The Creativity Complex

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Remember that card game where the main point is to scream “BULLSHIT!” at someone if you think they’re lying about the cards they threw down on the table?

Well, every time I hear the words “I’m not creative” come out of someone’s mouth this is exactly what comes to mind.  They just dropped a hand of BS cards on the table in front of me – and it STANKS.  It’s time for all of you wild animals that have ever had those words cross your lips to get called out (with love, of course).

Creativity isn’t something that is reserved for a select few, it’s something that all of us are born with.

Disagree?  Think back to when you were little (or even spend a few minutes observing any little kid).  Didn’t you spend hours happily playing with sticks, sand, and rocks?  Didn’t you get lost in amazing imaginary lands?  Didn’t you make up games, or dances, or words with your friends or siblings?

When you’re little your life is made up of limitless curiosity, possibilities, and imagination.  Creativity is innately part of each of us on a deep level.  I mean, when I was four there was a year-long stretch where I legitimately thought I was The Little Mermaid.  My creative brain ran the show!

As we get older though, we tend to get wrapped up in all of the seriousness of life.  We feel compelled to develop a story around who we are, and what we’re good at, and how we relate to the world around us.  Getting stuck in that story is comfortable for many of us because it allows us to feel like we’ve solidified our identity and can live life from that space of personal power, but what we don’t realize is that getting comfy with a story about who we are stifles our creativity in a huge way.

There have been many times in my life where I have felt my creativity being stifled. And I’ve realized that every single time the culprit had been my own internal dialogue. I have felt I don’t know enough, that I’m afraid of being judged, that others have better ideas than me (i.e. over-identifying with my story and negative self talk).  At times it comes down to plain old laziness/resistance, or even my amazing ability to find something mindless to distract me at any given time (ahem, social media spiral of doom).

Now that we spend large amounts of time each day with our heads wrapped up in what everyone else is doing via endless social media scrolling, TV watching, and internet surfing, we give ourselves very little time (if any) to actually use our brain for creative pursuits.  We don’t even give our brain time to rest while we’re awake if we have any choice in the matter.   Hell, I see people scrolling through Facebook from their mat in the yoga studio (this kills me)!

Creativity breeds creativity, and if our mind is constantly consuming content from outside sources we absolutely obliterate that breeding ground within us.

What I’ve learned is that if we’re able to relearn to regularly find time to get quiet and look within, we’re able to find a place where we can reconnect to the wellspring of creativity that each of us have access to at all times.

I think that many of us fall into the trap of comparison-itis when it comes to creativity.  We think that we’re inferior because other people showcase their creativity in bigger, better ways.  To add insult to injury, some people’s job descriptions even have the word “creative” in it – if people can be professionally creative, how the hell are the rest of us supposed to compete with that?  The answer is that we’re not supposed to compete with anything or anyone when it comes to creativity (and pretty much everything else).  Our imagination and problem-solving skills are personal and unique, and that should be celebrated rather than scrutinized.

You know that euphoric feeling that you get when you come up with an ingenious solution to an obstacle in your life?  Or that pride that overwhelms you when you spend time making something beautiful or delicious? Why would you ever want to rob yourself of those amazing feelings by deciding that you’re not creative?

Reclaiming your creativity takes practice and dedication, but it’s so worth it.  Your brain needs exercise the same way your body does to function optimally (and we shouldn’t ignore that just because we can’t see its muscle tone).

My favorite way to strengthen my creative muscles?  Meditation.  Dedicating time each morning to quieting my mind and developing my cognitive control has boosted my creativity by miles.  If you haven’t already, check out the app Headspace – it does an incredible job of mindfully teaching you meditation techniques from square one.

Even if you’re not formally meditating, just taking the time to be present in your surroundings at any given moment during your day encourages your mind to open up to curiosity, possibilities, and inspiration.

I would absolutely love to hear your take on this, and if you have any techniques that work for strengthening your personal creative muscles.  Drop me a line in the comments below!

As the great Maya Angelou so perfectly said, “You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”

1 Comment

  • Jeanne lambert says:

    Great article Casey. I agree. “I’m thinking” gets the weirdest reaction from people when they ask me what I’m doing when it appears I’m doing nothing! Our society no longer allows for us to just quiet our mind and think!

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