Are People Born Creative?

Are People born Creative?

Do you have that one friend, neighbor or classmate who just seems to find a way to do something new and original every time? It just feels like they’re one step ahead of the rest of us.

Perhaps it’s someone you read about, whose works you still stare at in awe. You think about the Da Vincis, the Mozarts, the Giottos and the many inventors that drove technological advancements with their great minds and hands and you wonder if we were all born with the same kind of brain.

Maybe you’re wondering how your favourite writer just seems to come up with fresh and engaging stories one title after another, always publishing your favorite crime, adventure, romance or tragedy.

Is it in sports, music, film or fine art? There are just so many ways people express their ingenuity everyday. The first thing that comes to mind is; “They are so creative”. Creativity speaks to freshness, originality and inventiveness. You ask yourself if some people are gifted with creativity? Is it a part of the genetic makeup or is it developed overtime? Are people born creative or the entire human race has the capacity to be? The answer to this question lies in the question; “how creative were you as a child”?

Everyone has the potential to be creative and it can be improved with practice like most skills. A lot of people can lack creativity if they don’t let it develop as a child. But as we go into adulthood, we somehow chose to accept that only a few “chosen ones” have the privilege to be extraordinary.

What does it mean to be creative?

I guess it all comes down to the definition of creativity. For no fault of ours, we have been made to restrict creativity to the arts; painting, drawing, music, film, writing, and so on. But it shouldn’t be so. The Oxford Dictionary defines creativity as Inventiveness; using imagination or original ideas to create something. The California State University describes the term as the ability to view things from a different perspective and in new ways.

The above definitions align with that of Robert Franken. In his book, Human Motivation, he likens Creativity to the ability to recognize ideas or generate them; to recognize or generate alternatives or possibilities that should help solve problems. He didn’t stop there. Franken adds that these ideas, alternatives and possibilities may also be useful in communicating with others, as well as entertaining others and ourselves.

These are indeed broader perspectives. One would wonder where some people got the idea that only people who do arts or science are and can be creative. When people say the world is, in fact, just a canvas, what they are trying to say is that you should express yourself in any unique way you can. That is what creativity is. Whether it is in the way you dress, your cooking, or something as natural as the way you talk, you can explore creativity any way you choose.

There’s a reason why many people are often too focused on painters, actors and writers as creative. Psychologists call it the Big-C creativity. When we think of such, we think of Elon Musk and Albert Einstein. This type is easily recognizable; they flood our TV sets and the pages of our newspapers. They are celebrated, mostly because they have attained some milestones and achievements through some professional-level kind of performance.

But there is also small-scale creativity; the everyday spark of genius that sometimes shows up unannounced, the spur of the moment, the little details that beautify everyday life. It is mostly about thinking outside the box or throwing the box away altogether. Doing something away from the routine or expected, or simply not ordinary.

Creativity is both an art and a science. It is an art because it propels humans to do and to make; to think, to plan and to execute. Also, what is done should have some sort of value and appreciation, otherwise, it’s a waste of time. As a science, creativity has a lot to do with the brain. A great amount of cognitive effort is required to put aside the distraction and “routine” knowledge in order to come up with new ideas.

For instance, if you’re asked; “what can you do with a pen?”, routine knowledge immediately says, “write”. It takes an effort to put that aside and think of innovative uses of a pen. That is something the brain helps with. Two things are required here; memory and mental control. You need memory to remember knowledge and you need control to push old knowledge aside and think up new ones.

Why is being creative important?

It is important to establish that creativity is a very important human trait. In fact, it is one of the things that make us human. That said, it will be impossible to solve problems without creativity. Think about how life and society have transformed over centuries because people dared to do things differently. The inventions and creations, the changes, policies and decisions that have changed the course of mankind over time.

Think about how we moved from walking several miles to inventing the bicycle, tricycle, and the horse cart, and how more innovative thinking led to inventing a car, the train, a ship and even the plane. What would life be today if people didn’t think beyond their reality? That is what creativity does; it brings about changes and solves problems. You’re able to see things differently and see possibilities in the midst of problems. Creativity also breaks through limitations and gives you the power to be a better person.

