Creativity is innate.
Some of us, some lucky few, are chosen by whatever gods may be to be the storytellers, the artists, the performers… and those few are born with the talent and creativity that will last the rest of their lives. And they won’t have to work at it nearly as hard as the rest of us, and they’ll infuriate the rest of us while we silently bash our heads against the glass ceiling we’ll never crash through. We are born with creativity as much as we’re born with the bones in our bodies.
Well… that may be a little bit true. Just like some of us are born taller or cleverer or more musically inclined, there is probably something to the supposition that creativity is innate, that it’s luck of the draw, and that some people have an easier road to walk in creative endeavors. But you can’t change your bones, you can’t change the fact that you’re colorblind, you can’t change a sweet tooth. You can, however, change your creativity.
Creativity is a muscle, not a bone. It strengthens and tightens with use, atrophies and withers when neglected. Lots of creative types don’t bother creating because they aren’t properly motivated to do so. And, of course, lots of people who aren’t naturally creative become very creative indeed by virtue of the fact that they went out and created anyway, cultivating creative muscle through sheer force of will and sheer tenacity of repetition.
Here’s the thing: just like virtually anything in life, creativity is there for the taking if you’re willing to work at it. Creative genetics are great if you’ve got them, but if you don’t, you’re not blacklisted from the club. We have a saying in coaching: hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard. So many people sit back and say I wish I could write stories, or I’d love to write a screenplay, or I’m going to write a song one day, but then they just sit back and wait for that day to roll around. Naturally creative types do the same thing, of course; they take for granted their ability to put stories together or craft brilliant sentences or whatever, and they don’t practice their craft — or worse, they just don’t follow through and never finish anything. So, if you can finish what you start, and you have a desire to be creative, you just have to jump in and do it.
You may be crap when you start out. But who picks up a guitar and immediately starts cranking out “Freebird”? Who picks up a paintbrush and tosses off a Van Gogh at one pass? Remember, if you’re trying, and if you’re being consistent and finishing what you start, you are ahead of the vast majority of people out there, because most people will never bother undertaking a creative endeavor in their life. They’ll sit back and consume and read and watch and dream, but they won’t work for it. They could have all the creative bones in the world making up their skeleton, but they won’t take the time to cultivate the muscle needed to make the machine work.
So the next time somebody tells you that you’re not creative enough — even if that somebody is you — remember that you don’t have to be born creative. You can become creative.
If it matters to you.
This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.
4 thoughts on “Not a Creative Bone in Your Body…”
This is pretty much the premise of my research… Albeit I have stayed more in math and science-y things, but it obviously extends to creativity, musical ability, and sports.
You may enjoy some stuff that K. Anders Ericsson has written on developing experts (Malcolm Gladwell uses his material a lot for his books). Carol Dweck also has a book, Mindset, that you would probably enjoy if this post really sticks with you (as it obviously did with me.)
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I’d definitely be interested. I feel like I know this stuff intellectually, but I have to remind myself from time to time so as not to get too down on my writing.
I think this feeds into the whole nature vs nurture debate of developmental psychology. Personally, I think everyone is born with a capacity for creativity and ,while some do have a higher capacity than others, every single person has the potential to be a creative person; how much of that creative potential is maximized depends a lot on early childhood environments & experience. Intelligence is the same way (in my opinion which is based on reading stuff and my somewhat limited experience).
But I agree that as we move beyond childhood, the old addage of “practice makes permanent” applies to being creative. So, yeah, exercise that creativity muscle!
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Yes, exactly: we have inborn tendencies and capabilities, but they only ripen with dedicated effort. You could have the most fertile soil in the heartland, but it will only grow weeds if you don’t tend it.