To be creative is to engage with ideas, not merely have them

To be creative is to be engaged. You can’t have creative ideas if you’re not paying attention to the world around you or engaging with the ideas you come up with.

The requirement of engaging, or taking some action, with ideas is why it’s so easy to conflate creativity with the arts. The artist creates something that wasn’t there before. The writer pulls words out of their head and puts them onto the page. In art we can see or otherwise sense the engagement of the artist.

It’s a lot more cumbersome to see the engagement of the app developer, who worked tediously behind the scenes to creatively solve a problem in the apps we use every day. Or in the financial analyst who had to use her creativity to circumvent a roadblock in her pursuit of complaint a report.

We each have creative ideas—on how to solve a problem we have, or how to do something differently than we’re used to—and on many occasions we follow through with these ideas, chalking it all up to just another decision. But the reality is we are using our creativity more often than we may realize. If we’re not, that’s not because we can’t be creative, but rather because we haven’t done anything to actively engage with it.

Ideas are given, they can happen whether we want them to or not (given the right circumstances). What’s not given is doing something with the ideas in a way that shouts “creativity.”

A surprisingly easy way to be more creative every day is to find the ways you are engaging and ask yourself how you might change those interactions.

Can you turn your commute into writing time, even if that means doing so through voice recoding? Can you turn your report into a game, where those paying attention get to engage back with you? Where do you engage in day-to-day activities, and what would happen if you changed those engagements? If you added to them, took something away from them, or replaced part of them with something else?