On creativity…

Lego Jeep at the Maker Faire

I went to the Maker Faire this weekend and was dazzled by all the creativity. People – adults – had spent hours playing and creating, and had come up with amazing contraptions that they just needed to share with the world. I got to play all day; I felt like a child. I remarked to my dad later that most adults lose this sense of play. They deem creativity as something for artists, not for them.

But I believe that we’re all inherently creative. The difference is that only a few people practice it. Creativity is a practice (much like meditation). You have to work at it. You have to play. You also have to accept that you’re venturing into something unknown, and that you could fail, but you’re willing to take that risk. Being creative is not easy at first, at least not for us adults.

Here’s what it’s like for me to be creative: I start working on something new. I’m unsure about where it’s going. I allow myself not to know. But then, thoughts of every failure, or every misstep I’ve ever made in my life come flooding into my mind. I can’t stop them. The more I think about stopping them, the faster they come. So, instead, I let them in. And then I let them go. They try to take hold but they can’t; there’s no place for them to land. The spongy, creative part of my brain is already humming with the vibrations that come from creating. All the gunk bounces off. And – sometimes in seconds, sometimes in days – I find myself miraculously thought-free, in the zone, one with my creative flow.

I suspect it’s this way for most artists. We don’t sit down at our computer or pick up our pencils and expect the first sentence we write or the first sketch we make to be brilliant. Rather, it’s often the opposite. We hear voices – voices that tell us we’re failures, then so kindly offer us proof of this. We struggle to get something, anything, down without proving the voices correct. Little by little, we become engrossed in our work. The voices are still there, but we’re not listening. Then they’re gone. When that happens – freedom. Wide, empty spaces for our brains to play appear. But we often don’t notice the shift because we are so incredibly present.

I imagine that children don’t think this way. I don’t think that they even think. They just do. It’s not so easy for us adults. We think we’re not creative because our thoughts tell us we’re not. But if we all pushed through and just did, regardless of what our thoughts told us, we’d be so free.

I once read that the most successful scientists are often the most creative. In allowing room for play and wonder, they make space for innovation. Imagine what the world would look like if we all allowed ourselves to be creative – not just crazy machines and robots and self-propelled Ferris wheels, but different ways of solving problems, of working and of living.

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