Monday, June 3, 2013

Creativity Is a Way of Life

Photo: McKee Jewelry Designs
Today is Monday, June 3, 2013.

According to the dictionary, the definition of creativity is the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, or interpretations.  Synonyms are originality, progressiveness, and imagination.  

A lot of people will tell you that they are not creative, but they are using too narrow a definition of the word.  If you look once again at the definition above, there is nothing in it about painting or drawing a picture, sculpting something, making jewelry, knitting, or any of the other activities that we usually associate with creativity.  

There is something in there about transcending traditional ideas, transcending traditional rules, transcending traditional patterns, transcending traditional relationships.   

Scientists who have transcended traditional ideas have been the ones to discover new ideas that move humanity forward.  At one point, it took a lot of guts to say that the earth orbited the sun, and not vice versa, that people of every race are basically the same inside, or that the earth was a whole lot older than the Church reckoned.  One thing is clear: scientists will continue to explore new ground, and it will take more traditionally-minded people a while to catch up.  Without creative thinking, we are all stuck in a rut.  I would guess that in a majority of cases, new ideas tend to go against accepted wisdom, or so-called "common sense."   Einstein's Theory of Relativity was one of those things, because if you try to envision what it means by visualizing a situation here on the earth, it violates our intuitive sense of how things should go.  Fortunately, Einstein was smart enough to trust his math skills over "common sense."  His ideas have paved the way for a lot of other new ideas that would still shock the average person on the street, if they could understand them.

Young people, especially, are good at "transcending" rules, which is a nice way of saying that they break them.  This year, alone, high school students have held a racially-mixed prom in a little town where it had never been done before and voted a gay couple as the "cutest couple" for the yearbook.  One young woman courageously wore an eagle feather with her graduation cap and gown, as a badge of honor, since she is Native American.  (She is being denied her diploma because of this, but I suspect that the high school doesn't really have a legal right to do that.)  In all of these cases, the kids have broken the "rules" - that couples who attend a prom should be of the same race and opposite sex, and that all the graduates should look alike.   

There is a TV commercial for Cheerios on TV right now that features a white mother, black father, and obviously mixed child.  (Since I don't have a TV, I had to learn about this on the Internet.)  The little girl is a real cutie.  She asks her mother if Cheerios is really good for your heart, and her mother says yes, so the little girl grabs the box and runs out of the room.  Next, we see her daddy lying on the sofa, taking a nap.  He has just woken up, and realizes that his daughter poured Cheerios on his "heart" while he was sleeping.  The ad is really well done, and despite a whole lot of hate mail and racist comments on YouTube, the company has stood by their ad.  Someday ads like this will be commonplace, as will ads that feature gay couples or gay parents of children.  It will just take a while for some people to get with the program. 

Same-sex couples have always transcended the traditional male-female model of marriage, but these days, more and more states are opting to allow them to make their relationships legal.  There are other non-traditional relationships, however, such as a man with several wives – with his own show on TV, no less.  (My mom is addicted to this show.)   There may be women with more than one husband, too, but they don't have their own show, yet.   Or what about Thomas Beatie, the transgender man who had a baby?   "I feel it's not a male or female desire to have a child. It's a human need. I'm a person and I have the right to have a biological child," he said.  Of course, traditional dads who leave the birth process to their wives also have a biological child, but Beatie was talking about having the child himself.   By now, he has had three children, and moved from Oregon to Arizona, where his marriage is not considered legal.  This is more trouble than you might think, because he wants to get an official divorce.  More breaking of rules!

You don't have to stand out like the folks above in order to be considered creative, though.  You can still engage in "everyday creativity," and no, that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to get back into macramé or tye-dyeing.  You can learn to think out of the box when you solve problems, and you can get more comfortable with doing things in new ways. 

Creative people often do things like changing their hairstyle or taking a different way to work.  They make change, itself, part of their lifestyle.  They tend to be open-minded and curious about all kinds of things.  They tend to be positive and energetic.  They tend to be persistent, rather than giving up easily.  They are flexible and adaptable, and they learn from their mistakes.  Although they enjoy social stimulation, they also tend to need some "alone time" every day.  In some ways, their willingness to try new ideas is regarded as childlike naïveté.  

It's important to realize that everyone is born with creativity, but it is one of those qualities that needs to be honed.  You can do this, in general, by exploring opposites.  For example, if you are a morning person, try doing something at night.  If you're a night person, try getting up early to do something.  If you're a "busy" person, try being idle for a while.  If you're very "girly," try dressing like a tomboy.  

Christine Kane, a motivational coach, identified 21 ways to be more creative.  As I read the list, I was really surprised at how many of these things I have already done at one time or another.  Perhaps you will be surprised, too.   Her first and last item were the same, because she feels so strongly about it.  Here's her list minus the duplication, with the ones I have done in bold. 

1.  Stop watching TV.  Even better: get rid of the TV.   
2.  Take a 20-minute walk every day.
3.  Write in longhand with pen/pencil and paper.
4.  Write songs to your pets.
5.  Dance around the house.
6.  Walk in the rain.
7.  Make a collage. (no, not a "vision board" - just a collage with no particular purpose)
8.   Make a list of things you love - and focus on one of them.
9.   Write 10 postcards.
10. Get up early and watch the sun rise.
11. Listen to music you've never listened to before.
12. Eat with your hands.
13. Be quiet - allow for more silence in your life.  (I keep harping on meditation.)
14. Take a nap.  (This works especially well when you're trying to solve a problem. Short naps are OK, but give yourself 2 hours if you're not used to this.  That will give you a couple of REM sleep periods.) 
15. Take photos - real ones, not digital.
16. Make an event about watching the full moon come up.
17. Read poetry aloud.
18. Go see a play, concert, or other live entertainment.
19. Visit an art gallery for inspiration.
20. Write a letter - with pen and paper.

That's 16 out of 20 for me.  How did you do?   I could add things like taking a different route to work, going for a Sunday drive in a part of town you are unfamiliar with, changing your hairstyle, wearing a color that you've never worn before,  taking a vacation to a new place (rather than going "up to the lake" every year), eating something completely new, such as starfruit, Asian pears, or tofu.  (Considering its availability, I am always amazed at how many people haven't tried it – around here, anyway.) 

Think of one new thing you can do this week, or a new way of doing something old.  Make that list of things you love and circle one item to focus on.  You are more creative than you think! :-) 

No comments: