The Creativity Cure
Updated: Nov 30
Lessons from the Greats
If your creativity needs a reminder or a boost, or if it's being undermined and you miss the creative courage you had as a child, you’re not alone. The critics, naysayers, and know-it-alls, may have contributed to a mindset of fear, denying yourself (and us) from ever knowing your true creative work. Or maybe you're just asking the wrong questions. Whatever it is keeping you from drawing out your thoughts on paper, your love of the arts, or passion for the sciences, we can find inspiration in Mother Nature and wisdom from some of the most radical creatives of all time, as they share their thoughts on creativity.
“When I was a child my mother said to me, 'If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general.
If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.' Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” ~ Pablo Picasso
The Creative Curse
Like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, your creative courage never left you. You were born with it. But maybe it was playground bullies, relatives, teachers, or the school system itself, that began undermining your creativity. Or, it could be the deceiving curse of the “if only” mind that haunts all of us in some way or another, when we least expect it. If only I was smarter, more talented, had more time...
Mother Nature on Diversity and Survival
Mother Nature pushes at every level to increase the chances of diversification and survival. Research shows, for example, that forests decimated by catastrophic environmental events recover to produce extraordinary environmental diversity. One example in Science Daily reinforces this research: “The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens created very diverse post-eruption conditions, and has some of the highest plant and animal diversity in the western Cascades range.”
As Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, "Life finds a way." If plants and animals can manage to survive and thrive in the harshest conditions, we can too. Like everything else in Nature, it’s in our DNA to “find a way.”
The Creative Cure is about recognizing that which is already there, inside of us. Incubating. Dormant. Tucked away in the dark places we keep to ourselves, hiding from any potential criticism or humiliation. It's risky stuff. It's about having the courage to leap into the great unknown. It's putting our imagination to work.
"Creative work is anything we do that might not work that makes things better.”
Ask Better Questions
Creative work is nothing if it isn’t approaching new perspectives and new ideas that can give new life and meaning to the things we experience every day. Empowering questions to ask are “how can” questions, “How can I care more? How can I learn more? How can I make things better?"
And if you really want to take things to the next level, ask Joel Barker's Impossibility Question: “What is impossible to do in your field, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change things for the better?”
Creativity in Schools
Children should never be discouraged from being creative. Creativity opens infinite doors, whether it stays in the form of physical art, moves on to music, dance, math, science, or writing. Children must be encouraged to be confident enough to express themselves. And yet many schools nationwide tend to have the opposite impact, killing the creative instinct, producing students with less, instead of more, creative courage.
“All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
Sir Ken Robinson's Famous TED Talk
Sir Ken Robinson made a spellbinding case for creating an education system that nurtures, rather than undermines, creativity. With more than 74 million views to date, Sir Ken’s talk on the subject of creativity in our schools remains the most popular TED Talk of all time, a lesson worth absorbing: Do schools kill creativity?
“Imagination is the wellspring of creativity,” says Sir Ken. “If we want to be more creative, we need to stimulate our natural powers of imagination. Imagination is the ability to bring into mind things that are not present to our senses. Creativity is putting your imagination to work. It’s applied imagination. To be creative you must do something.”
“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly… until you can learn to do it well.”
Albert Einstein on Imagination, Creativity and Play
Albert Einstein, considered the most prolific scientist, inventor, and creator in human history, said this about imagination: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” And he said this about creativity: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them. We have to solve our problems creatively, which requires changing established thinking patterns and switching into a creative state of mind.”
The most creative ideas come to us when we stop actively trying to flatter our muse into manifesting and let the fragments of experience float around our unconscious mind in order to create new and synergetic combinations.
In addition to his love of music, Einstein was a proponent of ‘combinatory play’ — taking seemingly unrelated things outside the boundaries of science (art, ideas, music, thoughts), and blending them together to come up with his breakthrough ideas. Creative ideas don’t materialize out of thin air, but out of other thoughts and ideas and stimuli in our brain that suddenly come together in new and fascinating ways.
Experience comes from a variety of activities. Whether it's doing, seeing, hearing, or feeling new things (or from a new perspective), or from going places, meeting people, learning stuff... or from our failures and successes, the more experiences we generate, the more our muse has to work with.
“The man who has no imagination has no wings.”
~ Muhammad Ali
The Creativity Cure
The Creativity Cure is in the doing. Creating anything, whether it’s generating a new idea, imagining a new design, writing a book, or developing a new cure for cancer, these are all radical acts. You’re using your imagination to create something out of nothing. You’re innovating and pushing boundaries. You're moving beyond the fear of past mistakes, of not measuring up. You're focused more on your ability and talent, and less on the critics and naysayers. You're leaping courageously into the great unknown. You're creating more.
And to be creative, you need empathy. Because when you’re being creative, you’re solving problems. Without empathy, it’s nearly impossible to know what the real problems are.
Mother Nature teaches us that "Life finds a way." So does creativity. When we ask better questions, we get better results. When we enjoy more experiences, we access new creative expressions. When we're more empathetic, we're more creative. Maybe you won’t be the next Picasso or Einstein. But you’ll be a better version of yourself. Just go with it and laugh more. Let your mind whirl and see what happens. Give us what you’ve got because we need you more than you think.