Why do some people lack creativity?

All humans should be creative because we are all born to be. There have been some studies that have attempted to establish a connection between genetics and creativity. While that is still an ongoing research, the commonplace knowledge is that all humans are born with some level of creative ability. It all boils down to expression and usage. How well you’re able to do things creatively often depends on how well you’re able to condition your mind to apply your creativity.

At the risk of sounding like a motivational speaker; we’ve all got creativity inside of us. You have to dig deep and bring it out. People don’t necessarily lack creativity. They simply forgot how to be creative. Some experts blame this on the school system; the demand for grades, expectations and limitations of society and the corporate world. I once read somewhere that creativity was simply “educated out of us”.

The society has actually done more harm in this regard. They create “special schools” for so-called “creatives” and condemn the rest of the world to thinking there’s nothing special about them. This gives the impression that only those few taken out of the group are actually creative. Ever wondered why so many people dropped out of school to fully explore their creativity? Some quit their job and let go of the social structure that says this is the way to go.

Is Creativity a Skill?

There is a long-standing debate as to whether creativity is a skill or an inborn trait. Let us understand the two concepts;

  • A skill is something that can be learnt and developed.
  • An inborn trait is something that naturally applies to you from birth.

The truth is, all humans are born with the capacity to be creative, except for the few exceptions who may be born with neurological defects. Everyone has the ability to think and act creatively. The difference is usually seen when one person develops that creativity and another does not. This is why I believe creativity is both a skill and an inborn trait. But more importantly, creativity is a mindset. You have the capacity to be creative but you also need to develop that capacity, and be willing to use it.

A lot of people can’t be creative because they lack the confidence to express creativity. You had this confidence as a child, but somehow, along the path to adulthood, you lost it. If you desire to explore your creativity, you have to develop it. Chris Bennet of Wonderschool refers to tactics and “foundational things” to be creative. So, to truly be creative, you have to recognize that you have the capacity to be creative, that a group of skills have to be honed to support your creativity, and that you need to have courage and self-efficacy to apply those skills.

Is being creative the same as imagination?

Let me start by saying that imagination is a creative trait, but it is just one of the many things that creativity entails. Creativity is much more than that. Imagination is the ability to mentally create something or an idea. But that is where it stops- in your mind. Creativity, on the other hand, is applying that imagination and going ahead to create what has been imagined. Imagination is one step in a series of actions that make up creativity.

Imagination is a useful tool, but it should never be confused with creativity. They are closely related but are not the same thing. Imagination plays with boundaries of reality, takes your mind to abstract thoughts and possibilities, but is confined to intangible things. It lacks purpose. Creativity is purpose-oriented- it is called upon to achieve something purposeful.

Can I learn to be more creative?

Yes! That is the simple answer. You can learn to be more creative. Not in a classroom or lecture hall, not through seminars or conferences, and certainly not through a coaching programme (even though several schools and institutes have set up programs to teach people to be more creative). It’s like playing a piano; you learn to play better by playing. The reason is because creativity is not knowledge that anyone can impart. It is already inside of you and you just have to find a way to get it out and let it attain its full potential. That is what learning to be creative means.

Meredith Allen of the General Assembly blog provides three easy tricks to help you improve your creativity. She says you should;

  • Relax; play a game or take a walk if you have to, but just take your mind off normal obligations.
  • Stop self-editing; be open to thinking freely, don’t criticize the direction of your thoughts just yet. Don’t see any idea as stupid just yet and don’t be afraid of having an idea. You can critique your ideas later.
  • Don’t give up; Consistency, discipline, practice and time are very important to sustaining and improving your creativity. If that one idea doesn’t work that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.

Final Thoughts

The next time you think about Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon and go “wow”, avoid the temptation of thinking that people like him are a special breed. Instead, think about the little ways you can start the Little-C creativity to develop into something beautiful and amazing. The hard truth, whether you believe it or not, is that you were born creative.

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