Over the years, I’ve heard countless people tell me, “I’m just not a creative person.”
I don’t buy it.
The world isn’t divided into creative and non-creative people.
The world is divided into people who use their creative abilities and people who don’t use their creative abilities.
Everyone is born creative. But over time, some people lose touch with the artist within.
Our education system is partly to blame. Although educators pay lip service to valuing creativity, many end up discouraging it in practice. Research shows that teachers rate highly creative students as problematic. This finding has been replicated in numerous studies: Creative students are unconventional students, and unconventional students are often disfavored by their teachers.
“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods,” writes Neil Postman. Instead of asking their own questions and figuring out their own answers, students are compelled to memorize someone else’s answers to someone else’s questions.
As a result, schools end up unteaching creativity. Kids unlearn how to make art, they unlearn how to speak up, and they unlearn how to take initiative and ask critical questions. They are rewarded for thinking like the teacher, thinking like the school board, or thinking like the textbook author—not thinking for themselves or questioning what they learn.
Creativity isn’t just something that poorly compensated artists generate inside a studio. As long as you’re reimagining the status quo—as long as you’re disturbing the peace, in James Baldwin’s memorable phrase—anything you do in your life can be creative.
The new strategy you design at work is creative.
The way you raise your children is creative.
The way you decorate your home is creative.
The way you talk, the way you smile, the way you live your life—it’s all creative.
If you refuse to think of yourself as creative, you’ll only reinforce that mindset. What you create will be ordinary. You’ll bore people to tears. And you’ll be wildly out of touch with a rapidly evolving world that requires all of us to be artists.
To quote Walt Whitman, the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse.
A new verse.
Even a whole new story.
What will it say?