What Exactly is Creativity?

paintbrushesFor much of my life I’ve engaged creativity in a variety of ways including modern dance, design, photography, teaching, creative writing, creativity coaching and creative problem solving. Until I started teaching creative writing and working as a creativity coach, I had never given much thought to what exactly creativity is and how it works.

For me it’s largely a process that seems to have a life of it’s own. It’s the evolution of an idea that proceeds mostly below the level of conscious awareness with moments of clarity and realization rising to the surface that give direction on what to do next in the physical world.

I sense that some variation of this process applies for everyone whether we are working in the arts, science, business or technology. Work is coupled with inspiration and imagination. The work is part of the pleasure of the experience. It feels good, expansive and energizing.

We start with imagination, our ability to generate a new idea or see something in our mind’s eye that extends beyond our five senses. It can feel like we are making it up or that it comes out of nowhere. We have an intuition, a sense of something wanting to be born.

We remain open to what else pops into our head, especially in moments when our rational mind is busy with other things, like washing the dishes, taking a shower, going for a walk or driving the car.

We can think of creativity itself as the act of expressing the idea. We do something with it. We begin to work on a poem, draw a picture, start a business or tinker with a solar panel in the garage. Continuing to dance with the process, we grow a piece remaining open to inspired guidance on what to do next. The process of creativity involves working on something for a while then letting it go or putting it away for a bit and allowing inspiration for the next step to come in.

Innovation can be thought of as the process of creating something new or doing something in a new way. It’s a cousin of creativity. The boundaries blur a bit. The elements overlap.

We all have this ability. We just need to be willing to claim it and play with it. The more we do this, the more our capacity to be creative grows. You can begin by doodling. You could write in the stream of consciousness for ten minutes. Start by asking the question, how can I express my creativity. Or just ask that question of your subconscious mind, then let it go and see what comes to your as you go about your day.

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