Sunday, March 3, 2013


Last week, I set the photo collage below as my profile pic on a social networking site. I had no idea I would set off a big debate on the nature of creativity, both on and off the site! The debate centered on whether everyone has innate creativity, or whether it is a special gift that only certain people are born with.

Certainly, some people are highly creative. These are the people who make great strides, both in art and technology. Scientific American Mind magazine featured an article last year, which stated that highly creative people are missing a "filter" in their mind which helps process information. Because that filter is missing, these people group sensory input in different ways from other people, and this leads them to make new connections, both visually and cognitavely.

However, I think that everyone is born with a certain amount of creativity. You only have to look at the way children play to see them use their imaginations. As children grow, though, many of them start to suppress their creative impulses, from fear of not measuring up, of being mocked, or of not fitting in. Our school system also contributes. The fact that teachers now are required to "teach to the tests" mean that there is little room for creative or out of the box thinking in the standard classroom. My compliments go out to all the teachers who manage to overcome the regulations set in place and make the learning process fun and stimulating. That requires some real creativity!

Creativity doesn't just mean that someone is good at an artform or can come up with a new invention. Do you ever deviate from a recipe, adding ingredients that you think will taste better? Do you add your own touches when you sing a song? Do you play with your children and come up with new ways to encourage or inspire them? How about the outfits that you wear each day; I bet you don't wear head to toe monochrome, day in and day out.

Creativity is part of every day, whether we realize it or not. It is up to you to nuture whatever feeds your creative spirit. Dance, sing, hug your children. Draw, paint, cook. If nothing else, put your head back and daydream. How do you express yourself? I would love to know.


  1. Wow. That's some really interesting/intriguing thoughts you're having.

    Creativity is a somewhat frustrating concept for me. I think I'm fairly bright, with good ideas and I would love (love love love) to write, but every time I try, I freeze up with fundamental writer's block. Not just over days or months, but decades. Yet, I'll write a few paragraphs in an email of facebook post and will have people ask me "why don't you write for a living?"

    As I said, frustrating.

    I watch people like our mutual friend Jason and his son and I wonder 'why can't I do that?' or Ian, for that matter...or's not just technical skill (although all of you are formidable that way), but I don't know where you get your ideas. Or even where to start. Sigh.

    Maybe it's time for me to start my Great American Novel. Again.

  2. Brent, your creativity expresses itself in other ways. You wouldn't be as in-demand as a contractor as you are, if you weren't the guy who could come up with good solutions to your clients' issues. I look at people whose gifts are different from mine, and I have those thoughts too. And I am constantly comparing myself to other artists. What I am always searching for, and I think you are too, is the way to express myself that has meaning and fulfillment for me, without fearing how it will look to others, or if it will meet their expectations. Why does it need to be a novel? Would you be happy keeping a journal? Would you be happy writing small things for yourself, or do you need affirmation from outside? Oh, I could go on and on!

  3. There is a difference, Jane. I know I'm pretty good at finding and executing solutions to problems. It's a skill I have, but I'm not sure it's creativity. Creativity, to my way of thinking, is looking at a blank canvas or page and thinking 'here we go'. I'm not so good at that, for the most part, although can do it occasionally.

    You, and your various colleagues, make something from nothing. It's a wonderful gift. I'm close enough to it to see what you have as a gift and I envy you it. Allow me to give you a bow and *also* to have a few of your works in my home. It's appreciated.

  4. You've hit on a favourite topic of mine, Jane, and I agree with you entirely. I think we are all born creative but somehow it gets stifled in most of us. Somehow, some of us manage to get through childhood and adolescence with it still intact.

    If you have time and are interested, there are a couple of talks on my pinterest board on the subject: John Cleese and Ken Robinson:

    In fact I was given Ken Robinson's book, 'Out of Our Minds' for Christmas but I've been too busy 'creating' patterns to even start reading it yet.

    I do believe though that the creative process always begins with a question, a 'what if?' or a problem to be solved and that creativity is definitely not limited to the kind of artistic endeavours that it's often associated with.

  5. I'll bridge Jane and Brent's comments. I think there are micro and macro acts of creativity. We all commit those micro-acts. A macro-act of creativity takes the willingness to collect a set of those smaller pieces and move forward without much concern about being "creative".

    I've written many of my songs by just noodling and playing with random word lyrics. For all the "scrambled eggs" I come up with, some of them evolve into "Yesterday". Early on, I turned off my self-criticism filter and just played. Now that I *know* I can write a good song, writer's block doesn't seem like as big an issue.

    I'll also point out that with my review blog, I consciously do something similar: 1) I know I need to write about 800 words on a topic, 2) my first sentence sucks...badly 3) keep writing and fix it later. Sometimes the best way to write 800 good words is to make the effort to write 3000 crappy ones as a tool to focus.

    BTW, I've traded witty banter with you, Brent. You're plenty creative.

  6. Hi Jane - thank you for your comments on my blog. I've just published a post about one of my fellow surface pattern design 'students', Charlotte Duffy. I think her work is beautiful and you may like to pop over and have a look, if you have time :)

    1. What beautiful work! Great job with the interview too.