Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

The Romanticization of Creativity.

I never used to regard myself as “creative” in any way or form, both in the act of creative thinking or ascribing yourself the title “creative.” It wasn’t a low esteem thing; I can tell you that for sure. I was (and still am) super confident in myself and my abilities. The issue was just that I didn’t think I was creative enough. I mean I couldn’t sing, draw, write or paint, and I was a mediocre dancer and actor. It seemed like there was no creative field left for me. What even made it worse was the book, articles and TED talks I searched diligently for direction on how to be more creative. They all gave so many crazy tips: doodle daily or generate many ideas or take walks or find your inner child. Really? What does “find your inner child” even mean? And not everyone can doodle, I mean I can’t even draw a circle if there was a gun to my head, so how am I supposed to draw a whole figure? It was madness, I tell you. I spent about 6 years on this journey and I still felt as incompetent as I did when I embarked on the journey. It was all so ridiculous.

It wasn’t until I learnt about the fake letter on Mozart’s creative process that it began to make sense to me. In his book “How to Fly a Horse”, Kevin Ashton talked about the discrepancy between this letter allegedly written by Mozart and other letters Mozart actually wrote. The mysterious letter only came to light years after he died and there was no proof he actually wrote it. Even if he did, it should have been treated as an exception and not idealized, but you know how humans are. The letter spread like wildfire. In a generation that already held the belief that creativity was innate, for a specific set of people only and a gift from God, this letter furthered that notion. Humans being humans jumped at it. Thousands of articles, papers and books have been written, all in aim to explain the special phenomenon that is creativity. What I find particularly interesting is that the many attempts of people to explain this phenomenon further mystified it. It’s all madness, I tell you.

So here we are, in 2020, and people still believe these things. People still believe that creativity is not for everyone. People still believe that people are born creative and that there is no template for understanding creativity; it just happens like magic. Lmao lies. Creativity is not exclusive. Everyone is creative, and everyone is a creative. Creativity is just at different levels, and it manifests itself in different ways, that is what people have chosen not to understand. Same goes for intelligence. No one is stupid, and that’s on that (argue with yourself). Even people born with mental disabilities or genetic birth effects are not stupid. Intelligence is just at different levels and has different expressions. Now you may disagree with me and honestly you’re allowed to, but I’ve seen the proof of this time and time again. You see, racism, classism & adjacently eugenics led people to believe that some people are better than others. This belief stands as the foundation of a lot of our “modern” practices of stratification. So we have the: rich, middle class and poor or geniuses, average intelligence and unintelligent.

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The truth is this; stratification is useless and pointless. Stratification is a lie and a social construct that has done more damage than good to people and the society at large. Here’s the truth about intelligence and creativity: “As long as long as you have a brain, you are intelligent and creative, all you need to do is to find your expression.” Creativity is a skill. And while your lived experiences and environment contributes to your level of creativity, creativity can still be learnt. A popular misconception about creativity that needs to be destroyed is that only people who are performers (musicians, dancers, actors) or artists or writers or designers are creatives. Lmao, bigger lie. Your expression of your ability to create is what makes you creative and a creative. You can be a creative lawyer or accountant or technician or economist or *insert occupation here*. You don’t need to create something big or profound to be creative; you just need to create. That’s just it.

The paradoxical nature of creativity is why I believe people have mystified it. Creativity is in itself both hard and simple, I’ll explain. Creativity is hard primarily because our society is built on logical reasoning and realism. The reality of life easily weeds the “dreamers” and “creatives” out and leaves them for ruin. I think that is why the “tortured creative” narrative is also romanticized. People think mental health issues and substance abuse are required before one can be creative when in reality, it’s the other way around — people are first creative, but the realities of life and the rationality of the world causes them to be mentally ill or begin to abuse substances. In our logical world, only few people are resilient enough to pay the price. Creativity requires perseverance and continuous iteration, both of which aren’t easy. I think that’s why people mystify it. If it is mystical, people that fail can have a solid excuse and cushion for their failure.

The other side of the coin is the fact that creativity is simple. That’s just the truth. We have belittled creativity to cartoonish “Eureka” moments and mystified the process so much that the mere mention of the word wears people out. To be creative, all you have to do is create. People have made creativity into a super complex phenomenon, when in fact, it is as simple as can be. It’s basically doing the barest minimum. But humans won’t be humans if we don’t overcomplicate things, right? So we have those people that have succeeded as “creatives” mystifying it because they don’t want others to belittle their achievements. They understand that by mystifying it, it becomes rare and only rare things are really valued. A simple proof of this is the fake letter about Mozart’s creative process. The person that surfaced the letter just did it for the headlines and the clout. I believe the people that “fail” as creatives mystify it because of the solid excuse and cushion that comes with it. “It’s either you are creative, or you are not right?” Wrong, but this excuse probably makes them feel like less of a failure.

I still have many things to say on this topic, but I will close this article out with this excerpt from Kevin Ashton’s How to Fly a Horse:

“ Creation is a destination, the consequence of acts that appear inconsequential by themselves but that, when accumulated, change the world. Creating is an ordinary act, creation its extraordinary outcome. Work is the soul of creation.

Work is getting up early and going home late, turning down dates and giving up weekends, writing and rewriting, reviewing and revising, rote and routine, staring down the doubt of the blank page, beginning when we do not know where to start, and not stopping when we cannot go on. It is not fun, romantic, or, most of the time, even interesting.

If we want to create, we must, in the words of Paul Gallico, open our veins and bleed. There are no secrets. When we ask writers about their process or scientists about their methods or inventors where they get their ideas from, we are hoping for something that doesn’t exist: a trick, recipe, or ritual to summon the magic — an alternative to work. There isn’t one. To create is to work. It is that easy and that hard. With the myth gone, we have a choice. If we can create without genius or epiphany, then the only thing stopping us from creating is us.”

Disclaimer: This article reflects my thoughts and opinions. It is in no way a theory or principal truth, thanks :)

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Emotionally touchy user researcher that likes to blog about her experiences and how to make the most of life.