Creativity is a tricky subject. We tend to think of creativity as a skill that someone has. Actually, we tend to consider it the ability to initiate something and that only a certain type of person can do that.
But I would suggest that we are all creative. It’s just that people that are creative for a living have had the confidence, the motivation and the focus to keep doing it for long enough that they have made their living doing it.
What is creativity? Creativity is not just about inventing something new. Most creativity is in fact not that. Most creativity is moving with an existing situation. For instance, you come home and your internet is not working. You had planned to watch Spy on Netflix but now you can’t. Within the fixed space of your evening, within the fixed space of the distance you can travel this evening, how are you going to spend your evening now? That’s a basic form of creativity.
Creativity isn’t BIG ideas. Creativity is usually a set of small ideas which occupy that space around the existing situation. Lots of people think wrongly that creativity is sitting down and coming up with something staggeringly original. This is not the case. And that idea puts people off being creative and keeps them coming back to the misunderstanding that creativity is ‘special’. Actually, it’s not special, it’s lots of tiny normal acts, pulling in a new direction.
Many people treat creativity like the average person doesn’t have it. But we do. We all do. It’s just that you express your creativity within the situation in which you find yourself. The stay at home Dad who forgot an ingredient for his childrens’ dinner, must now use creativity to come up with something new. The artist who has studied the Masters is not expressing her creativity to come up with something entirely new, but to find a series of small and tiny steps for overcoming an existing problem, or making a small divergence away from the norm. In that case, creativity is a reaction to something rather than a fresh invention. Knowledge and experience of the situation allows one to ‘invent’ in reaction and relation to those circumstances.
It’s interesting that the command ‘Be Creative’ is demotivating and usually damages our ability to create. Creating on command is difficult, maybe impossible. Nonetheless, some people believe that the perfect environment and conditions are necessary for us to be creative. Jack White of the White Stripes refutes this entirely when he suggests that he gives himself a fixed period in the studio to come up with an album. There he is setting himself a fixed window, a situation, in which he must create.
Can everyone be creative? Yes they can. If you want to write a play, go and see lots of plays in the theatre. Go and read a lot of plays. And then you can begin. Many people want to write plays who haven’t seen plays and haven’t been to the theatre. These plays are often naive and dull. You cannot design a new sports car if you don’t know anything about designing, or sports cars, or what goes into the design of a sports car. Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but in reaction. Creativity is also domain-specific, the techniques of choreographing a ballet are not the tools for composing a concerto. So creativity not only requires immersion in the subject of creation, but also the tools, techniques, and methods of that subject too.
Can everyone be creative? Yes they can! Our creativity has little to do with making a statue, or inventing a brand new app, and more to do with the tiny things we can do every day which challenge the accepted notions of our everyday situations.
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is the Head of Acting Courses at Acting Coach Scotland.