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What is Creativity?

As established in my last post, creativity is a biological imperative. Biological imperatives are neither inherently positive or negative; they just are. I happen to assign positive meaning to the act of creativity because that act has carried me through a vast amount of tribulation and trauma, but as point of fact, it is not positive or negative inherently — it just is. Creativity IS.

Sometimes, creativity is destructive. That sounds counterintuitive until you realize, as Hinduism has for millennia, that in the act of destruction, something new is created. By razing a building, a demolition team creates space. With dynamite and det cord, that demolition team created something together; a place in the skyline where the sun shines through to the sidewalk; the potential for a new architectural wonder, a temporary playground for the neighborhood stickball team. Positive for the stickball team; not so much for the bats who have been roosting in a corner of the building for the past month. Creativity teaches us that binaries are not poles that have to exist in opposition; they are points on a continuum. Sometimes those poles overlap. Creativity and destruction can coexist in the same moment. We’ve experienced a lot of that since 2020. Creativity is not creative output — that’s a product of creativity. Creative output can, and does, take many forms. I’ve come to take as much creative satisfaction in a well-crafted spreadsheet as I do in the music videos I produce. I’m creating something to solve a problem or express an idea; that is creative process. The spreadsheet or the music video are products of my creativity; they are creative accomplishment. Creativity is not talent. Talent is a specific aptitude or ability, inborn or developed (or both). One can have a talent for creativity that is organically greater than one’s peers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all have some talent for creativity. That talent, like all talents, can be cultivated through repetition and practice. Creativity is not art. Again, art is a product of creativity. So is an inventory spreadsheet. (Is the spreadsheet, therefore, art? I think so, but that's the subject of a later blog post.)

Creativity presents a choice. Creativity pushes you to look at things through a different lens than, either, the lens through which you’ve been looking at that thing, or the lens through which others are looking at that thing. Creativity presses you to make a choice about which lens to use to view the thing. Creativity makes you commit. Once you’ve examined the thing through myriad lenses, creativity demands you commit to one lens and express through it. Creativity is an energy. It can be exhausted and need to be replenished, but it never dies. Like all energy, it just changes form. And like all energy, it moves in waves. Creative energy can be high and ocean-rending mighty, or low and surly, like a bored teenager. Creative exhaustion can come in the form of a creative block (if you’re used to expressing your creativity) or fatigue (if you’re not), but it finds ways of transmuting into other acts of expression, even when it is low. You might find yourself irritable and expressing your creative energy through passive aggressive acts at home (you’re still creating those passive aggressive acts; you’re making the creative choice to leave the laundry in the washer until it sours). You may find yourself being drawn to playing games on your phone for days on end (you’re creating responses to the prompts of the game; you’re making creative choices about which candy to crush). Creative energy will stay low until it gathers strength through inspiration. Creativity feeds on inspiration. Like creativity itself, inspiration is neither inherently positive or negative, though we like to paint it with a positive brush. One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from John Lydon: Anger is an energy. As we’ve seen repeatedly over the past few years, anger is inspiration. Anger is motivation. Anger can feed creativity with dynamic results. So can serenity. It's all food for creativity. Creativity IS. How are you going to tap into it today? Bonus Question: What is inspiring you right now?

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