Creativity is just not that hard

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It feels like we’re constantly trying to convince ourselves that being creative is some type of magic act.

We look at the process of having new ideas as being so complex that it just can’t be understood. Or we attribute the process to an ethereal being, or to a science we don’t understand, or to the influence of those around us, or whatever else.

But creativity isn’t complex. In-fact: it’s overly simple.

To be creative – to have unique thoughts or insights – is simply to observe, to be curious, to ask questions, and to ruminate. That’s all it takes to create original work, to solve ridiculously difficult problems, and to resolve issues that require a creative touch.

Look to anyone throughout history that has inspired you with their work or ideas.

What do you think it took for those people to do what they were able to do, to see the world differently? The answer is just that: all it took was seeing the world differently. And if we’re to do that it requires no extraordinary feat, merely the willingness to do so and to continue doing so even when we feel as though we’ve gone too far.

The automobile must have been an immensely frightening thing for people to have witnessed replace the ever-so-popular horse-drawn carriage. But people like Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, Karl Benz, and Henry Ford saw the world differently. They each saw how it could change and why it would be best to do so, and they turned out to be right.

Or what about Picasso and his bizarre cubism artwork? When he first showed his piece “The Weeping Woman” in 1937, many artists must have laughed and explained to poor Picasso that such contrast-rich, frighteningly emotional, and unstructured work could never be displayed in a public museum. Yet Picasso’s painting currently hangs in the galleries of the world-famous Tate in London. His other works selling for millions of dollars around the world.

Then there’s the writing of David Foster Wallace, which was so bitter and cold with emotion – something very few, if any, authors could get away with during the time – that his first novel was labeled “a manic, human, flawed extravaganza” by The New York Times. He later went on to write the novel “Infinite Jest” which, upon it’s release, for the first time in decades received such national attention that the magazine Rolling Stone sent a reporter out to follow David Foster Wallace on his national book tour for it.

In all of these cases (and undoubtedly countless more) the contributing factor to each success was their willingness to simply be curious, try something different, and go forward with it. Truly seeing the world differently. Each person was no more intelligent or overly gifted than anyone else. They each simply became curious and asked questions about how their work (or the world) could be different.

And seeing the world differently isn’t all that difficult. It’s as simple as asking: “What if?”

What if this book I’m writing was instead made into a series of short, animated films? What if my music was more focused on the silent pause between notes than the notes themselves? What if I painted this portrait at 1,000 times the size I was going to paint it at? What if I worked through a proxy to do my job? What if things were backwards? What if I had to do this with my eyes closed? What if? What if?

What if you stopped believing that creativity was so complicated, so magical, so difficult to understand?

What if, instead, you realized that being creative is simply a matter of perspective, and that you could change yours right now, today, if you wanted?

What if?

Original photo by Mark Rain.