|The world has lost its mind. When I say ‘the world’, I mean the human world – what we are pleased to call ‘civilisation’. The natural world is doing its best to prop us up and keep us alive, despite our best efforts to undermine its ability to do so. We are testing our Mother’s patience and a climatic arse-kicking of apocalyptic proportions is heading our way. Probably.
The only way to respond to such rampant insanity and myopic destruction is to create.
I’m not suggesting that everyone bury themselves in artistic creation: paint a pretty picture and you won’t notice the destruction on your doorstep; write a novel and the stories you tell yourself and your readers will replace the reality outside your window. No, creativity isn’t about denial or running away.
Creativity is usually described as the making of something new, original or useful. It’s seen as an expression of individuality and imagination, a way to connect disparate ideas which surprise, shock or reveal something previously unknown. Creativity is a skill which can be taught. More importantly, it’s something that can be used to make money and achieve wider influence or recognition. Develop your creativity and you’ll be more productive, sell more stuff, get more friends, and earn more money.
Is that really what creativity is about? Creativity has been hijacked by our corporate culture and put to work building shiny surfaces and glittering baubles. We are drowning in new, improved ‘stuff’ and dying of thirst for lack of real water.
Everyone is born creative. Children create constantly, but their natural creativity is neutered in the name of conformity. As we grow up we are expected to find a place in society where we can be productive – pay our taxes, consume, and make more little consumers. Conformity to such a culture is an act of violence against the self and the soul.
Our culture doesn’t value creativity unless it’s connected to something that makes money. When creativity is attached to money, power and ambition, it becomes distorted. It becomes destructive. Our civilisation isn’t creative, it’s a cannibal.
Creativity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with creating art – whether music, paintings, films, books, or whatever. You can live creatively without ever picking up a paint brush or writing a novel or strumming on a guitar.
Even if you do create art, it can be done in an uncreative way. You can paint without being creative, or write without being creative, and so on. Hollywood churns out films that are staggeringly uncreative. The world is choking on bad TV, bad novels, and bad films.
By calling a bad film ‘uncreative’, I don’t mean that it’s poorly executed. Much of what we would recognise as ‘bad art’ is expertly done. But the best and truly creative films, books and TV shows have something else – a spark, genuine originality, a feeling of connection with the audience, a sense of deeper meaning and relevance. When something is done creatively, it connects.
What is creativity?
Anything can be done creatively. You are creative if you connect with the world and the people around you. Through mindful presence the inner and outer worlds are joined in mutual meaning which gives rise to joy. By listening to the voice of your soul, the inner spring that nourishes your being, that joy can be shared in a spontaneous passion for life. So creativity is a state of mind, an attitude and a way of living and being in the world.
The Creative Life
True creativity is always transformative. You know when you are being creative, because you are open to change and curious about life. To be creative means to make the world a better place by your simple presence and joy. As you think, so you become. As you create, so the world becomes.
The ultimate act of creativity is the creation of a soul. Creativity fuels soul growth and self-knowledge. To create is an act of self-revelation and joy, a celebration of life and being alive. It is an act of love. To live a creative life means to be a master of your own being, to be self-possessed. A creative person doesn’t have to be an artist. A creative person need only be awake.
To be awake and creative is to be self-aware. A creative person is not easily bought or sold. They share themselves, their ‘juice’, their truth, vision and aliveness. They share their love. Anything that is done creatively becomes sacred – it becomes an act of worship and a source of grace. A cup of tea made mindfully and with joy is consecrated. A smile is a creative act if it comes from the depths of your soul.
Here’s an example of what I’m groping towards from the excellent Martha Beck: The Critter & The Creator
15 Qualities of a Creative Person
In his book on the creative process, Fearless Creating, Eric Maisel identifies fifteen active qualities that you need if you want to be creative:
These qualities are verbs – things you must do if you want to live creatively. This can be a challenge, even in perfect conditions. We live in a culture which is far from perfect, but the only way to change the world is to change ourselves.
Change begins in the darkness of your own soul. It is up to you to do the work needed to bring your truth into the light and share it so that others might benefit, whether this is through your art, your cooking, your service, or your smile.
Over the coming weeks we’ll look at each of these qualities and build a picture of what it takes to live creatively in a world gone mad. First up: Existing