Fooling Creativity

If you want to piss-off your art teacher, tell her you aren’t creative. Then, just to be all dramatic, throw down your paint brush and walk away in a huff. She will come after you – sit you down – put her hands on your tiny head and tell you that you can paint and that: ‘we are all creative’.

So you paint the mountains, the sun, the sun rays, the sky, the birds and your teacher acts all surprised and says, “Wow! You just cracked the Da Vinci code, you creative caterpillar!”

“Oh! Teacher, both you and I knoweth that I painted the exact same mountain and sun and sun rays the last seven times as well. In fact, I will paint the exact same thing 14 years later when pressed to paint something at Liberal art school. I am not creative! Isn’t that okay?”

Over the last year, I wanted to throw down the paintbrush that is writing and walk away a few times. Reasons have varied from a lack of good ideas – to an inability to form a coherent sentence for an hour – to knowing I will never be able to write like Salinger. But, what weighed most heavily on the decision to give up was the fact that I wasn’t creative.

As the idea of creativity gained importance, people tried to give it a definition wary of ostracizing 95% of the world with how they defined it. So, every statement eventually ends up saying the same thing the art teacher said: we are all creative. And that’s not helpful unless you are a crabby kid forced to paint.

So, forget creativity for a bit. The important question is how much do you enjoy creating. Even if that means painting the same mountain, playing the same music, and cooking the same dish. There may be little creativity in creating the same thing. In fact, it may not help anyone at all. While creativity looks like the thing of the bearded/braided-bespectacled intelligent man/woman, creating is the thing of the foolish-fun fellaw.

But – But, Mr. Fool, I have no clue what to create. Hasn’t that been the bigger issue?

Yes. Of course, it has. That’s because you look at creating through the eyes of creativity. To you, creating is restricted to the paintbrush, poetry and using alcohol bottles and toilet paper for interior decor.

But, that’s not it. Creating is enjoyable boredom. It’s drawing out a Sudoku box for someone to solve rather than filling one that exists. It may take an annoyingly long time and no one solving the Sodoku cares about who created it. You do it because creating it was enjoyable. And it’s okay if it’s not new. It’s okay if it has been done before. It’s okay if it’s foolish. Because strangely enough, as you keep creating foolishly, you will begin to notice sparks of creativity. Those sparks are the result of persistence rubbing against hope.

The whole irony with creativity is that it has become an impediment to creating. “We are all creative” is more consolation and less courage. The message that is hard to digest is that we can all create. Because it’s scary, hard and makes us feel like an imposter. After a year, I still feel that way. But, creating also makes you feel brave, strong, and hopeful.

The creative with his innate ability transforms the sun into a yellow spot. The creator with his foolish persistence transforms the yellow spot into the sun¹.


1. Actual quote: Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun. ~Pablo Picasso

Posted in Art

3 thoughts on “Fooling Creativity

  1. This might have been the best post I’ve read all year for personal realization of a ‘missing’ piece of the puzzle.
    I think you have offered to me awareness of a formerly unnoticed mental filter that has potentially been enormously limiting.

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