty artist’s pad and unused palette for five minutes before you decide to keep up with the infamous K-family instead.

We all love creativity, but we are much more eager to consume it than to produce it

We all love creativity, but we are much more eager to consume it – listening to music, going to art galleries, watching movies – than to produce it. Which is rather curious, as we now have the ability to be more creative than ever, with all our machines doing the heavy work, online tutorials readily available, and fine artists materials from all the world within our reach.

 

Failing to fail?

Sir Ken Robinson, in his famous TED Talk Do schools kill creativity?, offers a widely accepted explanation: the education offered in our schools is centered around being right, which makes us afraid of failure. Our grades, that essentially determine our future, are based on the number of correct answers we get on the exams. Furthermore, the positivistic disciplines – where the answer is either right or wrong – are held in much higher regard than the Arts, which cannot offer such binary conclusions. Sir Robinson argues that if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with something original, citing Pablo Picasso: “All children are born artists. The problem is to remain artists as they grow up.” I am certain all of us can remember creating the most marvellous fantasy worlds as youths; fortresses of sand, valiant knights from stuffed animals, even our own secret languages. While we still enjoy fantasy worlds with fortresses, knights, and secret languages, we are no longer the producers, but rather consumers – Game of Thrones, anyone?

The same rule applies to creativity: practice makes perfect

Going back to Sir Robinson’s theory, it does make sense why we become more passive with adulthood. We are afraid that we are not good enough; of failing. You have not danced in thirteen years, much less choreographed – so why should you now? Leave it to the professionals. But, what we forget is that the professionals fail too. Sometimes a highly anticipated blockbuster movie becomes a box office boom, sometimes the underdog wins the favor of the audience. What seems to be simply a toilet and a load of piss can become the highlight of an art exhibition, quite literally. Creativity is about fun and challenging your mind, not success or failure; something kids understand better than we adults do. Additionally, doing something creative is one of the best ways of relaxing, trying out new ways of thinking and expressing emotions and thoughts. The next time you get upset, try writing down what you are feeling and reading it through, and you will see what we mean.

Now that we have established what creativity is, why we adults tend to lack it, and what the use of it is – what is the solution? The root of the problem is the amount of time and resources we dedicate to being creative.

 

Be a creativity athlete

Just think of an athlete and his sport. To perform the sport at their very best, an athlete must train – a lot. By learning the basics, repeating the new knowledge and building upon that, he can display his skills in competitions and excel at what he does. The same rule applies to creativity; practise makes perfect. Many of our most beloved artists dedicated most of their time writing, painting or film-making before they became skilled enough to be recognized amongst their peers. A prime example of this is Leo Tolstoy. His widely acclaimed War and Peace was entirely rewritten eight times, some chapters revised up to 26 times. The number of handwritten pages of the final story stopped at 5202 pages.

It is said that in order to become good at something, you must spend 10 000 hours doing it – and there is no reason why creativity would be exempt from that. Worry not, we know that the majority of you are unable to spend that amount of time on a hobby. Frankly, neither do we. But a way to build up your stamina, creatively speaking, is to employ the same technique you would use to improve your physical fitness. Exercise regularly and be sure to pressure yourself in a set amount of time. A few hours per week are enough to expand the limits of your creativity.

Creativity does not necessarily refer to art

Likewise, you should not forget to rest. Being able to let the creativity flow, demands the ability to turn it off. An athlete must rest his muscles and let them rebuild, otherwise he will run out of steam. Eat well, sleep well, train well. No one can perform well if the machinery is unserviced. It is important to study and work well too. The human brain needs different kinds of challenges so that various areas of the brain may be activated, while giving other areas a break.

 

Get the ball rolling

It may seem hard to find time during the day to free your imagination, but remember that just 15-30 min is enough. You can do it while commuting, while taking a break from your occupation, or before you go to sleep. Drawing a little before turning the lights off can help you relax and fall asleep faster. Creativity does not necessarily refer to art. Scribbling some words, pondering solutions to scientific problems, or coming up with a totally new silly walk is creativity too.

Failure is not the enemy, it is our fear of it that stands in the way of creativity

Sometimes it feels hard to just start doing something that is creative. Usually that is not due to lack of energy or being lazy, but the uncertainty of what exactly the task is. Since the whole purpose of creativity is originality, there is no set goal or instruction on how to reach it. A solution to this is to begin with making a mind map and asking yourself: what do I want to do? Do I have all the materials I need? What do I want this to look like? What is my inspiration? When do I want to be finished? Setting some guidelines for yourself, based on the answers to these questions, can help you see the contours of your work – then it is much simpler to begin filling them in.

 

Look for your 10,001st way

Creativity is an essential element for humanity and its development. Its absence would have a stranglehold on us by keeping our mind and spirit in the stone age. Our modern community was built step by step by people thinking outside the box and finding solutions to everyday problems by employing their creativity and learning from their mistakes. Like Thomas Edison said about his process of inventing the lightbulb: “I have not failed, I have just found 10 000 ways that will not work”. Failure is not the enemy, it is our fear of it that stands in the way of creativity. And if you can spend 63 and a half hours bingeing Game of Thrones, then you can certainly spend as much time practising your own creativity.

This article was previously published in Medicor 2017 #3
Proofread by: Ming Hu

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