Creativity is, in my opinion, a seriously misunderstood ability. In the popular sense of the term it is restricted to people who call themselves artists or for the ‘non-creative’ it indicates some kind of occupational therapy. However, freely pursuing ones’ creativity is much more than just being able to express yourself in a particular material or a means to relax. It is, I argue, the highest achievement of man to be creatively unrestricted. The creative individual dares to face the world as the distorted place it is and turns his subjective interpretation of it into an objective reality that exceeds the limitations of his embodiment.
“The creative individual dares to turn his subjective interpretation of the world into an objective reality that exceeds the limitations of his embodiment”
“… Some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life. In this way he satisfies nature, which asks that he live and act objectively as a vital animal plunging into the world; but he also satisfies his own distinctive human nature because he plunges in on his own symbolic terms and not as a reflex of the world as given to mere physical sense experience. He takes in the world, makes a total problem out of it, and then gives out a fashioned, human answer to that problem. This, as Goethe saw in Faust, is the highest that man can achieve.” – Ernest Becker
As such I see four general misunderstandings:
Misunderstanding #1 – Some people are creative and some are not, and that’s just how it is
Misunderstanding #2 – Creativity is something restrictedly human
Misunderstanding #3 – Creativity is a single skill, like being communicative
Misunderstanding #4 – Creativity benefits paintings and other art objects, but anything else works perfectly fine without much creativity (this is more of an elaboration on #3).
First of all, Every individual is by nature creative. To live is to be creative. To breath, to walk, to talk, to dress oneself are all creative acts. Therefore, saying “I’m not creative” is akin to saying that you’re nothing more than food for worms. But creativity is not something restricted to humans either, anything living can be said to be creative. Plants and animals are also creative, but the time-scale of their creativity is many magnitudes greater than ours and more directly managed by mutations in their genes.
“Therefore, saying “I’m not creative” is akin to saying that you’re nothing more than food for worms”
In my definition, creativity means: actively applying changes in ones’ immediate environment. The extent to which these changes are hitherto non-existent, at least in the immediate environment of the individual, is a measure for the degree of creativity. Also, creativity is not exclusive to painting or sculpting, it includes the creation of anything, from a spreadsheet to a new brand of toothpaste. What remains of key importance, though, is the novelty of the creative expression. Moreover, although everyone is creative, some people are more creative than others and it are the people with the most creativity who have the strongest personalities and the most life-enabling force.
“Creativity can be said to be the overarching term for all the life-enhancing personality traits of an individual”
Creativity is not a single skill either, it takes ones’ entire being to be creative. Creativity can be said to be the overarching term for all the life-enhancing personality traits of an individual, such as: open-mindedness, tolerance, perceptiveness, intelligence, courage and self-confidence. Creativity is not singular, it’s an all-encompassing life-style, a mind-set, a mode of perception, a built-up of character. As anything that one does is essentially creative, any act and any experience will benefit from a greater creative ability of the individual. And as any creative act is by definition constructive it will benefit the world at large in one way or another.
“Children should be stimulated to venture into the world, to turn every rock on their path and to learn that the stove is burning hot by touching it curiously”
Therefore, it is of the upmost importance to nourish the creative spirit of all individuals, most notably the young ones. Children should be stimulated to venture into the world, to turn every rock on their path and to learn that the stove is burning hot by touching it curiously. But the fact that some things hurt, that accidents happen and that, for all of life, danger is waiting around the corner, should not impede the growing individual in his life-project. He can better look it in the eye and work with it creatively. The sooner this reality is embraced by the parents the better the child can develop himself creatively and personally (note that these two terms are two sides of the same coin). Ideally, the parents are invisibly looking over the child’s shoulder, in order for the child to learn to cope with his freedom and make it his own, while the parents are always ready to act as a safety-net if need be.
I would like to finish with another beautiful paragraph of Ernest Becker’s book “The Denial of Death”:
“[The creative person] doesn’t vibrate to anyone else’s tune. He sees that the fabrications of those around him are a lie, a denial of truth – a truth that usually takes the form of showing the terror of the human condition more fully than most men experience it. The creative person becomes, then, in art, literature, and religion the mediator of natural terror and the indicator of a new way to triumph over it. He reveals the darkness and the dread of the human condition and fabricates a new symbolic transcendence over it.”