There is a ton of written material about creativity and innovation. I make an effort to keep up with the waves of literature — there’s a new methodology, a new process, fresh brain research, best practices, anti-best practices, etc. Some of this literature is quite good. There is also stuff about how creativity relates to mysticism and spirituality, also quite interesting. Finally there is also a good deal of useless, boring drivel that only reinforces unhelpful mythology about creativity. If you intend to be more creative and to use that capacity to innovate, I would encourage you to read widely and make your own judgments, but don’t get lost in all the words, don’t forget this:
Creativity, the wellspring of innovation, starts with something very simple — a choice.
Creativity is not something that happens to you. Or doesn’t happen to you! It may feel that way at times when your creativity doesn’t seem to be present. People over many years have bemoaned how elusive creativity seems to be, and term it a muse, an angel, a gift from God, etc. Creativity is indeed connected to spirituality. In my view it is part of the soul. So, I understand why people would connect it to things divine. And I understand it’s elusive nature, I don’t deny that.
Creativity is Not a Muse, it’s a Choice.
Thinking of creativity as a muse is like giving away the key to your own mind. When you make an active choice to be creative, your life changes. You open the door to your own creativity, you take back that idea engine between your ears. When you get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say “I’m creative” you’re choosing a path, and, you’re telling your brain how to behave. Good things flow from that choice. When you make that creative choice, creativity, over time, becomes something that’s part of your being, your personality, how you think and act — all you do. When you integrate it into your life and mind, elusive creativity shows up more often and stays longer. You’ll notice that good ideas will pop into your head more often. Over time people will notice and start calling you creative.
It can change your life, and for the better.
If you question your creativity “am I creative?” or even worse, say, “I’m not creative” your brain will listen. It will believe that you aren’t interested in the ideas it’s processing for you, and, won’t give them to you. You will process challenges with no energy or momentum. And, you’ll be living life tentatively, with fear, and with no confidence — and that’s no way to live. If creativity is a muse, you’ll have told it to go somewhere else. Belief in your own creativity is a self-fulfilling prophecy — as is the opposite belief!
If you think this way now, that you are not creative, remember: creativity is not just about artistic talent, at its root creativity is best defined as the human capability of solving problems. If you’ve ever solved a problem, you are creative. Humans are a successful animal because we are so adaptable. Problem solving is part of every human being’s chemistry.
Creativity defined as artistic self-expression is one of the dominant myths about creativity. Many people believe that if they have no artistic talent they are not creative. This is just not so — but the belief inhibits. Another myth is the idea you need to be Einstein level brilliant. Not so, a high IQ is helpful but average people are also creative. Average people can have amazing ideas. Again the belief that you must have a high IQ is inhibiting to more creative effectiveness. Toss that notion out!
So, young people, old people — creative people — I urge you to make the active choice. Say it out loud. Write it down in your idea notebook (which you have with you at all times). Pick a time, every day, to remind yourself of your choice. Maybe it’s the morning mirror, maybe it’s an oak tree you pass, maybe it’s the door to your home, maybe it’s the first taste of coffee or tea. That’s your reminder moment, your re-choice moment. Pick your moment now.
Try this for a month and see the difference in your creative results. I’d wish you luck, but when you make this choice you no longer need it. I’ll just say — happy trails to you, until we meet again.
PS: If you want to start into more advanced practice, you might consider my book — Jack’s Notebook, a business novel about creative problem solving.
PPS: If you liked this post or found it interesting, note that this concept is also a keynote speech I’ve given many times to corporate groups and associations, see: The Creative Choice.