There is no shortage of people out there offering creativity advice. Whether you're willing to invest a Google search or a hefty portion of your training budget, entrepreneurs who want help boosting their creativity quotient will find endless tips, exercises, and affirmations.
But among all this how-to style innovation advice, what you'll rarely find is a consideration of deeper questions. Just what is creativity? Where does it comes from? Who can access it? What does being creative feel like? Which makes a recent article by Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert on the TED blog truly extraordinary.
A deep dive into the hard truths of creativity, Gilbert's eleven insights on the subject will make you rethink fundamental assumptions of what you mean by “creative.” Here's a sample:
1. If you're alive, you're creative.
We often think of creativity as the domain of a special, gifted subset of humans -; unusual creatures magically endowed with a mysterious creative talent. That's rubbish, insists Gilbert. Everybody's creative. If you don't believe that and argue ‘I'm not creative,’ try this exercise -; replace the word ‘creative’ with ‘curious.’
“If you can just release yourself from the anxiety and burden that might be associated with the word ‘creativity,’ because you've fallen for the myth that it only belongs to the special, the tormented and the professional, and you insert the word ‘curious,’ you'll see, in fact, that you are an enormously creative person, because all creativity begins with curiosity. And once you tap into your curiosity and allow yourself permission to follow it wherever it takes you, you will find very quickly that you are living a much more creative life than you were last year,” she writes.
2. Frustration is part of the process.
You might think that you're not very creative because new, innovative projects often frustrate you. News flash: they frustrate everybody. “I have watched so many talented, creative, and inventive people rage against their work, or even worse, stop doing their work because of the frustration that they encountered along the path of whatever it was they were trying to create. And they speak of this frustration as though it is this obstacle from outer space that is ruining everything,” Gilbert says. But this discouragement comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between frustration and creativity.
“The frustration, the hard part, the obstacle, the insecurities, the difficulty, the ‘I don't know what to do with this thing now,’ that's the creative process,” she insists. So stop trying to find a solution that will make creativity easy or painless. It doesn't exist, and if you're not sweating and suffering at all, the results almost certainly won't qualify as creative.
3. Fear is boring (and therefore manageable).
Nope, being creative will never stop being kind of terrifying, but according to Gilbert you shouldn't let that put you off. Not only is fear a fundamental part of being human (“You don't want to get rid of your fear; you need it to keep you alive. We're all here because we had fear that preserved us,” she writes), but it's also manageably straightforward. You are smarter than your lizard brain.
“Fear is the oldest, deepest and least subtle part of our emotional life, and so therefore it's boring. It's dull. It doesn't have any nuance. So have a little conversation with your fear when it starts to get riled up when you're trying to do something creative. Let it know, ‘I'm just trying to write a poem, no one's going to die.’ But don't try to go to war against it, that's such a waste of energy. Just converse with it and then move on,” she suggests.