24/7 Creative: Creativity Is Not About Art

Steve Gordon, Jr.Human-kind—at some point in the evolutionary process—got very, very cold. When pushed to that extreme it was cleverly thought up that going inside a hole of some kind, away from the uncomfortable environment was a good idea. Thus we have shelter. And when that wasn’t enough, through whatever primitive means, it was discovered that flames gave off a most alluring heat, not to mention the light that illuminated the darkness of this cold world.

When these early humans outgrew their fancy rock hole dwellings and looked to “move on up,” I bet they had previously thought that dragging their belongings along the ground was a bit of a chore and there just had to be a simpler, easier way to move about. One of them probably fell down a hill and the primitive flame went off (no light-bulbs yet, people): rolling, that’s the ticket!

It may seem a bit juvenile to impart the story this way to us modern men and women, but at the time such thinking was earth-shatteringly radical and dare we say — creative.

Creativity is not—nor has it ever been—about art. Creativity is about the basics of life, the forces that drive us and the solution of problems found blocking our progress. To reference our pre-historic story; if the environment is too harsh—find shelter. Still cold? Make heat. Transportation having a bit of friction? Get rolling. All of the materials to accomplish these things existed but necessity played “mother” to some inventive minds, looking to clear hurdles in the way of their existence.

So if we think of Creativity in this way, it can be seen as more a life-skill than some mystical artistic gift. Not to say that it’s not special to be able to think like so many of us do, but this speaks more to the fact that if you are alive, you stand a good chance of being creative, around the clock.

My friend, Jeni Herberger, always says that we are all born creative, it’s just a matter of whether or not we chose to use or develop that. There’s much truth in that. I’ll go a step further and willingly admit that some are more inclined to tap into this level of  thought process. For the most part, we designers are an example of that.

It could be that extra dose of mental talent in being clever, a proficiency in problem-solving, even the financial backing that allows the freedom to “explore” and study without the stresses or cares of life “overhead.” Whatever the case may be, some can honestly say that they were born to do the work we do. Very plausible, and most likely very true. But here’s an additional bit of truth that cannot be denied; we were not born to get paid to do this.

In that mode of thinking, being creative all the time has little to do with time-clocks, artwork, even conferences or careers. It has everything to do with life and the process of actively, constantly finding better, more efficient and enjoyable ways living it in the time we’ve been afforded.

What do you think? And how do you think about your 24/7 creativity?

BTW: If you like Steve’s riff, come hear more in his session on “Being a 24/7 Creative Pro” at the Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago, June 23-24, 2011. Early bird deadline has been extended to May 1. Details and registration here.

10 thoughts on “24/7 Creative: Creativity Is Not About Art

  1. Alisa Bonsignore

    I can’t speak for the wonders of design, but as a writer, there’s a ton of creativity that occurs outside of the process of actually writing something.

    I know that there’s supposed to be this separation between work and life, and to some degree I honor that: no computer while the kiddo is home, etc. But that doesn’t mean that some of my best, most creative ideas aren’t scribbled on the back of a junk mail envelope while I’m cooking dinner, or emailed to myself when I have a burst of inspiration mid-run.

    I may not always be working, but I know better than to turn off the creativity!

  2. Styron Pennywell

    This book that I’m slooowly reading breaks creativity down into 13 “tools” (observation, pattern recognition, analogizing, etc.) that we all use, but our recognized geniuses in all fields honed and mastered. I think our school systems should do a better job incorporating these skills into the curriculum so that are kids can become creative problem solvers, not just great test takers. As a parent I know its my job to ensure my child has a well rounded education, I just fear for the kids who don’t have that kind of support. The book is Sparks of Genius, recommended by Laura Seargeant Richardson of frog (http://bit.ly/eYJy6g).

  3. Edwina@FASHION + ART

    Good stuff Steve. I agree that the mother of invention does indeed wear the crown of creativity, brought on by the need for continuous progress. When pushed into a corner and forced to think outside our norm, there’s no limit to just how creative we can get.

  4. Colleen

    Great insights here. It’s always worth it to step back from our daily details and see the big picture. It recharges the creative spark that helps us to be effective problem solvers. Thanks for the reminder Steve!

  5. Alicia

    ummm. one only need to review “The Renaissance” to comprehend how “art” , “design”, “architecture”, and “science” worked TOGETHER. one is NOT better than the other.

  6. Steve G

    Agreed on all points in the comments above. Great additions to the conversation. I hope it’s not misunderstood that I was meaning a separation of anything. It’s complete inclusion. Just like Alicia mentioned, in a time long considered the quantum leap forward for all human-kind, all things worked beautifully together. This collection of thoughts above was speaking to the cop-out I often hear from too many claiming to not be creative because they aren’t good at art. Bull. I believe we are all innately creative, it’s what we do after that.

    And the “creative process?” I find it funny that so many “artists” use this as some holier-than-thou soapbox as if we (myself included) have patented some specific thing and copyrighted the phrase. Every thought we have is a part of that process because the creative process is a stage of brain development, the invoking of natural problem-solving & survival skills as a human being. It’s a life thing, not an art thing. But that’s just my opinion.

    Thanks all for chiming in. Good insights, all… Keep the convo going.

  7. Robert Fleming

    Maslow had it right with his Hierarchy of Needs thesis. Art beongs at the top of his pyrmadic, in the “Self Actualization” section. But creativity is what separates humans from the other species, as we are capable of solving problems with flashes of brilliance, vesus plodding along with evolution and the laws of natural selection.

    Thus, I suppose I agree with this author’s basic premise, that art would not exist without the ability to, first, create. Without that essential problem-solving ability, we’d never make it to the top of Maslow’s Hierarchial Pyramid, and remain just another lower-level species, depending on the natural selection to make the necessary changes for survival.

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