Creativity is a bitch. It really is. Trust me I know. I practice creating daily and it is damn hard. Much harder than most of the physical feats I have ever accomplished. Yes I know, doing an Iron Distance triathlon is nothing to sneeze at but the reality is that endurance triathlon is simply the culmination of months worth of practice. Repetition of the same coach prescribed activities time and time again. In all honesty most days I feel like it would be easier to do a long training run than sit down and be creative. It would be far less painful for me to run a marathon rather than to sit at a blank computer screen watching the cursor blink, willing myself to write.
What is "Creativity"?
For many, many years I would have told you that I do not have a creative bone in my body. After all, I am not a talented painter, drawer, sculptor or artist in the traditional sense of the word. Although I enjoyed wailing on an electric guitar with a cigarette jammed under the strings above the nut, I could hardly be called musically gifted.
Google defines creativity as:
Although I prefer what dictionary.com has to say on creativity:
the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns,relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms,methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination:
the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.
When I reflect on my life, and especially my career, I realize that I am actually one very creative cat. While I may not be the calm, cool reflection of the eccentric, hipster artist that I would so love to be, all of my business successes have been born out of creativity. The business I run today came from me seeking a way to solve problems that I saw in the market place. The affordable housing initiative that I co-founded was a creative endeavor to solve a specific problem.
As someone who loves to write and speak, giving myself permission to do both can only truly happen once I can recognize myself as a creative individual. This for me has long been a major obstacle. You will never excel beyond the limitations of your beliefs. Your beliefs drive your behaviors, which ultimately determine your results.
I think one of the major factors that makes me fearful of attempting to be creative is the notion that there are no original ideas anymore. That everything has already been said. That every idea has been written or spoken already. Dating back to the ancient philosophers, to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, the original self development scientist or Napolean Hill, how can we possibly consider that we have anything original to contribute to society? How can I suppose that anything I have to say hasn't already been said and done.
This fundamental fear hit me square in the face again this last week at a conference I MC'ed. I had a wonderful conversation with a young women in the business about philosophy, business and life. I talked about the fact that I do not believe in work/life 'balance' as such and think that we need to strive more for work/life 'integration'. I will write another article on that at some point in full. The thing that was funny happened the next day when our afternoon speaker used almost identical words in his keynote. When I ran into the woman I had been speaking to later that day she mentioned it and thought how odd it was that a somewhat unique concept had been brought forward twice less than 24 hours.
This is why I love that second definition. The idea of being able to transcend traditional ideas to create meaningful new ideas speaks to me and gives me immeasurable hope each time I sit down to write. Every time I get up on stage and speak or anytime I have a one on one conversation. It is the reason I try so many different activities and experiment with so many different ideas.
Every word I write, every sentence I speak and every story I tell may not be 100% unique but maybe, just maybe the way I write it, speak it, or present it may resonate with someone who has never picked up on the concept before. I am always astounded when, after a presentation, someone comes up to me and remarks on a particular piece of what I said and how much it affected them. It is often things that I had come close to throwing out of the draft version of the speech. It happens almost every time that something I did not feel particularly important gets remarked on.
It is a great reminder that we should never assume anything about our audience and what is important to them. Put your doubts aside and listen to your audience. Whether you are a speaker with a literal audience or an entrepreneur with an audience of potential customers you need to listen to what resonates with them.
There was a time where I would have abhorred the idea of investing in the "Arts". A time where my logical left brain would have told you that that was simply a waste of money. It is amazing how far your beliefs can swing over time, with maturity, age and experience. I know realize that it is art and creativity that drives the very fabric of our world. That all innovation is art. That creativity flows within all of our veins whether we release it or not is up to us.
And while you may believe that there are no original ideas anymore. That all the good things have been done, all the great problems solved. I implore you to find your creativity where ever it lies and remember this... The Mona Lisa was simply just another portrait of a woman.