Your memories of creativity affect what you can do with it

What is the most powerful memory you have of feeling creative?

Was it when you were recognized for being creative? A time when an idea or solution came as a surprise? Was it recent or long ago?

When it comes to how we think and work, our memories shape much of what we perceive as possible or not.

If your most powerful memory of being creative was when you created a great painting or wrote a successful story, you’re far more likely to associate those acts with creativity than others. Or if your favorite memory of being creative entails being recognized for your efforts, you’re far less inclined to pursue creative ideas unless recognition or praise is a predictable part of it.

The reality is that creativity takes many different shapes and forms, and our very perception of past experiences with it can cloud us from what we can do with it in the future.

For a long time society at-large has viewed creativity in relation to anything artistic. We’ve done so not because art is an accurate representation of creativity, but because it’s easier to associate creativity with art simply because there are less logical constraints in that industry. Creativity is not art, it’s the mental capacity to dream up new and useful ideas.

Yet how many of us are inclined to believe that creativity has to do with art simply because our most powerful memories of feeling creative—of experiencing a moment of “Aha!”—dealt with creating something artistic?

Of course creativity has a place in the realm of art, but if everyone always stuck by the preconceived notion of creativity being the same as art, Leonardo Da Vinci would never have looked at the mathematics of the golden ratio in order to create the Mona Lisa. Nor would M.C. Escher have divided planes to challenge what was perceived as impossible mathematically. For centuries math and art have had a long and empowering relationship.

But the common perception of creativity remains: "creativity is art!” Why? Because many of our fondest memories of feeling creative, of tackling the unknown, of accomplishing what once felt impossible, were artistic in nature.

Maybe not. What’s certain is that creativity is not what many of us have been led to believe it is, which in-turn, stiffles what we think we can do with it.

What’s your fondest memory of creativity? How do you think that memory might be influencing your understanding of what it means to be creative? What would happen if you purposefully tried to shake that belief?

After-all, creativity is a lot more than we give it credit for.