Most of us look at aspects of our lives and world, wishing they could be different in some way. It feels impossible that it could ever get better. We need creativity. We need to think uniquely and usefully so we stop doing the same thing in the same way, getting the same results over and over again.
According to people who study these sorts of things, ‘creativity’ is a relatively new addition to conversation. For the purpose of study and measurement, it is commonly defined as something that is both unique and useful. Creative thinkers help us tease out new solutions and new futures in the midst of existing problems. They inspire us to see the world differently than before. For me, I am increasingly convinced about the importance of providing an environment that encourages the development of creativity in communities. For creativity to have an impact, I am realising two incredibly important pillars that need to be in place.
The opportunity to think differently. We’re not talking about a pseudo individuality here. This is the genuine appreciation for difference. Giving people the opportunity to think differently means that my way might not be the best (or right) way. It is the opposite of conformity of thought and action. It is not limited to one alternate, but many. For someone who sews, creativity is exercised in anything from choosing the colours for a project, to creating a whole new pattern, to sewing a zipper in with a different method. Creativity won’t make sense if you haven’t been given the opportunity to think differently. If you haven’t been given that opportunity in a very long time, you can give it a workout, like a muscle. Go back to the colouring books and, instead of painting the sky blue, change the colours of your whole picture to look a little less realistic. Pick up an object and try to come up with 20 different uses for it other than what it is intended for. Take an autumn leaf off the ground and take a minute to run your fingers over the top, edges and bottom. Look at it up close. Look at it from a distance. See it differently than you have before. Feel it differently than you have before. Visit an artist or an art museum and try to see through their eyes. Let wonder and curiousity back into your life.
The opportunity for skill development. Language is one of the first things we learn as children. Babies experiment with sounds, playing with them as they roll off the tongue until they form into words, sentences and stories. Spoken language becomes a skill that is accessible by the majority of people in the world. Is it any wonder that music, poetry and storytelling are found in every culture in the world? Language and its development shapes the way we view and interpret the world around us. As language changes, we change. As we change, language changes. Language is our first and foremost skill to use creatively. What new ways can we use it to bring meaning to our lives? To become someone who sews (clothes, blankets, curtains, cushions, tents …) there are a few necessary requirements: knowledge of fabric and its care, a needle, thread and knowledge of construction technique. Of course, you also have to have fabric to learn with, not just the knowledge of it. Without these, you will never be able to exercise creativity with fabric. You will only be a dreamer who imagines possibilities. This is the difference between thinking uniquely and thinking creatively. With only skill development, you will create the same thing over and over again. This is the difference between being skilled and being creative.
I like to start where I am, with what I have in my hands. What opportunities have I been given already with the knowledge and materials I have in my hands? Then I begin to think about the many different ways I could use them. Most of my ideas are really rubbish and need to be disregarded. This isn’t failure; this is pruning. Eventually, I will stumble upon something really good that helps me create something beautiful.
We need creative people. We need them in our businesses, in our governments, in our schools, in our communities, in our churches and in our homes.
How can you think differently today? What angles haven’t you considered? What opportunities for skill development are available to you? How can you give courage to someone to think differently today? What skill can you pass on to them? Let’s be creative people together.