Most people freeze when they’ve heard this word, mistakenly thinking it can only apply to or mean one thing. They assume they must think, ponder, and dwell on its implications, wondering how to respond to its presence. It is commonly used when I tell people of my work as a costumer, “Oh, you must be very creative!” they exclaim. Ah, there it is. The inevitable C word that comes out, usually associated with only being artistic, and the arts is an industry associated with crazy, confusing, and, of course, creative individuals who are merely flaky, unreliable, and moody from being misunderstood. They only have to take a photo, paint a picture, or twirl onstage as a ballerina, it’s quite easy, so what value could creativity have in our society if it is that simple? The fact is, it’s not as simple as it seems, and creativity can take on more forms and have more necessity than we think.
Creativity is more than having artistic abilities. It is about thinking outside the normal realm; it is inquiring beyond the boundaries and restrictions either determined by others or ourselves. Famous scientists, mathematicians, and scholars are not famous solely because of their intellectual abilities, but rather their abilities to creatively use their knowledge in a unique and inventive approach. Rather than continue the same routine, they broke away from acceptable standards and methods to come up with their own theories that continue to change our world.
Creativity and self-expression are more than lyrics in a pop song. Without an outlet to release thoughts or ideas, we become lost, confused, seeking that connection with a community of individuals just like us who can understand us. Diving deep into human emotions takes more courage and conviction than most people think. Many times I’m told, “What’s so important about actors? It’s not like acting is hard.” With tabloids filled with celebrity gossip and speculation, it’s easy to think this way, but actors express the deepest and darkest ambitions and motivations that we all have but keep hidden. To top it off, they do all of this in front of other people. Without someone to tell us stories about the human condition and without our ability to let out our own ideas, we become pent up with emotions, ready to explode. And, speaking of work, this brings me to my next point…
Creativity is work. A lot of work. Inspiration hits whenever it feels like it, but creativity takes perseverance and persistence. In order to create you must have a vision and discover the path to get there, sometimes it is not easy. It looks easy, but like a ballerina who must leap across the stage she must do it without showing the effort it takes to hoist her body into the air as she curls her toes and lifts her arms into the air. Creativity takes thought, experimentation, strength, and faith. You never know what may happen in this great experiment of creativity, you may have to start all over again, but without grunt work, creativity is merely ideas that dissipate and fail to reach their full potential.
Creativity is a reminder. It reminds us that we cannot control things, we cannot be perfect, and we cannot be afraid. Creativity gives us a sense of freedom and passion that the mundane and routine stifle. In order to be creative we must abandon our fear of failure and being ridiculed; we have to just let ourselves explore, experiment, and work within our environment to get where we want to be. Creativity has a mind of its own, and sometimes you have to jump in with both feet to experience how it might help you solve a problem instead of trying to control it or help you impress with imperfections or show us how the only doubt and fear we had was inside our heads.
Creativity, and its cousins innovation and ingenuity, have plenty to offer us. We tend to think of it as the product of a picture in an office building we don’t take a second glance at, but it looks good in the waiting room near the secretary’s desk. A closer look at that photo or painting in the apartment complex hallway, and the brush strokes reveal meaning and intent with emotions beneath the colors of a pretty picture. Creativity not only awakens the emotions beneath our skin, but it also awakens the ability to use our knowledge, experience, and ideas in ways we never thought possible. From these expressions, whether they be artistic or not, we develop, we learn, and we connect, not just with others, but with ourselves. Without creativity, we will have lost humanity.