“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” –Steve Jobs
“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” –Ray Bradbury
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” –Maya Angelou
What is creativity? Is it something we control? Can creativity be practiced? Do certain people have more capacity for creative thought? If so, why?
My job is to be creative. I am considered a Creative. This is the career path I have chosen because I have always been drawn to visual (or audible) expression and emotional connections. Good design is when those two things combine with critical thinking and problem solving. But there’s no formula that explains how to achieve that combination every time I need to create a graphic for a social media campaign or design a website or execute a branding exercise. Sometimes, doing my job well feels very much out of my control.
“Is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they feel they were put on this Earth to do. And what is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each others mental health in a way that other careers kind of don’t do, you know?”
This is the question Elizabeth Gilbert poses at the beginning of her marvelous TED Talk, The Elusive Creative Genius. Maybe we’re all putting too much pressure on the Creative. She goes on to explain that the Greeks and Romans believed creativity was a gift granted to certain people at certain times by divine spirits, or geniuses.
The genius isn’t the person who is being creative;
the genius is the spirit who provides the creativity.
She goes on to explain that this all changed during the Renaissance when humans were exalted above gods and mysteries. Instead of the artist being visited by a genius, the artist became the genius. Thus, the idea became prevalent that some people are creative and some people aren’t.
This idea sets all of us up for failure. It says to those of us in the Creative Industry that we are expected to be creative all the time, and it lets everyone else off the hook because they just “aren’t creative.” And that’s a bunch of bull.
I am convinced that creativity can practiced. Every time I learn something new, ask why, admire art, read a book, pay attention, ask why, my creativity expands.
I am also convinced that every so often, I am visited by a creative genius–something I do not control; something that uses me as a vessel.
“The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel. ”
— Piet Mondrian
It takes both. It is my job to show up and practice my craft.
This is my promise to myself, my current clients, and my future clients:
I will continue to…
- Read books
- Find inspiration
- Practice my hand-lettering skills
- Visit museums
- Listen to all sorts of music
- Attend AIGA events
- Go to Creative Mornings
- Promote best practices
- Ask questions
- Think through the problem before I start designing
- Remain open to new ideas
And every so often, that elusive creative genius will visit me and say, “Yes, keep going. Keep doing what you’re doing, and here’s something new to think about.”
And I will say, “Thank you.”