There are some people in this world that would consider themselves creative, and then there are the majority of others that believe they do not possess a creative bone in their body. I hear it all the time, “no I’m not the creative one, my brother got the creative gene,” or “that is why we employ designers, they are the creative ones”. But I believe we all can be creative, there is just one major attribute you need.
Think back to your early primary school childhood, or look at your own kids in those early years of school. Do you see it? All children are willing to be creative, to be different, happy to stand out. They love to dress up in Batman suits or ballerina dresses and wear them to the shopping centre. They make up performances and act them out in front of whoever is willing to watch. They tell amazing stories of make believe; draw whatever comes into their head, often with incredible detail.
What this highlights is that children will take a chance; if they don’t know, they will have a go; they’re not frightened of being wrong. I am not suggesting that being wrong is being creative, but what we do know is that if you are not prepared to be wrong we will never come up with anything creative. By the time most kids make it to adulthood, many of them have lost that capacity, they have become frightened of being wrong, and we shape society in this way. We stigmatise mistakes.
Fear is our greatest barrier to being creative
The fear of not knowing where to start, the fear that no one will like what we have created, the fear that our character will be judged based on the success or failure of our creations, the fear that our creation will not be the best it can be, the fear that it will never meet society’s standards. While fear is our biggest barrier to exploring our creativity, the reality is that fear will always be there; we just need to learn to embrace fear in our creativity, learn to use it to our benefit.
Creative courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the acceptance of fear. The risks are still there, but you act despite them, pushing new boundaries and opening new doors. View fear as a requirement for creativity, fear shows that you have “skin in the game”, it means you are passionate about your pursuit, it means you are willing to take risks in trying something new.
Human instinct for social conformity
But how and when did we move from our youthful fearless creativity, energised by an inventive spirit; into adulthood where we are too scared to explore anything different? For some people, they can pinpoint the exact moment it happened. That point in your childhood where you stood at the front of the class with a picture you drew and someone laughed at your effort, possibly even the teacher; when you turned up for a school dance in a bright pink dress to find all the other girls were wearing jeans and crop tops, or when you had to stand in front of your school and give a speech only to fumble over some words and think that every student in the school thinks you are a failure.
Unfortunately from the age of about ten, we become more attune to society’s expectations and subscribe to a desire for social conformity. We have a human need to fit in, to be just like everyone else. As we become teenagers, this human instinct to be cool and be exactly like your friends holds greater social status than trying something different, exploring alternative approaches and losing the fear to be wrong or different. Coincidentally all ingredients needed to explore and express your creativity.
Think differently, show creative courage
Think about what the world would be like without the Wright Brothers’ fearless pursuit for man-made flight, or Albert Einstein’s constant efforts to prove the Theory of Relativity. Would Barcelona be as magical a city without Antoni Gaudi’s non-conforming desire to explore free form organic masses, animated with patterned bricks and bright ceramic tile surfaces in his Architecture? How sad would the world be if Walt Disney listened to his first employer, a newspaper editor, who fired him because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” The reality is that the history books are full of successful creative people with “epic fails” to their name before that reached success.
Sir Ken Robinson, in his famous TED Talk – Do Schools Kill Creativity?, (if you have not listened to it, please take the nineteen minutes to watch it, it will open your mind to how we are educating our children – click the link above). He explains how society stigmatises mistakes; we run national education systems where we emphasise that mistakes are the worst things we can make, which in turn leads to a system where we are educating our children out of their creative capacities. He stresses that we don’t grow into creativity we grow out of it or rather we are educated out of it. The foundation of our public school system was formulated at a time to meet the needs of industrialism. Therefore, our education system was devised on a priority structure that places the most useful subjects “for work” at the top, placing creative subjects such as Art, Music and Drama as a lower priority, because you will never get a job with these skills.
However, we are in fact in the midst of a cultural and technology revolution where creative industries are the future of our Australian economy and prosperity.
So remember that every one of us have the ability and the right to be creative. It’s time to play like children and see through fresh eyes, to once again be beginners and restore our passion and excitement for new possibilities.
Three key takeaways
1. View fear as a requirement for creativity, remember that fear means you are passionate about your creative pursuit; it means you are willing to take risks in trying something new.
2. Explore every new opportunity with fresh eyes, unconstrained by perceived conventions or rules, have the courage to give something different a chance.
3. If you are not prepared to be wrong and fail, you will never come up with anything creative.