Shalu Wasu | Mar 25, 2010
Creativity has long been looked upon as an activity behind the closet. No wonder many myths have developed around the creative process. Not to be left behind, there are many myth busters out there as well!
What myth proponents and myth busters refuse to see is that creativity is a very individual thing. It is not a subject of study amenable to rules and too many do‚Äôs and don‚Äôts.
Here are some common myths about creativity along with my comments:
Myth 1: Creativity is inborn and only a chosen few are creative.
While it is true that creativity is inborn, it is not true that only a chosen few are creative. Everyone is born creative. In the process of growing up, educating ourselves and adapting ourselves to our environment, we slowly add blocks to our creativity and forget that we had it in the first place. The difference between a creative person and a person who is not so creative is not in the creativity that they were born with but in the creativity that they have lost.
Myth 2: Creativity can be developed by using certain methods, tools and techniques.
Methods are okay as stepping stones to creativity but eventually they act as mental straitjackets. They hinder creativity for the simple reason that creativity is not a predetermined path. It is about laying out your own path. While methods come from experience, creativity is a foray into the unknown. There can therefore be no formulas or recipes for being creative.
Myth 3: Creative people are weird.
Well, some of them may come across as ones but most are regular people who wear a tie and have bosses to report to. The truth is that everyone is creative in their own way. It may be a hard pill to swallow but even the most stuffy, straight-laced person is as creative as anyone else. It‚Äôs just how and how much one uses one‚Äôs creativity. So the statement ‚ÄúCreative people are weird‚Äù suddenly turns into ‚ÄúAll people are weird‚Äù. And being a little different never hurt anyone anyway?
PS: Some of the most creative people are the bureaucrats and ministers in Singapore. (You surely need creativity to make rules, not to follow them.) You will agree that they are far from being weird!
Myth 4: Only the creative types have creative ideas.
We all have this mental image of the ‚Äòcreative types‚Äô complete with the goatee, piercings and the coffee mug. Well, these ‚Äòcreative types‚Äô in most cases are creative and are able to come up with ideas but that does not preclude everyone else from being creative as well. The fact is, almost all of the research in this field shows that anyone with normal intelligence is capable of doing some degree of creative work. Creativity depends on a number of things: experience, knowledge, technical skills, talent, an ability to think in new ways and the capacity to push through uncreative dry spells. Intrinsic motivation is especially critical.
Myth 5: Creativity is spontaneous.
This is certainly true. We have all experienced that brilliant moment, when seemingly out of nowhere, we get some brilliant idea. It can happen, anytime, anywhere (it usually happens to me when I am shaving). But the opposite is not necessarily untrue. Creativity can be worked upon as well.
Ideas, concepts, images, tunes, and phrases do pop into consciousness for no apparent reason, but scientists have discovered that creativity is mostly conscious, hard work. Mozart‚Äôs ‚Äòspontaneous inspirations‚Äô were no accident. Mozart worked incredibly hard and was enormously productive. He came out of an era in which the musician was related to the craftsman. Craftsmen don‚Äôt wait for spontaneous inspiration. They get to work.
Myth 6: Creativity only applies to science and the fine arts.
This one I completely disagree with. Creativity can enhance and enrich each and every experience be it work, relationships, investing, sports and even accounting! To be alive is to be creative and to be creative is to be alive.
Myth 7: Pressure situations spark creativity.
To each his own is what I say. High pressure situations work for a lot of people. People come up with wonderful ideas with their backs to the wall. At the same time, relaxed situations and environments also tend to spur ideas in a lot of people. The key is to identify what works best for you.
Myth 8: Competitive situations foster creativity better than cooperative situations.
Reminds me of the capitalism vs. communism debate! Competition causes lots of ideas to be generated and sometimes companies create an environment where the employee with the best idea is rewarded. While this method does work, it works for all the wrong reasons. By keeping ideas to themselves, the employees don‚Äôt allow ideas to be refined by anyone else‚Äôs input. They just work silently on their own and hoard up ideas for the opportune moment.
Collaboration gives an extra something to even the best ideas. Without it, the idea is limited by just one person‚Äôs perspective. It could have been helped along by a couple of more minds.
Myth 9: Creativity is a specialist‚Äôs role.
It‚Äôs amazing how many people discount ‚Äòprofessional‚Äô creativity as something reserved for people like designers and writers. Not true! In fact, I‚Äôd argue that just about any job can be helped by a healthy dose of creative thinking.
Myth 10: Creative people always have great ideas.
Most creative people only have a few great ideas out of a barrel-full. It‚Äôs these few ‚Äúgems‚Äù that make the process worthwhile for the dreamer. They too encounter failure like anyone else. But then failure drives them to try harder the next time.
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