What does being creative mean? How does it feel? What do creative people do differently? Do they have a different ‘wiring’?
Much to the dismay of creatively actualized people, in my opinion, the answer is a big no. They are not different or special, everyone is creative. The only difference is that some people don’t tap into their creative side or allow its expression as the human brain is designed to be alert and active. This is why we feel restless or bored whenever stuck in a stagnant situation or a fixed routine. This is a clue that this restlessness should be channelised into doing something creative like writing, drawing, painting, taking photographs, playing music or even cooking, every day!
However, not everyone can do it. Many people firmly believe that they are not creative. Many people also believe that they are naturally creatively gifted. So what are we saying? Can creativity be taught? There are two aspects to this answer. One is the contention that it need not be taught because it is inherent in every person. Whether someone else values your expression of it is another story, the fact is that creativity exists and there is satisfaction in expressing it. This leads us to the next aspect, that of its nurturing and teachability. Now that is something that can certainly be taught. There are tools that can give shape to your ideas. The attitude to problem-solving impediments and alternatives can be taught by imitating, emulating and modelling the behaviours of art adepts, of course, with the ultimate goal of developing your own unique style.
Everyone can learn how to construct ideas and things that work to some degree. Experience plays a pivotal role in this process. People can learn by experience some part of what it means to take on a problem, to prepare with relevant practice and imaginative study, to incubate choices, to elaborate a solution and test it and how to consider feedback and revision. But even this process, broken down into its compositional and conceptual aspects, does not guarantee a creative result. The only substantial learning from such a creative process is that it makes people familiar with behaviours and strategies that may inform their own problem solving.
For those who are still not convinced that they are creative (yes, imagine that) I have another helpful strategy. They need to stop thinking of creativity as something necessarily mysterious as even those who are creative are at a loss to explain this phenomenon. They should start considering their creativity from three angles, which I have followed in my professional journey.
There are people who are artistic in nature. They thrive on creative expression through various mediums of arts - writing, music, painting, drama or sculpture. While they develop skills in their chosen artistic domain, they are highly sensitive to all art forms. Easily inspired by new forms and unique artistic forms and expressions, they enjoy reaching out to people through art. They are interested both in the vast spectrum of pure art as well as applied art areas such as design, architecture and advertising.
Then there are people who are aesthetically creative. They have a very keen and well-developed sense of what looks good and sounds good, leading them to understand and appreciate things that are tasteful. While they may not be churning out original art by the bushel, they often enjoy working with colours, textures, layout, musical instruments etc to create appealing visuals and sounds. These are also the people to whom creativity is most teachable as they enjoy learning creative skills and performing. They also enjoy being in aesthetically pleasing environments. You too would have such people in your social network. Think of someone who would enjoy interior design, hotel management, fashion management (more than fashion design) and cosmetic dentistry.
Apart from these two categories, there are those who are the idea generators, who sometimes don’t view themselves as creative in the usual sense but it’s time they acknowledge it and take a bow. Original thinkers, they are often inspired by new ideas in a variety of fields. They firmly believe that new ideas can work and are inspired to translate such ideas into action. Idea generators have original ways of understanding situations and approaching problem-solving in varied areas, be it interpersonal, logistical or entrepreneurial. They have an urge to use new approaches in almost everything they do. They think freely and enjoy new concepts and solutions. Think advertising, sales and marketing, entrepreneurship, scientific research and journalism.
So there you are. Now that you know you are creative (well done!) and that you can build your creativity muscle, here is an unexpected bonus. Being creative will help in divergent thinking in all aspects of life as well. Whether it is work, play or an unfamiliar situation in life, the knowledge that you can tap into your creative side to come up with new solutions for the toughest of things is an advantage that will help you no matter what.
And yes, there’s more. When you know that you needn’t rely on external factors for mental stimulation, it is a major personal triumph. When you know that you are living up to your true potential, you are truly happy.
(Kapur is the head of counselling and content at Inomi (www.inomi.in). Views expressed are personal.)