What is creativity?
Some people think about creativity in a binary way, as if a person is either creative or she’s not, creative people being special *other* people, artists and poets, and those who wear black turtlenecks and change the world forever.
That kind of mythology is nonsense. Creative people are not *other* people. Creative people are YOU, as soon as you start creating things.
Creativity is any act of creating something new, of making something out of nothing. What makes creativity special is that it’s intrinsic. It comes from inside of you rather than from external forces.
Creativity is any act of creating something new
You can be creative at work or at play, when you’re making music, or designing software, or starting a company, or writing a blog. You’re being creative when you’re doing any of those things in just the way that satisfies you.
Here’s my response to the #1 question that readers ask me on this blog: How do I find my inner voice? By creating something.
So, here’s my response to the #1 question that readers ask me on this blog: How do I find my inner voice?
By creating something.
After all, creativity is the process of finding and expressing your inner voice. No creative outlet, no way to access and find your inner voice. That’s why having a creative outlet is essential to your self-esteem and to your having a happy and well-rounded life. By contrast, lack of a creative outlet has been shown to trigger apathy, loneliness, stress and depression.
Find your inner voice
Everyone’s always saying: “Follow your passion!” But what if, for your entire life, you’ve been so busy following other people’s expectations that you have no idea what your passions are? What if you’ve lived with so much external static that when try to tune your inner radio to your own signal, you don’t even know what it’s supposed to sound like?
This in fact is the #1 question I receive from blog readers: How do I find my inner voice?
Many people don’t get what they want out of life because they have no idea who they are or what they want. After all, it’s easy to let inertia govern our lives. It’s easy to blindly proceed along the paths circumscribed by what we studied in school and what other people expect of us. The path of least resistance is the easiest path, particularly if we’re succeeding on society’s terms.
But we each have a self buried deep inside that must find a way out. You find your voice when you create something. Each act of creating is an act of discovering who you are. When you create something that comes from inside is when you focus yourself on thinking, feeling, discovering, and dreaming. When you create something, you begin to see life from a new perspective, and to discover new things about yourself.
The act of creating something new forces you to have an interior dialogue with yourself, to listen to your inner voice. It may be that at first, your inner voice has a really weak signal, small, scratchy, shaky and hard to hear. But each time you’re still, and pay it attention, and let it guide you to create something new, it gets stronger.
Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity
One of the great researchers on creativity is the Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced “chick-sent-me-high-ee”), whose own work exemplifies creativity, bringing together not only psychology, but anthropology, literature, religion and philosophy. He writes:
Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living. Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity. What makes us different from apes—our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology—is the result of individual ingenuity that was recognized, rewarded, and transmitted through learning.
When we’re creative, we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes close to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do.
I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work, to make more understandable the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”
Steve Jobs is emblematic of how one blends this complexity, as I pointed out in my headhunter’s assessment of his talent, here. But you’re a creative person as well.
Many of you have been loyal readers of my blog for a long time, and I’m blessed to have you here. But creativity is not a spectator sport.
Cultivate your inner voice. If you don’t have a creative outlet, find one. Create something, make it beautiful, and add to it every day in just the way that satisfies you. Part of the fun is that you don’t have to express yourself perfectly clearly. Your expression can be loud and public, or subtle and abstract, a delicious little innuendo that only you know. Creating something is the best antidote for anytime you’re feeling powerless, or confused, or lonely, or bored, or uninspired, or sad. Revel in the way it feels when you’ve created something especially great!
Creativity is habit-forming. Your inner voice is like a muscle and as you flex it, it will gain power and be stronger than ever before. In this way, as you continue to create new things, your creative work will center you and strengthen you. And as you continue to create, your voice will gain power, and you’ll find your creativity begin to flourish. Ideas will pop up from out of nowhere. You’ll find inspiration in big and little events in your life. You’ll find yourself connecting ideas in other areas of your life outside of your creative endeavor.
They say there’s no creativity among the 80后. Prove them wrong.
In your work life, you’ll find yourself becoming one of those rare creatives that policy makers say do not exist among the 80后, and your creativity will give you a key competitive advantage in your career.
By the way, creative people need more sleep, so get your eight hours of sleep a night!
Over time, as your voice strengthens, and you break out of the boxes that society put you in, you’ll achieve more than you previously had imagined, in all aspects of your life. You’ll accomplish what you set out to do. You’ll be a part of creating innovation in China.
And then someday a journalist will stick a microphone in your face and ask: “They said the 80后couldn’t innovate their way out of a paper bag! How did you create something so special?”
And you’ll reply: “I followed my heart.”
** Who says 80后 are uncreative?! Inspire us! If you are creating something now, I invite you to share it with the Global Rencai community, in the Comments section below. In 4-5 sentences, tell us who you are and what your project is, and don’t forget to include a link so we all can check it out. If you’re reading this post anywhere other than on the blog, come visit www.globalrencai.com to find this post.
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