WHY YOU CAN’T BE CREATIVE
If I had a pound for every individual who, in the course of my professional work, tells me “You see, the thing is, I’m not a creative person,” I could afford to self-publish a book on Creativity for No-hopers. Not that I have the energy after wading through the treacle of such fatalism. Gone are the days when I had the energy to optimistically counter such a statement. Now, beaten into submission by this relentless self-pity, I just nod and pass them the Luger.
Not that I should be surprised. Nor should you, should you find yourself regularly protesting your own lack of creativity. Because, frankly, you have probably spent your whole life learning How Not To Be Creative.
You don’t believe me? Let the Ghost of Creativity Past take you back in time……
You’re about three years old, sitting on the carpet playing with your toy dinosaur. By the way, we’re not talking about an animatronic, microprocessor-driven dinosaur – the kind you sit and watch while it plays with itself (if you see what I mean); no, this is the kind of toy that small children tend to prefer, the one that your imagination brings to life. So there you sit - just you, the inanimate dinosaur and a vast expanse of carpet.
Suddenly you realise you are not alone. You have been joined by a Well Meaning Relative.
“Hello, [your name here]” s/he says. “What are you doing?”
“I’m playing dinosaurs,” you reply.
“Oh,” s/he says. “What’s your dinosaur doing?”
“Driving a bus,” you enthuse.
S/he laughs. “I don’t think so!” s/he says helpfully. “I don’t think a dinosaur would be able to drive a bus!”
Suddenly your world shrinks a little. If this were a Hollywood movie, your little eyes would fill with tears and your lower lip start to tremble (mind you, if it were a Hollywood movie, your toy dinosaur would come to life and leap on your elderly relative’s jugular. But I digress.) You have learned the first rule: Things Are Not Possible. (Don’t blame the relative; s/he is merely concerned that, should you persist in such fantasies, you will be regarded as psychotic by your friends’ parents.)
Later on, you validate this with your Well Meaning Parent.
“Could a dinosaur drive a bus?”
“Shouldn’t think so.”
“Of course not.”
“Are there any dinosaurs around here?”
“If a dinosaur was in our garden, would it - ?”
“Haven’t you got anything better to do than ask questions?”
Your world shrinks a little more. You have now learned the second rule: Don’t Be Curious. (Don’t blame the parent: s/he is merely concerned that, should you persist in questioning everything, you will be regarded as non-conformist when you start school.)
Time moves on. You start school. The Well Meaning Teacher asks the class: “Tell me something that circus performers ride on that has just one wheel.”
Your mind flashes back to the clowns you remember seeing at the circus. You stick your hand up enthusiastically.
“Yes [your name here]?” says the teacher.
“A wheelbarrow!” you say.
The class howls with laughter. Your face burns red. The teacher laughs too. “I think an acrobat would look a bit silly riding a wheelbarrow! No, the answer is a unicycle.”
You feel confused. You know your answer was right. A wheelbarrow has only one wheel, and you had seen a circus performer ride in one. But that’s not the point.
Your world is shrinking to a fraction of its pre-school size. You have just learned the Third Rule: There is Only One Right Answer. It’s the one in the head of the person in authority. To give a wrong answer results in humiliation, and a bad report. (Don’t blame the teacher: s/he is merely concerned that, should you persist in answering questions from Left Field, you will fail all your exams and get nowhere in life.)
As you get older, safe in the knowledge that you will succeed if you can only curb your imagination and curiosity and agree with authority figures, you start to hear certain people being described as ‘creative’. What does being ‘creative’ entail, you wonder? From a casual survey, they seem to be people who can paint, or write stories or poems. Artistic, non-practical people. (This is Rule Four by the way: Creative People are Misfits). Once you leave school and start work, you don’t notice them any more, because they work in ‘Creative’ occupations, suitable only for people who don’t have to face the demands of everyday life.
So there you are. You now have an alternative line to use on me when we meet: “The thing is, my mother made me a non-creative person.” (To which I shall reply: “If I gave her the wool, would she make me one?”)