How To Kick The Ultimate Creativity Killer

Today, Holly and Kari over at Dreadlocks and Goldilocks are returning the hospitality and having me over for a visit. They are in a series on creativity, so join me over there, will you?

My mom used to tell me she wasn’t creative, but no one believed her. She finished a Master Gardener program about ten years ago, and everyone marveled how beautiful her backyard landscaping was. Yet she insisted she was not creative. Not like me or my father, the writers.

She took ballet classes and tried out horseback riding lessons. I tried to tell her, “Mom, you’re creative. Look at your garden. Look at all these creative pursuits you’re involved in.” Still, she argued.

Slowly she started to own her identity as a creative person, but sometimes I think she still doubts. She doubts her creativity like I’ve doubted mine. Like you’ve doubted yours.

Maybe you’re not an artist, a sculptor or a writer. You’re an accountant or a gym teacher or a mom raising kids and wrangling the household duties. No one pays you to create. You don’t even attempt those seven-layer desserts you pinned on Pinterest. The imminent failure is too painful. You’ve decided you’re not creative so you’ll just stick with what you know.

But you’re wrong. You are creative.

My mom’s opinion of herself, that she wasn’t creative despite all her obvious artistic leanings, is far too common. Yet why is it that so many of us have come to this conclusion?

It’s Comparison, The Ultimate Creativity Killer, that stuns us into bashful silence.

Creativity dies a quick death when we hold our work, our ideas, our creations up next to someone else’s. We look over the shoulder of other students in our writing or painting classes and wonder why our work doesn’t look like theirs.

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But if Van Gogh or Picasso tried to create work like pieces they had seen before, we would have no Van Gogh or Picasso. We would have no Emily Dickinson or Maya Angelou, no buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, or musicals by Andrew Lloyd Weber. What if Stephen Hawking had thought it sufficient to view the world through everyone else’s theories of physics? Or what if Steve Jobs only introduced technology people had already seen before? We might have no tablets, no iPods, no appreciation for function that can also have form.

These are the great ones we hold up and revere, the creators of our history who braved the Never-Before to bring us something we can’t imagine life without. They brought us pictures, words, music, ideas, and they changed the world forever.

And that’s exactly what creating does. It takes the things that already exist and makes something totally new out of them.

The trick is that anyone can do it, anyone with a unique brain and set of fingerprints can create something totally original.

Or they can copy. They can dilute and tame and Xerox the life right out of the thing they were designed to bring to the world.

Anyone can make art that looks or sounds exactly like someone else, but we don’t call that art. We call it plagiarism. We call those “artists” copycats, or at least a cover band, on a good day.

Continue reading over at Holly and Kari’s place.

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