First post…here goes!
In an article on Quartz.com from March 2017 titled, “Most People Are Secretly Threatened by Creativity,” Jennifer Mueller discusses hidden bias when it comes to creativity within schools and businesses—despite a vocal call for bold, new ideas, they are more likely to shut them down out of fear. Mueller shares a slew of evidence to support her claim, clearly showing that the very same people who tout creative thinking are also afraid to embrace these out-of-the-box solutions. And this, she writes, has to do with our overworked lives and the need for simple answers to the complex problems we face.
This article got me thinking about our own pursuit of creativity and how it can be difficult to commit when logic, as well as our own busy lives, push us to set aside the “making” side of ourselves. The stern voice in our mind says to be serious and let go of fun. As much as we want to create, we shouldn’t since it’s a distraction and not a solution.
Because, isn’t this how we’re trained to think? When dealing with a problem, we look at it logically, seeing a very clear path to the outcome we want. On the flip side, creativity and exploration are not clear paths…they are meandering trails that have no map, which can be overwhelming. However, they also make us feel lighter as we express the beauty within ourselves. What we don’t realize is that it’s possible to walk both paths. That logic and creativity can live together quite happily in our lives.
I found this out myself as I worked a series of unfulfilling jobs. For years, I felt there were two halves to myself, the logical person and the creative person. The logical side desperately wanted to find an “answer”—that one perfect job to pay my bills and make me happy enough to stop the creative thoughts I had—all the what-if I wrote a novel, or what if I tried watercolor painting. Because these things weren’t solutions to my day-to-day issues at work, I pushed them aside, marking them as frivolous. I considered going back to school and applied for more jobs (that I never heard from) than I can count. I wanted a simple answer. But it turned out I had to stop seeking the logical solution.
In her article, Mueller goes on to ask this important question:
“So how do we unleash this potential for innovation? The first step is to face up to our (quite understandable) desire for clear-cut answers that affirm ideas with which we’re familiar. The second is to get motivated to fight our own biases.”
After failed attempts to solve my job problem with another job, I finally started thinking differently. I decided that no career was ever going to make me 100% happy as a creative person. I still worked hard at my job, but I also made a commitment to write as much as I could. My personal time became about being creative, and as years passed, I completed multiple manuscripts and found myself drawn to art after pushing it aside for a decade.
As I let my creativity loose, I learned a valuable lesson: I had to fight for it. I had to fight my own logical mind that said writing and art weren’t going to do much for me personally or financially. And while I don’t make money from my creative ventures, what I make in happiness and quality of life is more than worth the time. I still have to fight my logical mind on a daily basis, but the struggle has become less because I remember what it was like living without creativity at all. That solution, though logical, was the wrong answer for me.
It’s true that we are living in extremely complex times that are inducing anxiety and fear in our society. On top of that, we have our own personal issues to deal with: rent or mortgage payments, a sick family member, struggles with our relationships, jobs or classes we don’t like. And the logic within you may respond with straightforward, uncomplicated answers on how to manage all of these things, which isn’t completely wrong. There is always a place for logic when it comes to problem-solving. But I also believe in using creativity to soften the edges of all that logic. A place to play and have fun, time to lose yourself in the nonsensical and whimsical. In those moments, when your mind isn’t so laser focused, a new idea may come in…one that you hadn’t thought of before. One that answers your problem in a bigger, longer lasting way.
Mueller sums the article up with:
“…to unleash our creative potential, it is not enough to merely generate ideas—we also have to get out of our own way and learn to make creativity count.”
That’s what I’m trying to do in my own life, with my writing and art, and with this blog. If we’re going to be creative (and we should with whatever time, means, or methods available), then we should make it count.