Awaken your Michelangelo
Ever heard someone say, “I’m not creative?” Ever said it yourself? You’re not alone. At some point, a lot of people decide that creativity is a gift given to a few, lucky people — just not them. But they are wrong. We’ve all got it, even if we’ve shoved it away for some reason.
So asserts David Kelley in his TED talk, “How to build your creative confidence,” the first talk discussed this year by the Wayne State TEDsters.
So, why do we choose, at some point in our lives, to fold our creative tents and join the legions of people who resign themselves to being practical, analytical people? (Not that there’s anything wrong with practical, analytical people — we need folks like that to keep the books balanced and the trains running on time. God bless them.) But not everyone is wired this way. And too many people, Kelley fears, suppress their creative impulses because of fear. Fear of what? Of failure. Of embarrassment. Of laughter, and derision. Of having their unique work, and therefore their unique selves, subject to the scrutiny of those ordained as the judges of creativity — and falling short.
Kelley illustrates this with a story of a third grade classmate — Brian — whose clay sculpture was panned by a fellow third grader. Result? The budding Rodin threw in his clay. With a little encouragement, who knows what he might have become.
I worked in the ad world for a bit — just after the Mad Men era, dang it. In the ad world, they divide people into creatives and non-creatives, i.e., everyone else. Creatives got to grow their hair long and wear jeans and t-shirts. The rest of us had to dress up and take care of business stuff. They got to have attitudes. We had to stay cool. But they were cool —cool-cool, that is. And we were not. At least that’s the reality we accepted. And, I’ll have to admit, I thought a lot of them were pretty cool — at least cooler than I was — even if they could be jerks sometimes.
But there were times I thought that the “creatives” weren’t that creative. And there were times that some of the non-cool people came up with good ideas, but the “creatives” laughed at them, and sent them away — just like little Brian and his clay sculpture. And that bothered me (yes, I was one of the guys that was sent away from time to time). But it was interesting to me that the titles given to people — rather than the ideas — determined who was called “creative.”
What is “creative,” anyway? We tend to think of it as artistic, but it is so much more, isn’t it? Doesn’t it just mean finding a new way to do something? A different solution? A better mousetrap? That’s not constrained to the arts — it can happen in any endeavor. And if you think about it, it does.
Creativity happens everywhere — just look around. And it’s open to everyone — whether you wear faded jeans or formal suits. But, you need to work at it. Just like all the great ones do, or did. You need to be curious about everything. You need to think. You need to tinker, and try new things. You need to suspend your own inner judge, at least for a time. And most of all, you have to have courage. Because you will fail. And people will judge. And people will laugh. But, who cares? Just keep going. Because maybe, just maybe, you will awaken your Michelangelo, and then you can wear anything you want, and everyone will think it’s cool.