You can’t just turn on your creativity
I’ve been talking about creativity this week with my students. It’s a fantastic subject with a lot of intriguing subtopics and tangents that sprout out of the initial conversation. Surprisingly, most of them had a lot to say, and that is always a good thing. Most people will say that they want to be creative, have a job that allows them to be this and that will allow them to be passionate about what they do. Is it that simple though? When we say we want to be creative in a job, what does that mean? When our boss just asks us to be creative, is there a switch we just flip in our brains, and go into create mode? I think not. But when teachers ask their students or employers ask their employees that’s basically what they are demanding.
The reality is very different, because we forget that being creative is a process. It takes time to become imaginative, it takes time to learn to be curious, and it takes time to practice creativity. Unfortunately, outside factors can suppress our creativity from a very young age. The education system seems to be removing art, music, dance and anything else in the arts at a dramatic rate. Parents may be telling their kids to not touch that, don’t go there, put that down, leave it, stop playing with that etc. How is your kid going to develop their creativity if from the outset we say “No!” to everything they put their hands on? Once you grow up without any practice or opportunity it’s quite difficult to re-enter the creative zone.
It starts with being curious. I tell my students this, admittedly, it’s mostly the younger ones but I should probably mention it to the older ones as well. Staying curious throughout your life, have you ever considered it? Each day, looking around, wondering, questioning stuff. It’s quite a thing, and I assure you most people don’t bother, or forget to consider much other than the tasks at hand. When we wonder and sit and think and stare and look at stuff, and spend time just reflecting on things in our lives, you’d be surprised at what you can discover or come up with. It translates into walking around, for a stroll, grabbing things, seeing how they feel, experimenting, at work or school or in your personal life, trying something new, taking risks, failing, building something, a model, a patio, a Lego set, a piece of furniture etc.
You hear quite often that we should have routines and habits, and have a ritual in our week or day. That may be all well and good but in there, needs to be some creativity time. If we really wanted to, we could allow ourselves to be creative everyday- take a different route to work, make different/new meals at home, rearrange our homes, redecorate or try a new exercise routine.
In our professional lives, the hiring process seeks creative individuals but then when the work starts, productivity becomes the priority. Bosses demand you complete the tasks set, do it, and make sure it’s done on time, or even better, early. When you are done, get back to it, on Monday! It’s vicious, relentless and forces to question why we chose the job to begin with.
If we don’t have it how do we get there?
A surprising revelation
I was surprised to hear from my marketing students that activities like joining a choir, learning to play the piano, creative writing, and dancing are not creative. Wait what? They explained, that you practice these things to learn how to do them and so you don’t really create shit! Well, they didn’t use that word, but they were quite dismissive, which surprised me. But what about after you’ve learned and improved your abilities at these activities? Wouldn’t you then be in a position to be more imaginative and creative? They agreed, that indeed it’s not necessarily the practice but the aftermath, which allows you to exercise your creativity. It makes sense when you think about it. If you try to be creative with cooking a meal, but you have barely cooked in your life you inevitably make something inedible. However, if you’ve been cooking for an extended amount of time, practiced a variety of recipes, new and old, personal experience here tells me that you move into the creative zone with your cooking. That’s how I cook a lot of the times now. When I was in college and I opened the refrigerator there was mostly beer in there, and some items of food but I had no clue how to turn those limited items into a meal. But when you have had the practice and experience, opening that refrigerator is a whole different story. I have surprised myself with what I was able to concoct from very basic ingredients, but it of course helped that there is significantly less beer in the fridge these days J My point is that you need the experience to allow you to be creative.
Ok, enough of this soft stuff.
The Millennial issue
In conclusion, don’t go in asking for a job that allows you to be creative if you don’t know jack about being creative. That’s something that pisses me off actually. These millennials are coming up and saying I want that, I want this, I want to change the world, I want to be creative, but haven’t committed to anything for a long period of time in their lives, ever. I’ve said it before, they got limited experiences. Experiences doing stuff are what help us be creative. Your imagination will be very limited if you have no experiences to draw on when brainstorming and collaborating. You hear me? Just go out there and do. Do it! Just do it! Did I stutter? I’m just so sick and tired of hearing a teenager telling me that they are going to be a lawyer, or a doctor. Are you freaking serious? You are 12! Why on god’s green earth…. Never mind! Bottom line, practice and get good at something, get better than good at it. And do it, for the entirety of your life. Not for 3 months until summer comes and you need a vacation to Spain….
Till next week….