Saturday, March 04, 2006

What is creativity?

Hmmm, what is creativity? That is a huge question, and not one that I could answer in just one blog post, even if I knew the answer. I'm not really sure that anyone can know the answer to that question in its entirety. In fact, there may well be no answer to that question, or not one that is true for everyone. What I can do, though, is start to question what creativity means to me. This is a topic that I think I will come back to again and again in future posts, but today, I think I would like to share one little anecdote with you.

It was my friend's birthday, a couple of years back. I had bought her a present and wrapped it nicely, but had forgotten to get a card to go with it. I really wanted to write her a birthday card, as well as give the gift, but I had no gift cards in the house, and I had no time to go to the shops. I hunted around in my desk, and found some black paper. Buried a bit deeper was a silver pen. I had the bare bones of a card, but what to put on the front? My drawing skills aren't that great, so I didn't want to draw a picture on the front. I needed something else. I wandered out into the living room, and saw the plants in the backyard. Suddenly, I knew what I could do. I grabbed a pair of scissors, went outside, and snipped a piece off one of the bushes in the garden. A dab of glue, and the card was complete.

My friend loved the card. "Oh, it's so creative!" she said, "I would never have thought of that." She was really impressed with my supposed creative talents, and almost had a tinge of envy in her voice.

Now, I don't think I am especially different from anyone else. I don't have some kind of creative gene that other people lack. I wasn't trying to impress anyone, or show off. Obviously I wanted the card to look good, but it was as a gesture of friendship and giving. I acted almost out of desperation - I was looking for something, anything that I could make some sort of card out of. I had no fixed idea in mind. Who was it said that necessity is the mother of invention? Well, it seemed that it was the mother of creativity in this case. Which, when you think about it, is really almost the same thing as invention.

I believe that creativity is not something that is innate in some people, while others miss out. It is less a "talent" and more an outlook on life, a way of seeing the world as full of interesting possibilities. It is about cultivating an open mind and an inquiring intellect, the courage to try new things, and the humility to not be defined by them. It is something that gets stronger with practice, and will dwindle if neglected.

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