Do You Live a Creative Life?
Notice your reaction to this question. Do you live a creative life? You might start categorizing activities as creative or non-creative and judge yourself based on your perception of artistic genius. Your mind might flood with questions about what “living a creative life” would mean. The question may evoke waves of emotion—longing, disappointment, jealousy, delight. Or you might shrug and say, “I’m not creative.” For many, the line of thinking leads to … “Should I live a creative life?”
In contrast, consider your reaction to these questions:
- Should you live a productive life?
- Should you live a healthy life?
- Should you live a selfish life?
We don’t feel much mental resistance to these questions. Productivity and health are clearly good for us. Selfishness isn’t likely to work out well. Creativity lands somewhere in between—it’s something we desire but aren’t confident we can attain. Sir Ken Robinson, whose TED talk you’ve likely seen, researches creativity. In this less frequently viewed video, he notes that many people claim that creativity can’t be defined, taught, or assessed. No wonder we have no idea whether we should live a creative life. Most of us, when pressed, can’t put creativity into words.
Fortunately, Robinson has words for us. He defines creativity as “the process of having original ideas that have value.” You really should watch the video to hear him unpack his spot-on definition piece by piece. However, for our purposes here, let’s return to the question of should: Should you have original ideas of value?
I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say … yes! I don’t believe the world should be broken into Einsteins who have original thoughts and the rest of us who merely consume them. We should all—engineers, scientists, politicians, educators, home-makers, business owners, artists, adults, children … all—live creative lives. The trouble is, most of us don’t. The reasons for the gap between our potential and our reality are many, and unique to each individual.
What are your challenges when it comes to creativity?
Many people believe we’re each born with a certain amount of creativity. They also believe we have a set amount of intelligence. Stanford University’s Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology for Success, disagrees. She identifies the misconception as a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset causes people to limit themselves by believing they have an unchangeable amount of creativity or intelligence. If we believe our creativity is limited, we fear exploring its outer reaches. We don’t want to risk discovering that our potential is smaller than we hope.
The truth is, knowledge and skills are built through effort. Creativity is no exception. Let’s return for a moment to Ken Robinson’s definition of creativity: a process of having original ideas of value. If creativity is a process, then the process can be learned. The skill of creativity can be built through focused effort. The question is: on what should we focus our effort?
If we want to develop our creativity, we need a plan. And yet creativity is a headstrong, expansive, often elusive kind of thing. While cognitive research and vocabulary such as divergent and convergent thinking is essential, facts and figures can overwhelm and even shut down our creative minds. Creativity feeds on images, on metaphor, on story. That’s where Writerly Play comes in. Writerly Play draws upon the research to create a story-based doorway into creative development. It provides a choose-your-own-adventure backdrop against which we can blaze a unique path without losing our way.
If I’m not a writer, am I in the wrong place?
Whether you are a writer or not, storytelling skills are a powerful foundation as you develop your creativity. Much has been written about the power of story. When a story touches our hearts, we are more likely to buy products, donate time and resources, and take action. Story is also the medium through which we live our lives. When we talk about living a creative life, we’re also talking about living a creative story.
In that same way, every time we start a creative project, we’re a hero setting off on a quest. When we pay attention to the story we’re living, we can shape it along the way. It’s the difference between hiking with a map rather than without one. We can track our progress, brave unexplored trails, and find our way back when we feel lost.
How will Writerly Play help me?
While Writerly Play is a solid approach for writers who want to build their novel-writing skills, it is equally helpful for anyone interested in living a creative life. Your goal may be simply that: building creative thinking skills so that joy and spontaneity blossom in your everyday life. Or your goal may be more specific, such as to develop problem-solving skills in order to navigate a career transition. Maybe you want to shake things up and have more fun in your classroom or at home. Whatever your goals, Writerly Play provides a loose structure and a lot of room. It is an ideal space in which creative thinkers can experiment and innovate.
This post is first in a series: The Nuts and Bolts of Writerly Play. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll dig deeper into the specifics of Writerly Play. We’ll explore how the framework can help us sort ideas, gain insight and find the clarity we need to move forward. Until then, here’s to you and your creativity!