“The more you have, the more you use”
We’ve all heard this phrase (or a similar one), randomly shouted by our famous motivational quotes jukebox kind of friend. “What you don’t understand is that creativity is like muscle you know, you have to train it to perform, etc.”
But WHAT IS actually creativity?
I bet someone has already told you – is this someone wasn’t you: « I’m not a creative person, I’ve never been able to [insert activity] in my life ». Well, this is a problem. This saying nourishes a bunch of widespread clichés, restraining creativity to a minority.
Often mixed with imagination and the ancient notion of «genius», creativity hints at an innate power only some chosen people possess. Moreover, it even implies a form of deity. Indeed, the term « genius » derives from the latin genius (how surprising), itself a sort of spin-off of the verb gingno, which literally means « giving life to ». Applied to the creative field, this refers to (a) god’s ability to envision and invent new concepts – aka give life to the inanimate. Very much like the common definition of an artist…
Traditionally, creativity was considered as being the sole privilege of higher artists (whose gestures and imagination would even surpass nature as Kant put it). In a way, the creative spirit was (and still is in our society), considered as a visionary, able to bring to life opaque concepts.
Another widespread belief affirms that imagination / creativity is innate indeed (the good old “child innocence”), and disappears gradually as we age. In this case, adulthood is the creative equivalent of death by KO in what we could call the ring of life. But many people would tell you that creativity is like wine and has to mature – and be polished – with time.
Plus, it seems lately that creativity has regained his gallons and stands next to “disruption” on the innovation buzzwords podium. BUT WHY?
WHY IS creativity so popular nowadays?
If creativity is the skill to think ahead of your time and go the extra step, then you must understand its value to business.
With globalization, cultural harmonization, and all that economic jazz, differentiation becomes more and more challenging. The ability to see things in a new light then helps businesses grow differently. The slight enhancements or major differences added to any product or service ensures a certain distinction for actors playing in a highly competitive field.
On a more humane and down-to-earth level, we also have to realise the new issues we’re facing require high adaptation and imagination on our part… and what is better than creativity to imagine new solutions for future problems?
PRACTISE MAKES PERFECT
CAN WE LEARN IT THOUGH?
Why would there be art schools / dance schools / acting schools if creativity was a natural gift? For the bests? Or for masochists knowing their case is lost but try anyway in hope for a miracle?
Let’s take a famous example.
PICASSO. As Rome, Picasso wasn’t made in a day. In fact, I even doubt we’d call a younger Picasso’s work A Picasso. But why is that?
The self-portraits gallery above shows that Picasso evolved – quite a lot – in his art. Each time a different trait is enhanced, removed or simplified.
With his ultimate self portraits, we can recognise « our » modern Picasso’s cubist style. The more he practised, the more he grew close to what made «the core» of his art. In this case, the artist almost becomes an artisan working on its raw material, perfecting his/her technique as time goes by. With this, we see that art – and creativity – requires time to better… like any other discipline.
keep track of the line
Back at the HIVE – a residency I did in the south of france in 2017 –, we had to perform daily an exercise called: The Creative Line (which you can do at home as well if you’re really into it). Its was meant to be integrated in our lives as a “morning routine”. It was the first time Djeff – our program designer –, tested the process on a longer timeframe.
So, what was exactly The Creative Line? Every morning, entering the HIVFE cylinder, we would find, piled up on a table, samples of colorless coloring-sketches. Of course, the patterns didn’t change from day to day – it would have been too fun to be true. The rule was written on a small blackboard next to the pile: “Chose one, then it’s up to you. You have five minutes.” And once the time was up, we all posted on Slack to check in with the others – and discover their creations.
Sometimes , during discovery weeks, when we left quite early in the morning, we forgot about the exercise. But – sadly –the Creative Line never did us. It creeped on us like a stalker. Its format allowed the staff to bring it everywhere with us, only changing the context but not the game.
In the beginning, we experimented with colors, tried different patterns, different places. Then, we realized we could bend the rules to our will – because, you know, what’s not forbidden is allowed. Some started cutting paper, molding it, teaming up, or playing with the material itself… the possibilities were – in theory – endless. Unfortunately, what could have become a nice habit became for many – myself above all –, a weary chore. Even after the mythical “warming up month”*, the Creative Line didn’t stick. At first, I couldn’t seem to understand the purpose of such an exercise. I understood the prime goal aka as “creatives”, we had to create – consequently.
But, looking around me, I realized many of us had already came up with “tricks and routines” of their own to keep on performing well in their field of art. Artists – like Alice, Laureline or Pauline –, drew or sketched almost daily. Pierre coded whenever he could, I wrote everyday some lines, and Walid played and composed music endlessly. Maybe this was the reason the Creative Line wasn’t appropriate for us, at least on such a long period. It did however, highlight the importance to train for your art.
As Picasso, Mozart or anyone else, it’s the practise that both make the style and the artist. Of course – as any other field –, some might have facilities in a domain. But if not fuelled, this initial talent might never evolve and be exploited to its full potential. So, if you like an art, practise, test out the waters. Who knows what diamond you’ll carve once polished?
Some random examples below
What are you waiting for? Go create!
* “Warming up month“: usually when we try to break a habit, rumour has it takes approximately a month to let it sink in. Curious? G**gle it