When you think of the idea of creativity, what comes to mind? A brilliant painter? A famous film director? An acclaimed composer? While those examples certainly are true, there is more to creativity than famous artists and their work. For the purpose of this discussion, the definition of creativity is the ability to make new things or think new ideas, transforming existing materials into something novel and beneficial. Here are 5 common myths about creativity:
Myth #1 “I’m Not Creative”
Some may believe that a person is either born creative or is not. But the truth is that everyone has the innate ability to create. It is more than just doing crafts (though that is certainly a valid example of creativity). Creativity can be cultivated as a mindset, an approach to life to be practiced. Researcher and Professor Alfonso Montuori of the California Institute of Integrated Studies explained that “[c]reativity is not a thing we possess, like some kind of internal organ; it’s a process. It’s a way of thinking and being, and it can be learned.” To be a human being means that you are creative.
Myth #2 Creativity is an Individual Activity
We sometimes think of great creative minds of the past as those who worked independent of others (sometimes referred to as the lone genius). However, creativity is very often a social activity where other people are seen as resources and co-creators, not as obstacles to achievement. For example, I’ve had the opportunity to write, perform, and record my own music. Although I am the songwriter, everything I produce is influenced in some way by my family, teachers, mentors, and other artists who have inspired me. Creativity is something that can be a joint endeavor, not solely a one-person show.
Myth #3 Creative Ideas Come out of the Blue
Creativity rarely happens instantaneously. We think of the “lightbulb moment” as when things finally click, but psychologist Graham Wallace describes that there are actually 4 steps of the creative process: 1) preparation (identifying the problem and learning symbols), 2) incubation (time away from the project where we begin to internalize the material), 3) illumination (the Eureka! moment), and 4) verification (where we evaluate the project or performance created). Whether it’s brainstorming a solution to a problem or writing a poem, try to be patient during the process, and remember that it takes time and effort for creativity to materialize. I’ve even have clients in therapy who finally reach a breakthrough, but it was only after months of preparing that they were able to have that epiphany in their emotional recovery.
Myth #4 Creative Equals Artistic
When we think of creativity, it’s easy to think of arts and crafts. But we need to broaden our definition of creativity to include more than singing, dancing, and painting. Creativity is how we take the elements we are given and combine them in a new way in relationships, work strategies, and household management. Overall, it’s an approach to life and problem-solving. Renowned psychologist Abraham Maslowe described how he knew of a poor woman who was able to create a very beautiful home and meal for her family and guests even with her limited resources. “I had to call her creative,” he described, “and I learned from her and others that a first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.”
Myth #5 Creativity Always Results in a Product
It can be easy to assume that creativity always yields some physical object (a poem, a beautiful meal, a hand-made table, etc.). But creativity is a way of thinking, often a way to solve problems. Mothers often have unique opportunities to be creative in their family interactions and experiences. I recently was driving my two children, and we were all pretty tired, hungry, and grumpy. As I dropped them off for choir practice, I walked into a music store and saw some inexpensive percussion instruments. I realized that they could help us make the car ride home for fun and uplifting, so I purchased them. My kids loved them; it was just what we needed! In this way, I was able to use creativity in my parenting through the information and resources available to me. I’m grateful for the opportunity to exercise creativity in non-tangible ways.