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Why creativity keeps us sane

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” John Cleese

“I’m not creative,” says Sarah. “No, really. I’m just not. I really envy people who are, but I don’t have an ounce of imagination. I’d love to draw or write, but I don’t have the time. I’m too busy.”

“But, how about that party you organised?” I ask. “You thought it up so well. You took the time to come up with a plan for all your friends to have the best possible time and you executed it with flying colours. That’s creative. It’s like writing a short story. You thought about your characters – your friends, you put them in a context – your home on a Saturday night, you defined the quest for the night – for them to have a fun and relaxing time, and you put all the elements in place for it to happen. That requires a lot of imagination and effort.”

Too often, I hear people tell me they’re not creative. It’s widely accepted that creativity is just about making art or crafting things. It simply isn’t.

Creativity is a much greater thing. It’s a way of thinking, a muscle you flex more or less. It weakens or strengthens in accordance to how much you use it.

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As children, we’re naturally very creative, but as we grow up, we’re generally encouraged to toe the line and think in a conventional way. Anyone who thinks too far outside the box risks being mocked or even cast out as a marginal. Remember that funky pink tracksuit you wore so proudly to school, only to be greeted with sniggers? The implications of making a faux-pas suddenly became too high. Teen Age struck. You conformed.

And now, without even realising, you’re probably paying for it a little every day. You keep quiet in a meeting, because your idea might be too left-field. You decide not to hit the dance floor at a party, fearing ridicule.

Creativity tells conformism to take a walk. It puts standards back in their place. Embracing your creativity means asserting your individuality.

But that’s not all. Creativity says that every problem calls for action. It looks at problems inside out, inspects them, turns them into a challenge and enquires about solutions. It points to the friend of a friend of a friend who knows the answer to your question. It pushes you to dig deep within, looking at a problem from every possible angle until you find an answer to your child’s impossible struggle in school. It plants a seed in a boy’s mind and tells him there must be a simple way to clean the oceans.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”

Albert Einstein

The linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky often talks about the importance of creativity in education. He feels school should be a place which provides the structure for finding answers and solutions to problems in a creative setting, encouraging exploration and questioning the things we accept as a given.

“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating.” John Cleese Tweet This

Applying this process of exploration to every day life enables us to tailor our life by picking it apart, rebuilding it with the blocks which need to stay, tossing other blocks away, exploring possibilities and connections we hadn’t noticed before. It’s realising how that small tweak to our morning routine could completely change how the day pans out… where that annoying behavioural pattern comes from – and how we can re-wire things. It’s about all those “a-ha” moments where we’re completely and utterly elated after figuring out a solution for ourselves.

Flexing our creative muscle is also the best way to defeat the cynicism which surrounds us. Rather than being victims of our time, taking in news stories without processing them, and giving in to the widespread feeling of doom and gloom, we can be proactive, think about problems and try to make a difference at our modest level, – or why not, on a big scale. Creativity is a huge gift. By expressing our unique individuality and ability to create, we remain engaged in our world and deeply optimistic about life.

I’d love to hear from you!

  • Can you think of a time when you took a proactive and optimistic approach to a tricky problem or situation?
  • Is there an element in your routine, which you could tweak to make a big difference to the rest of your day?

Please use the comments section below or email me at charlotte(at)astoryworthliving.com to share your thoughts.

Get your friends involved! If you know anyone who is looking for ways to be more creative, please share this post with them.

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