“Creativity belongs to the artist in each of us. To create means to relate.
The root meaning of the word art is to fit together and we all do this every day.
Not all of us are painters but we are all artists.”
—Corita Kent, Art Educator and Co-Author of Learning by Heart.
Observe your own life or, at least, look around you to prove Kent correct.
Somewhere a therapist relates empathetically with a client in order to understand how to reframe childhood trauma.
In a city near you, a chemist tests how molecules fit together to form a new covalent compound.
At the local gym, a trainer outlines a series of corrective exercises designed specifically for professional athletes.
In a small town cafe, a curious baker incorporates an eclectic list of ingredients and flavors into a reimagined quick-bread recipe.
At a corporate tech office, the VP of Engineering maps out ways to converse with a combative counterpart, exploring how genuine connections can resolve a conflict.
The individual strengths we employ may vary, but the underlying truth about creativity remains the same—we’re all just trying to figure out how to make things work. It is our capacity for curiosity and play that become the foundational aspects of creativity. Curiosity and play are innate human characteristics. We rely on these traits to learn and engage with the world.
Somewhere inside, you know this . . . or at least you once did. Maybe, and most probably, you employed crayons, or a scream, a gymnastic-like antic or a song to explore your environment. Maybe you remember how powerful these moments felt. “Look! I did something that made an impression.” And maybe, like me, you were scolded for where and how and when you made your “impressions.” If so, over time, one negative message after another most likely distanced you from the wonderful, vulnerable world of playful curiosity.
Reading this now, have you come to believe that “creativity” and “art” are aspects of other people’s lives? What if you discarded these calcified beliefs? What if you could plug into your innate ability for curiosity and play on a regular basis?
Research was done by Marian Diamond in the 1960’s links play and curiosity as the most advanced natural methods for the brain to create (and perhaps re-create) itself. Neuroscience now tells us that interacting in an enriched environment where curiosity and play are nurtured forms stronger cognitive connections because we’re seeking out what works, what fulfills and what delights. Sounds like the creative process and art to me.
John Byers, an expert in the evolution of animal play behavior, theorizes that the amount of play we experience can be correlated with the development of the brain’s frontal cortex. This prefrontal region is responsible for the highest level of human cognition. This is where we make our best decisions, formulate our most innovative ideas, and invest in inventive possibilities. It’s where we “see” the future and can even imagine a better one.
When we create, improvisational potential increases. As does our ability to accept new possibilities as they arise. This is one reason Danah Zohar believes being creative a little bit every day can help with transitions. This is especially true when managing the “ambiguous zone” of any challenging change. In most cases, a little creative egress each day can be just the catalyst for spreading some magic into our lives. Indeed, creativity makes us more productive, happier and healthier. It’s like oxygen for the soul. The power of your own creativity and artistry is not just intensely pleasurable, it can also enliven and energize. It can ease our burdens and renew our optimism toward self and life. When we attune to creativity even for a moment each day, the benefits seem to move profoundly through our lives. Creativity can make us smarter, more compassionate and adaptable beings; all traits needed for the continued evolution of the human race. Plus, it might just offer us unexpected solutions to some of the most pressing problems we’ve already caused.
To me, that sounds like a brilliant attribute to exercise a little bit each day.
Here are a few ways in which to engage or re-engage your own creative genius:
Be “off purpose”—Do something that is totally for pleasure. Try an activity that won’t give you any money or fame, food or any other survival reward. Do something other people might judge as a waste of time.
Free yourself from time—Do something that so fully engages you that you lose your sense of time. Get into something that puts you into a “flow zone.”
Be improvisational—Stumble into a new behavior, a thought, a strategy or movement that is made up right in the moment.
When you engage in activities that meet one or more of the categories mentioned above, you’re able to step into your own creative rhythm. Doing this often enough doesn’t just enhance your life, it helps you envision the kind of person you want to be.
“Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
Brown, Stuart, M.D. (2009) Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul (find on Amazon here). New York, NY: Avery.
Brown, Sunni. (May 6, 2015) How to Stay Curious (watch on YouTube here).
Gilbert, Elizabeth. (2015) Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (find on Amazon here). New York, NY: Riverhead Books.
Glaser, Judith E. (2014) Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results (find on Amazon here). New York, NY: Bibliomotion.
Kent, Corita and Steward, Jan. (2008) Learning by Heart: Teachings to Free the Creative Spirit (find on Amazon here). New York, NY: Allworth Press.
MacKenzie, Gordon. (1998) Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace (find on Amazon). New York, NY: Viking.