November Writing Challenge Day 8: What is Creativity?

pencilCreativity – noun

1. the state or quality of being creative.

2. the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination: the need for creativity in modern industry; creativity in the performing arts.

3. the process by which one utilizes creative ability: Extensive reading stimulated his creativity.


Sometimes it seems to me that official dictionary definitions confuse more often than they explain, particularly when defining a concept that is both ephemeral and subjective. If a painter creates something that the world views as unattractive, was painting the work still a creative act? Of course. There have been hundreds of artists who never receive recognition for their work until after their deaths. Beauty is perhaps even more subjective than creativity. Even if you or I find no value in a work of art, the artist acted creatively by painting it.

Is the child who fingerpaints a beautiful – in his eyes – mural on the dining room wall creating or disobeying? Both. The child does need to be disciplined and have it explained that there are appropriate places for expressing oneself creatively. But the bottom line is that this type of childish “artwork” is still an expression of creativity.

Is creativity only confined to the fine arts? Or does an engineer who develops a new machine, an entrepreneur who builds a new business, or an office worker who comes up with a new process to make work a little more productive, also engage in acts of creativity?

Society often confuses the words “artistic” and “creative.” We rank activities and put more or less value on certain types of creativity – the fine arts ranking the highest, crafts or works that have practical value as well as beauty, slightly lower. Lower still is work that is not seen as “artistic” or “beautiful.” But I disagree. The engineer, the entrepreneur and the office worker all have something in common with the writer who is working to create a book that inspires and informs.

One of the many things they all have in common is a need to make or develop something new and different, something that hasn’t been done or said. Each one must have the time and space to allow the creative energy to flow. Without, each will feel stifled and frustrated. We see creativity in the person who writes, who plays a musical instrument, who sews or knits or does woodworking. Those creative acts are easy to identify. Certainly there is creativity in “thinking outside the box,” or solving the basic problems of life in new and different ways. But there is often creativity just in living life in such a way that we find beauty and love in everything we do.

It is easy to allow the routine of life to expand until there is no time left for the creative. Think for a few moments about the other activities, along with writing, that you are involved in each week that allow you to exercise your creativity. Do you grow houseplants or garden? Do you enjoy trying new cooking techniques to spice up a routine dinner? Do you read books, magazines, or online blogs and websites that bring you new ideas and inspire you? Do you work with children to help them become more creative? All of these activities enhance your writing because they allow you to express your creativity in a wide variety of ways. They allow you to relax your mind and your body. Working creatively increases your store of creative energy so that you have more available for a variety of creative ideas.

Remember to plan time in your week for all types of activities – creative, physical exercise, and writing, as well as the mundane chores that often seem to take over life. It takes planning to find the time for creativity.

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