What Creativity Is Not

Woman with blue hair and tattoos

When I was a kid I used to do this very odd thing. I’d take a common word like rope, and I would say it over and over again. “Rope, rope, rope, rope,” until what was once a very known, very familiar word, would lose all it’s meaning until it became just a syllabic utterance.

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There’s another word out there that I hear repeated almost every day. I read about it, people bandy it about in normal conversation, and now it’s begun to sound just like rope did. The word is creativity.

Everyone wants to become more creative; everyone admires the creative types. But on the negative side I’m constantly hearing people say, “I’m not a creative type. I’m not a creative person.”

I could be wrong, but I believe we are confusing creativity with skill sets. Having a skill set is one thing, and it’s wonderful, but it doesn’t have anything to do with being creative. For example, we believe that the guy who plays the piano really well, or the woman who creates abstract sculpture are the creative people. We can’t help but see the people with nipple rings and neck tattoos, as creative types. And on the flip side, we believe that insurance salesmen, actuaries, retailers and mail carriers, are not creative. But here’s the news — it’s absolute crap.

As an artist and musician I’ve been through countless periods where I’m just repeating the same thing over and over again. Just because I wear a porkpie hat, and have a little goatee, doesn’t make me creative. Oftentimes, in spite of my job title, I’m the most dull, uncreative person in the world.

What does make you creative is when you’re fearless. When you’re able to respond in the moment to whatever stimuli are around you. When you’re creative you’re thinking in a new way. You’re saying to yourself, “Oh my God the world is a singular and wonderous place. The things I see, don’t register as overly familiar because I imbue them in this very moment with wonder.”

Seeing the world with new eyes, eyes that are not dulled by fear, constitutes a truly creative state of mind. That’s a state of mind, which any actuary, any meat-cutter, or truck driver, can access as easily as any folk singer, beat poet, or jazz pianist.

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