I could talk all day and all night about the strange and wildly irrational and laughably self-defeating habits of our modern culture, and by tomorrow afternoon, you would still hear me excitedly rabbiting on to anybody who would lend their ears.
Alas, life is short, and so I will restrict myself to just one of these today. Here goes…
Our culture arbitrarily lumps its citizens into two convenient groups. One group we call “creatives.” The other, “everyone else.” I find this habit perplexing and infuriating, but saddest of all, I find its effects to be incredibly damaging.
The first damage this division causes is broad, and society-encompassing: “Everyone else” assumes themseves to have no natural creativity, and this makes them avoid things they have been told are for “creative” people.
When we segregate culturally like this, we end up with millions of people believing – just because they’re not currently a painter, or a novelist, or bass player in a band, or graphic designer for a startup – that they are simply not creative. That that’s something reserved for those people over there, not us over here. That one of the most precious and greatest and uniquely human abilities unfortunately does not apply to them.
Consequently, vast swaths of people talk themselves out of ever trying to do “creative” things. Brilliant. What a way to clip an angel’s wings. There goes the self-esteem of millions. Just… thwacked away, like a rounders bat to a dandelion.
The second damage caused is harder to see, but no less serious: The “creative” group have this tremendous pressure to do astounding things, to live up to the expectations society has of them. But, because their “creativity” is based entirely on what field they happen to work in, and not based on anything real, they by and large do not live up to these expectations.
Take it from me. I’ve known a great number of people who do “creative” work. They sing, they paint, they write, they do “art.” In fact, I have been one of these people, for a very long time. And I’m not exagerrating when I say that 99% of us are no more naturally creative than a tablespoon. Some of us might have potential, sure, but by itself that’s nothing.
Then again, you might think that it would be encouraging for someone doing “creative” work to assume that they possess naturally high levels of creativity, for them to assume that it’s just part and parcel of who they are, that they were born with it, and that its just waiting to ooze out of them like some kind of magic puss. You might think that assuming this would become some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Most of the time, you’d be dead wrong.
Creativity is a skill. No different to any other. It requires honing. And once honed, it requires maintaining. Some people learn this, grab the bull by the horns, and become true creative geniuses. Most don’t. The evidence is not hard to find – have you noticed how terrible and derivative almost everything is? Songs, clothes, paintings, adverts…
What’s the bottom line? What’s the controlling idea of this piece of writing? Everybody loses when we make assumptions based on arbitrary factors.
We tell one group of people – by virtue of their line of work – that they are automatically creative, and so they feel they don’t need to bother working on their creativity. The result is that they end up never actually being very creative. Meanwhile, we tell “everyone else” that they’re automatically uncreative. They don’t feel the need to bother working on their creativity. The result is that they end up never being very creative, either.
Creativity has fuck-all to do with what field you’re in. If, during the course of your day, you use your mind to try to achieve a particular outcome, or to solve a particular problem, or to connect a particular series of dots, you are being creative… whatever category society would lump you into.
If, on the other hand, you just happen to have a paintbrush in your hand, or be playing in a band, or be writing a novel… there is nothing necessarily creative about what you’re doing.
Creativity is the closest thing we have to magic. But misunderstanding it leads to misusing it, which leads to a poorer world for all of us.